Extra-inning affair ends with Spikes win

STATE COLLEGE – The ball shot out of Brayan Gonzalez’s glove like it was thrown down the right-field line. He was trying to apply the tag on State College’s Brenden Donovan on a wild throw from third base, but as Donovan collided with the Williamsport second baseman, the ball flew out of his glove.

The Spikes’ Delvin Perez rounded third base knowing he could coast into home, setting off a celebration in front of the State College dugout as the Spikes defeated the Crosscutters, 7-6, in walk-off fashion Saturday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

Starting the inning with a runner on second base because of Minor League Baseball’s new extra-inning rules to expedite the finish of games, Donovan laid a bunt down the third-base line trying to move the runner. The Cutters’ Jesus Henriquez made a wide throw to first base, and as Gonzalez tried to apply the tag, the ball was knocked away.

It capped off a night in which the Spikes erased a one-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning and a two-run deficit in the bottom of the 10th inning to pull out its first win.

“That’s what (Gonzalez) has to do on that play,” Cutters manager Pat Borders said. “He has to make that play and try to tag him, and sometimes that happens.”

Donovan made a number of stellar defensive plays, including throwing out the go-ahead run at the plate in the top of the 11th inning on a bouncer up the third-base line. He also robbed Rafael Marchan of a hit in the fifth inning with a full-extension diving catch down the line.

He also came up with the game-tying sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning before helping win the game in the 11th. It more than made up for striking out in his first three at-bats.

The Cutters and Spikes played a one-run game for the second consecutive night with the game being decided in the late innings. In the season-opener Friday night, Williamsport pulled out a 3-2 win on Gonzalez’s RBI single in the seventh inning. The two teams will play the rubber match of the three-game series today at Bowman Field at 5:05 p.m.

“Man, wasn’t this a great baseball game?” State College manager Joe Kruzel said. “A couple times I went to the mound, I even said to the guys, this is a great game. If you look at (Friday) night’s game and this game, most of the routine plays were made. For the most part it’s been really good baseball the last couple nights. I hope we can continue that.”

After blowing a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, Williamsport re-took the lead in the 10th inning with Henriquez’s second RBI double. The Cutters added an insurance run when Nerluis Martinez singled into right field to score Henriquez with two outs to take a 6-4 lead. But it was a lead the bullpen couldn’t hold.

Oscar Marcelino, making his Crosscutters debut, hit the first batter he faced to put runners on first and second, then walked Walker Robbins on four consecutive pitches to loaded the bases with nobody out.

Anton Kuznetsov forced in a run when he hit the Spikes’ Joe Gomez with a two-strike pitch. But he got a crucial strikeout of Edwin Figuera before Nick Dunn’s sacrifice fly to Danny Mayer tied the game. Marcelino was charged with allowing three runs (only two earned) in an inning of work despite allowing just one hit. But he also walked four and hit a batter.

For the second time in as many nights, the Cutters battled back from an early deficit in order to take a lead. Mayer and Henriquez hit back-to-back doubles in the top of the fourth inning to erase a 1-0 deficit. Henriquez’s rip down the third-base line was the first of his two run-scoring doubles last night.

Williamsport tied the game again in the top of the eighth inning by erasing a one-run deficit when Rafael Marchan (2 for 5) tripled up the left-center alley to score Keudy Bocio. It looked like Spikes left-fielder Walker Robbins was going to be able to cut the ball off in the gap, but it got past him and rolled to the wall allowing the speedy Bocio to score from first and give Marchan his second consecutive two-hit game.

“They could have rolled over a couple times and they didn’t. They don’t know how to quit,” Borders said. “You can’t make people do that. They did it down (in Florida) when nobody was in the stands and the games mean zero. But they fight until the last out just because they want to do well and they want to win.”

Starting pitcher Francisco Morales was brilliant through the first two innings, showing why he is one of the Top 20 prospects in the Phillies system. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander sat 94-96 mph with his fastball through the first two innings, and touched 97.

So when he went to his wipeout slider, State College hitters were baffled. Morales struck out the side in the first inning. He added two more in the second inning. He bookended the third with strikeouts and gave up a run without allowing a hit in between.

“Devastating slider,” Borders said. “For three innings he was really, really good. The pitches he threw in the zone were extra good.”

Morales began to lose his mechanics a bit in the fourth inning, walking two more. He was pulled after facing four batters in the inning and recording just one out. Of his 72 pitches, he threw just 37 strikes. He offered first-pitch strikes to just 5 of the 16 batters he faced.

It was by no means a crisp outing for Morales, but it was easy to see the flashes of brilliance. His seven strikeouts matched his career high which he set in the final start of the Gulf Coast League season on Sept. 2 in a five-inning effort. His four walks also tied a career high for the 18-year-old, matching a mark he set twice last season in the GCL.

“He’s got velocity and there’s some tilt and deception,” Borders said. “I think at the end he was trying to throw it a little harder than he should.”