STATE COLLEGE - Clay Holmes stood just in front of the State College dugout Thursday night giving a postgame interview to the fans still left at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park and said he's just hoping he can get over the hump.
It looked last night like he had already gotten over the hump.
For the third consecutive start the Spikes' right-hander threw five innings allowing just one hit as State College beat Williamsport in the first of a four-game series, 7-4. The 2011 ninth-round draft pick retired the first 14 batters he faced last night before giving up a single to Yan Carlos Olmo. He retired 15 of the 16 batters he faced.
"He'll find a flaw in the outing and he'll probably harp on it in his mind and come to work to work on it. He's that kind of kid," Spikes manager Dave Turgeon said. "He was upset that he gave up that hit."
The Crosscutters managed just five hits last night, three of them went for extra bases. Chris Serritella hit his fifth home run with the Cutters down 7-0 in the seventh inning. Cameron Perkins and Larry Greene Jr. hit back-to-back doubles in the ninth inning and Serritella followed with an RBI single to cut the deficit to 7-4.
But other than those two innings, the Cutters' lone hit was Olmo's fifth-inning grounder back through the middle.
"The Pirates are notorious for throwing off their fastball. We continued to take fastballs tonight," Crosscutters manager Andy Tracy said. "They need to realize that. I don't know if they're guessing or if they're just not ready to hit and then all of a sudden they're 0-2 and it's panic mode. It comes back to sitting on the bench and watching games and watching patterns and how they're working hitters similar to you. That's what we want them to work on. It's part of being a professional hitter."
Williamsport fell behind for the 19th time in 31 games this year and fell to 4-15 when its opponent scores the first run. State College scored three runs in the first inning off of Josh Warner, who has been the team's most consistent and effective starter.
D.J. Crumlich drove in a run with a single up the middle, and D.J. Stallings followed with an RBI double down the left-field line for a 2-0 lead. Two pitches later, Chris Diaz lofted a fly ball to center field for a sacrifice fly and a 3-0 lead after one inning.
Warner seemed to settle down in the second inning, retiring the side on eight pitches. And he seemed to be on his way to the same fate in the third with two outs on seven pitches. He didn't get a call on a borderline 3-2 pitch to Crumlich, the Spikes' clean-up hitter. Stallings followed with a single to left putting runners at first and second. Diaz, who entered hitting just .202 since being drafted in the 11th round out of N.C. State this year, then singled to left to score Crumlich.
In fact, from the third through sixth innings, State College was 5 for 9 with two outs with four RBI. Diaz had a pair of two-out RBI, and Stallings, who was hitting .218 coming in, two hits and an RBI with two outs.
Stallings and Diaz each hit a two-out RBI single in the fifth inning against Warner. Walker Gourley added a two-out RBI double in the sixth off of reliever Jon Musser after the right-hander got the first two batters of the inning out.
"We started that (Wednesday) in Mahoning Valley. We did a lot of damage with two outs. (Thursday) those were back-breakers for (Williamsport)," Turgeon said. "It's demoralizing for a starter."
"I think (Warner's) ball was up a little bit. I think he was having trouble adjusting to the mound and things got to him a little bit," Tracy said. "You're not always going to have your best stuff when you're playing this game. People have to learn that."
Musser recorded his second consecutive positive outing, not walking a batter in his three innings of work and allowing just the one hit to Gourley in the sixth.
The right-hander allowed one or no runs for the third time in his last four outings after struggling mightily with his command in his first three outings of the season all starts. He retired the side in order in the seventh inning and picked up Mitch Walding after an error by getting a double play ball to end the eighth inning.
Musser threw a first-pitch strike to eight of the 11 batters he faced.
"He's just starting to repeat. You can see his misses aren't as bad and as frequent. And it's not a longevity of misses that he used to have," Tracy said. "He's starting to feel his body a little bit and I think (pitching coach Aaron Fultz) and him have been working on it a little bit."