Cutters extend success on season openers

STATE COLLEGE – Mitch Gueller’s plan was to establish his fastball early against State College on Monday night. Living off it for five innings wasn’t necessarily the plan.

The Williamsport right-hander pitched five solid innings against the Spikes utilizing the pitch which made him the 54th overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He allowed just three hits and two unearned runs and the Crosscutters offense pounded out 13 hits in a 4-2 win over the Spikes at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. It was the fifth consecutive win on Opening Day for the Crosscutters, all five of which have come against State College.

The idea for Gueller, who pitched at least five innings for the first time in his career, was to establish the fastball the first time through the order as he got comfortable. It led to a near perfect trip through the State College batting order through three innings, his only blemish being a two-out walk in the third.

“I like to try and get out there and throw some fastball and get used to that and the atmosphere,” said Gueller, who picked up his second pro win. “It was working so I kept going to it.”

It wasn’t until the fourth inning Gueller finally got hit around a bit. With a 3-0 lead, he gave up back-to-back singles before getting a ground ball to first base. Logan Pierce’s throw hit baserunner Bruce Caldwell in the back and caromed toward left field, allowing Cesar Valera to score.

Gueller got three consecutive ground outs to get out of the jam, but the second one allowed Caldwell to score. Both runs were unearned because of the error on Pierce. But Gueller was never really hit hard outside of the two singles he gave up to start the fourth.

Gueller worked a relatively effortless first three innings and faced just three batters in the fifth, getting out of the inning thanks to a leaping catch of a line drive by shortstop Angelo Mora who then doubled the runner off first. Gueller faced 19 batters, throwing 10 first-pitch strikes. He recorded nine groundouts and just one fly out.

“The gameplan was to get them to hit my pitch. A couple times they hit one pretty hard because I was falling behind in the count and they were getting their pitch,” Gueller said. “But for the most part I was getting them to hit my pitch.”

“He’s got a good mix. We don’t have a plan to use the fastball early and then go to something else. What happens is if you use that fastball early and they swing and you get them out, you should throw more fastballs,” Williamsport first-year manager Nelson Prada said. “You throw your fastball until they prove they can hit your fastball.”

Williamsport did the bulk of its damage offensively with two outs, scoring three of its four runs with two outs. Gabriel Lino had a two-out RBI single in the second inning. Justin Parr, the 2013 Big Ten Player of the Year for Illinois, collected his first professional RBI with a two-out, two-strike single to score Pierce in the fourth. And Parr scored on a two-our error by State College first baseman David Washington in the third inning.

The Crosscutters had 13 hits, and seven of the nine starters had at least one hit. Lino (3 for 4, 2 RBIs) had his second three-hit game since being sent to the Phillies as part of the Jim Thome trade nearly a year ago.

Lino also drove in Samuel Hiciano with an RBI single in the eighth inning to give the Cutters an insurance run. Gustavo Martinez (2 for 5), Andrew Pullin (2 for 5), Pierce (2 for 4) and Parr (2 for 4) all had multiple hit games for the Cutters.

“When you do that enough, you win ballgames, and that’s what hurt us,” State College manager Oliver Marmol said. “Those guys did a good job of having a good two-strike approach, especially with two outs. It definitely hurt, but credit to them.”

“I think we’ve got some guys that can swing the bat,” Prada said. “One thing I wanted from the guys with two strikes is to put the ball in play and put some pressure on them. We did a good job with our approaches at the plate.”