It was a moment of indecision for Jan Hernandez. Should he charge the softly hit bouncer at him, or play the in-between hop.
It never looked like the Williamsport third baseman made a decision as he awkwardly reached for the fifth-inning ground ball Friday night at Bowman Field. The baseball glanced off his glove and careened into shallow left field, allowing a State College runner to score.
The error on Hernandez opened an opportunity for State College in a scoreless game, and the Spikes capitalized, scoring six runs in the fifth inning with just one of them being earned in a 10-3 win over the Crosscutters. The win from State College snapped Williamsport's opening day winning streak of five. The Crosscutters hadn't lost an opener since 2008 against Mahoning Valley. All five of those season-opening wins had come against State College.
State College’s Rowan Wick is hit in the head with the ball at second base as Williamsport Crosscutter Malquin Canelo tries to make the throw to first for a double play Friday night at Bowman Field.
"It's just one of those things," Cutters first-year manager Shawn Williams said. "It happens. It's not going to be the last time it happens."
All six of the runs in that ill-fated fifth inning were charged to started Alejandro Arteaga. Rowan Wick had the big blow of the inning, a two-run home run to cap the scoring in the top of the fifth. It was the first of Wick's two homers last night. The 2012 ninth-round draft pick finished 3 for 4 with five RBIs.
But despite the six runs, Williams classified it as a positive outing for Arteaga. The Venezuelan right-hander struggled mightily in Lakewood before being sent to Williamsport, never allowing fewer than two earned runs in any of his nine starts for the Blueclaws. In his final two starts before being sent to Williamsport, Arteaga was charged with 13 earned runs and 22 hits in just over five innings.
Friday night, he worked off his fastball, getting State College hitters off-balance and getting pop-up after pop-up. He induced seven either lazy, shallow fly balls or pop-ups on the infield in the first three innings. He stranded a State College runner on base in each of the first three innings.
"Hopefully he thinks he threw the ball well and pitched well," Williams said. "He definitely threw well enough to keep us in the ballgame and keep us within reach. I think he threw better than what the numbers show."
Things changed, though, in the top of the fifth inning. After retiring the first batter on a fly ball, the next seven State College batters reached base and six of them scored.
Jhohan Acevedo broke a scoreless tie in the fifth with an RBI single to left field which fell just in front of Cutters left fielder Herlis Rodriguez who was playing deep in the cavernous ballpark. Leobaldo Pina followed with the tweener of a groundball to Hernandez which was misplayed, allowing a second run to score.
Williamsport second baseman Robinson Torres cut down a runner at the plate with the infield in for the second out of the inning, which should have ended the inning. Instead, Nick Thompson, an eighth-round pick in last weekend's draft, dropped another single in front of a diving Rodriguez scoring two more runs for a 4-0 lead.
The wheels then fell off when Wick crushed a 1-2 offering up in the zone to left-center field for a two-run home run. Wick finished last year tied for second in the Appalachian League with 10 home runs. It was the second multi-home run game of Wick's career, and his second career game of at least five RBIs.
"Like I said, Arteaga threw the ball well, he just left the ball up there in that inning," Williams said. "Overall he was aggressive and going after hitters. That stuff happens."
Williamsport was held to just one hit - a bunt single by Cord Sandberg - through the first seven innings. Spikes starting pitcher Dewin Perez (five innings, one hit) and reliever Fernando Baez (two innings, three strikeouts) faced just one batter over the minimum through the first seven innings.
The Cutters finally got rolling offensively in the eighth down 7-0 against Spikes left-handed reliever Nick Lomascolo. Wilmer Oberto and Deivi Grullon started the inning with back-to-back hits, and Rodriguez drove in a run with a fielder's choice.
Torres and Sandberg (2 for 4) both reached on infield hits before Jiandido Tromp crushed a ball off the center field fence to score one run. Acevedo played the ball off the wall perfectly to keep Sandberg from scoring.
The Spikes then went to reliever Josh Lucas who struck out Hernandez on three pitches, the last two being sliders, to end the threat.
State College added three more in the ninth on Wick's second homer, a three-run shot to center field, off Manny Martinez.
"I thought we had a lot of good at-bats early, and especially in the eighth," Williams said. "It shows you the fight that they have out there to come back and make it a game. It's the first game and maybe we were a little overly aggressive, but I'll take that any day over being passive."