Cutters fall in extras for second straight night to State College

Drifting back toward the left-field wall, Ben Pelletier never took his eyes off the baseball. He did continue to drift back in the top of the 10th inning until he hit the wall and there was no more room to drift.

The baseball hit by State College’s Stanley Espinal landed beyond the wall in left for a two-run home run which gave the Spikes a second consecutive extra-inning Sunday night. The Spikes got seven shutout innings from starting pitcher Angel Rondon in a 2-0 win at Bowman Field to take two of three games from the Williamsport Crosscutters.

In an exceptionally played game which saw the two starting pitchers combine for 13 shutout innings and 11 strikeouts, it was one pitch left up in the zone to Espinal which decided the game. State College also won Saturday’s game in walk-off fashion, 7-6.

“Both teams played well the entire series. And both sides pitched extremely well,” State College manager Joe Kruzel said. “I think coming right out of the chute, I’m not sure you expect something like that, but it’s well appreciated.”

“We could have won all three, or we could have lost all three,” Cutters manager Pat Borders said.

Williamsport and State College pitchers had matched each other for nine innings Sunday before breaking through for a run. Williamsport’s Manuel Silva, a 19-year-old Dominican left-hander was brilliant.

Silva faced just one batter over the minimum in his six innings. He allowed two hits but erased one baserunner on a double play ground ball. Registering 92-94 mph on the radar gun early in his outing, Silva located his fastball well to both sides of the plate. He also mixed in a curveball both early and late in the count.

Even at just 145 pounds, Silva was still strong as he finished his outing after six innings and 75 pitches. He was still around 90 mph with his fastball in the sixth inning where he picked up two of his five strikeouts.

“It was an exceptional fastball. He commanded the fastball on both sides of the plate, but especially in to righties,” Borders said. “He seems to be a pretty durable kid. He’s wiry thin. Not just skinny, but a wiry, strong kid.”

The Williamsport offense didn’t have much more success against Rondon than the State College offense did against Silva. It’s only true threat came in the fourth inning when a passed ball put runners on second and third with one out.

But Rondon struck out Seth Lancaster and got a one-pitch pop-out against Jesus Henriquez to escape the jam. Rondon retired the final 11 batters he faced, including picking up four of his six strikeouts.

“It looked like he was throwing two or three pitches for strikes. He was controlling where he was trying to throw the ball,” Kruzel said. “He was effective up in the zone. He controlled the count and attacked the hitters. He really pitched a heck of a game.”

“He was locating his breaking ball and his fastball,” Lancaster said. “So when you got to two strikes you couldn’t not think about his breaking ball or not think about his fastball. You had to battle against both.”

Williamsport had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth when it loaded the bases with two outs. State College reliever Gabe Gentner got Jonathan Guzman to swing through a fastball up in the zone to end the threat.

Then, after Brady Whalen’s sacrifice bunt in the top of the 10th moved the runner to third, Espinal got a pitch up in the zone from Luis Ramirez and deposited it beyond the left-field wall. The home run traveled 416 feet.

It was Espinal’s first home run since Aug. 28 last year when he was playing in the Appalachian League with Johnson City.

Borders wasn’t disappointed by the 1-2 start to the season because the Cutters did play pretty solid ball the entire series. Sunday’s loss came down to missing out on two scoring chances and leaving one pitch up in the zone.

“I don’t think it’s a bad start,” Borders said. “You’d like to win all three, but it’s a pretty good start.”

“Nobody likes losing, but you’re also not going to win every game you play,” Lancaster said. “So we get to come back out (Monday) and play again.”