Cutters bang out 17 hits in beating Spikes

The light at the end of the grind of the season is getting bigger. Dylan Cozens sees it well. It’s helped him get his second wind in his first full year of professional baseball.

It’s go time for the former second-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies. He wants to close out his season with a flurry the way he did a year ago in the Gulf Coast League.

He began the final 11-game stretch of the season Monday night at Bowman Field continuing the hot streak he’s carried since the New York-Penn League all-star game. He was one of three Crosscutters players to record at least three hits Monday night as Williamsport set a single-game high in runs in a 13-5 win over State College.

Williamsport exploded for seven runs in the first inning against Spikes starting pitcher Juan Bautista who allowed 10 runs in 1 2/3 innings. Prior to last night, the Cutters hadn’t scored more than five runs in any of their nine games with State College.

The Crosscutters staved off elimination in the Pinckney Division for at least one night with the win, as its elimination number is just one. They’re still 8 1/2 games out of the Wild Card race and it’s looking more and more like their final 11 games of the regular season will be the final games of their season.

“Even if we were making the playoffs I’d still have the same approach,” Cozens said after going 3 for 5 with a double. “It’s not that I’m ready to get out of here, it’s just that we have a couple games left and I want to finish strong.”

He’s certainly making a point to finish strong. He’s hitting .353 over his past 10 games and .412 over the last five games. It continues a trend in which Cozens hit .286 with three home runs and six RBIs over the final 10 games of the Gulf Coast League season a year ago.

And the hot streak seemed to carry over to the rest of the Cutters’ offense last night. Williamsport had a season-high 17 hits against a State College pitching staff which is the best in the New York-Penn League.

The seven batters of the first inning Monday night reached base for the Crosscutters, six by hit and one by walk. Justin Parr, Andrew Pullin, Cozens and Zach Green started the game with consecutive singles, Pullin’s and Green’s each drove in a run. Andrew Knapp, who had a team-high four hits including three doubles, doubled in a run, and two batters later Herlis Rodriguez drove in a pair of runs with an infield single.

And the Cutters did it by jumping all over pitches early in the count. Cozens singled on a 1-0 pitch. Green singled on a 1-0 pitch, Knapp doubled on the first pitch he saw and Rodriguez singled on the first pitch to him. It was a trend last night as nine of Williamsport’s 17 hits came on the first pitch. Four of those nine hits drove in runs.

“I’m not looking to take a walk this time of year,” said Cozens, who recorded two of his three hits on the first pitch. “We’re probably out of the playoffs, so we’re all just looking to get some hits, drive the ball and have some fun.”

“We want the guys to be ready to hit fastballs,” Williamsport manager Nelson Prada said. “If he throws a fastball first pitch, we want the guys to be ready. (Monday) we had a good plan at the plate the whole time.”

Even when they weren’t getting hits, Williamsport was putting on an excellent display of situational hitting. Logan Pierce pulled a ball to the right side in the first to set up Malquin Canelo’s sacrifice fly. Green drove a ball in the air in the second inning to score Cozens from third with a sacrifice fly. Rodriguez drove a ball through the middle past a drawn-in infield to score another run.

Williamsport continued to tack on runs after that first inning. It scored three in the second, two more in the fourth and one in the sixth to keep putting the distance between it and a strong State College offense.

“They’re a good team, a good offensive team,” Cozens said. “We knew that seven runs wouldn’t be enough comfort for us. So we needed to keep tacking on more runs and making us a little more comfortable.”

Despite scoring 10 runs in the first two innings, starting pitcher Mitch Gueller wasn’t able to earn the win. He went just four innings, allowing three runs, striking out three.

After a strong first inning and getting two quick outs in the second, he struggled to finish the inning. He gave up back-to-back walks and back-to-back doubles after getting the first two outs in the second inning.

He threw 31 pitches in the second inning and was eventually lifted after strong third and fourth innings after throwing 79 pitches. His pitch-count limit is 85. Josh Warner relieved Gueller and picked up his second win of the year with four strong innings.

Gueller hasn’t picked up a win since July 6, and last night was the first time in his last eight starts Williamsport has won.

“I let up too much. I started coasting,” Gueller said. “I was thinking in the second inning just get one over the plate. Then I’d fall behind and my mind changed to don’t walk this guy. That’s where you get in trouble.”

“We scored 10 runs for him and he’s not able to win the game?” Prada said. “He has to think what did I do wrong? What do I have to do to do better? You have to feel bad if your team scores 10 runs and you don’t get the win.”