STATE?COLLEGE - Standing in the left-hand batter's box, Jiandido Tromp tapped the barrel end of his bat against the dirt at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
The baseball the Williamsport center field just swung at was falling rapidly back to the ground. Settled under it in foul territory just beyond the third-base bag was State College third baseman Danny Diekroeger.
Tromp could only put his head down and again tap the bat on the ground as he walked back to the dugout. It was one of the final gasps of life from a Crosscutters offense which was shut out for the fourth time in six games Wednesday night. With the bases loaded and nobody out in the eighth inning, the Cutters came up empty.
The ninth inning didn't go much better with two baserunners on as State College, who clinched the Pinckney Division championship on Saturday, beat Williamsport for the seventh time this season, 6-0, last night.
"It's getting pretty frustrating to know the opportunities are there and we're just not capitalizing on it," Cutters left fielder Cord Sandberg said.
Williamsport was shut out for the 11th time this season last night, which is just over 15 percent of its 71 games played. Six times in their last 10 games, the Crosscutters have scored one run or fewer.
The frustration Sandberg talked about in the clubhouse following the latest tough offensive performance, is permeating through the whole team. The seven hits Williamsport recorded last night, on its own, is a solid evening at the plate. But three of those hits came with two outs in an inning and nobody on base.
The Cutters had just one inning - the eighth when it loaded the bases - when it recorded two hits in an inning. After Sandberg (2 for 4) led of the game with a single, Williamsport didn't have another inning where it recorded a hit before there were two outs until that eighth inning.
"Pretty much the past week we can't find a hit to get things going," Sandberg said. "It's kind of frustrating that we have the opportunities to do stuff and don't get it done."
"It's kind of how it's been the last couple weeks. We need one big hit to get that run and get on the board and go from there," Williamsport manager Shawn Williams said. "Overall, I think we've played very good baseball all around. We just need that one hit."
Williamsport is hitting just .234 with runners in scoring position this year, 11th out of 14 teams in the New York-Penn League, and nearly 40 points behind league-leader Lowell. But the problem has come to a head in the last 10 days with shutouts at the hands of Batavia, Auburn and now State College.
With just five games remaining in the season, the frustration was evident last night. But Williams couldn't point to any one thing in particular which is handcuffing the Williamsport offense. And on a night where starting pitcher Alejandro Arteaga threw six solid innings where he allowed just two earned runs, it made the offensive struggles even tougher to take.
"It sucks when you have guys on the mound pitching good enough to win and you're not getting them any support," Sandberg said. "It's frustrating and it's kind of hard to watch."
State College picked up a pair of runs off Arteaga in the fourth inning of a scoreless game when Nick Thompson followed Diekroeger's lead-off single - which extended his hitting streak to a franchise-record 21 games - with a rocket triple into the right-field corner. Thompson scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly by Jake Stone on a phenomenal running catch by Tromp in left-center field.
The Spikes, who are headed to the NYPL playoffs for the second consecutive season, added another two unearned runs in the sixth, first when Tromp misread a ball in center field initially and then dropped it as he ran it down. Two batters later, Stone tripled up the right-center field alley for his second RBI.
State College hit three triples last night, tying a team record at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park set in 2007.
Arteaga fell to 1-8 with the loss this year with the Cutters, and 4-13 overall during the minor league season after going 3-6 with Lakewood. He struck out three and didn't walk a batter last night.
"He's almost a guarantee to give you six strong innings every night, and I think he's thrown very well," Williams said. "I think he's throwing a lot better than what his numbers show. He's thrown a lot of innings, which is a compliment to him because he has thrown so well."