Cutters drop home opener to State College

State College shortstop Cesar Valera scooped up the barrel of a broken bat in the bottom of the 11th inning Tuesday night at Bowman Field, the remnants of a pitch which got in the kitchen of Williamsport’s Samuel Hiciano. The way he was going last night, Valera probably could have gotten a hit with the sawed-off portion of bat he handed to the bat boy.

Valera had four hits for State College, the last of which was a one-out RBI single in the top of the 11th inning to spark a four-run rally which led the Spikes to a 7-3 win over the Crosscutters.

In a reversal of roles from the season opener Monday night in State College, the Spikes pounded out 14 hits against Cutters pitching. The Spikes were also 5 for 18 with runners in scoring position.

Williamsport was just 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position, and are just 4 for 29 in that scenario in the first two games of the season.

“We wanted to win on the home opener, and a walk-off would have been great. But we understand the home opener doesn’t decide the rest of our season,” Cutters third baseman Zach Green said. “So we’ll be ready to come back and fight (today).”

The rally from State College spoiled a brilliant night from Green who was 3 for 5 and drove in all three runs for Williamsport. His solo home run, the first of the year for Williamsport, in the eighth inning forced extra innings. It was the third time in his career since being drafted in the third round last year he had at least three RBIs in a game. He also tied his career high with three hits.

His eighth-inning home run was the fourth his career after hitting three last year in the Gulf Coast League. All three of Green’s RBIs last night erased a one-run State College lead.

“I’ve always believed in him,” Cutters manager Nelson Prada said. “From extended he started to hit some then would cool down a bit. But we expected this. When he gets out of the weather and out of extended we knew he was going to take off. It seems like it’s clicking and he’s taking off.”

Green has worked with hitting coach Lino Connell and minor league hitting coordinator Andy Tracy on shortening up his swing to make better contact. Last night that shortened swing produced three bullets either to the outfield wall, or over it. The first one was a first-pitch he jumped on with two outs in the first inning for a double down the left-field line with two runners on base and the Cutters trailing 1-0.

Williamsport was a little unlucky on the play when the ball rolled underneath the wall in foul territory for a ground-rule double. Andrew Pullin would have most likely scored from first on the play had it now rolled under the wall.

In the third, with Williamsport trailing 2-1, Green followed Dylan Cozens’ two-out walk with a rocket into the teeth of the wind to right field, where the ball hit the base of the wall. Cozens scored easily to again tie the game. And in the eighth, he got a hanging breaking ball on a 1-2 pitch in a 3-2 game and sent a missile just inside the left-field foul pole for a solo home run.

It was the only run allowed by State College relievers in seven innings of work.

“He gave me a hanging breaking ball and I tried to put a good swing on it because I knew it was going to be the best pitch I was going to see in that at-bat,” Green said. “I got lucky and took advantage. It’s always nice when one swing can get you back in a ball game or tie it up.”

Crosscutters starting pitcher Drew Anderson was hit hard in his first outing for Williamsport, surrendering eight hits in 4 1/3 innings. All three runs he allowed were earned. He left one State College runner stranded on base in all four innings he completed.

Williamsport pitcher Lino Martinez was saddled with the loss, allowing all four runs in the 11th inning. Martinez was strong in his first two innings of work, but surrendered three hits and walked two more in the decisive 11th inning. Martinez didn’t get the call on a crucial 3-2 pitch to the Spikes’ Jimmy Bosch in the top of the 11th inning. It put runners at the corners for Valera who smoked a 0-1 pitch to center field to score pinch-runner Steven Ramos with the game-winning run.

Two batters later State College’s David Washington crushed a two-run double to the warning track in left-center and Ronald Castillo followed with an RBI single to give State College a 7-3 lead in the 11th.

State College took three separate one-run leads. The first time came in the first inning when Valera hit a one-out double and scored two pitches later when Bruce Caldwell singled.

“One thing I mentioned to the guys today is we’re trying to compete,” Prada said. “For me, coming into the ninth tied with the winning run on base is what you want. I told the guys good job because that’s all you can ask for.”