Cutters lose to Spikes in 10-inning home game

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Williamsport’s Logan Simmons (19) is congratulated by teammates after hitting a solo home run in the seventh inning at Bowman Field on Tuesday.

Alejandro Made could see his way out of trouble. He had two outs and a runner on third base in the top of the 10th inning and needed just two strikes to give Williamsport a chance to win Tuesday’s series opener against State College.

Then the right-hander caught a little bit too much of the plate. The Spikes’ Moises Castillo ripped the 1-1 offering down the left-field line to easily score Edwin Figuera and it was all State College needed to post a 4-2 win over the Crosscutters at Bowman Field. Carlos Soto followed with another RBI double and Fabian Blanco stranded the tying runs on base with three consecutive strikeouts in the bottom half of the inning.

Williamsport still has yet to hold an opponent scoreless in an extra inning since Minor League Baseball started placing a runner on second base to begin each extra inning last season. The Cutters are 1-7 in extra-inning games the last two years.

The loss wasted Logan Simmons’ first home run of the season, a solo shot in the seventh inning. Williamsport was held to three runs or fewer for the third time in the first five games. They’re 0-3 in those games.

“It’s been frustrating, but at the end of the day, that’s baseball,” said Simmons, a 2018 sixth-round draft pick. “We’d all love to hit well every day, but it’s baseball and you have to stay with the process.”

Williamsport ran itself out of several scoring opportunities last night. But Borders liked seeing his runners take chances. It’s part of the aggression he’s been preaching about to the whole team.

The same aggression which has seen the team pull off a first-and-third double steal to score a run twice in the first four games, was the same aggression used when Juan Smith was thrown out stealing third in the third inning, and the same aggression when he was picked off second with one out in the eighth inning as the potential go-ahead run.

“If you never get caught trying to steal a base, you’re not pushing the envelope enough,” Borders said. “They’ll figure out by trial and error and failure what they can do and can’t do to be better baserunners. Unless someone is doing something strategically completely wrong, I will never get made at taking off and getting thrown out.”

Smith being picked off in the eighth inning particularly hurt. There was only one out with the top of the order up. Before delivering his 3-2 pitch to leadoff hitter Corbin Williams, Levi Kraus lifted his leg and made an inside move to second base, catching Smith taking off before the ball was delivered. Williams struck out on the next pitch to end the inning.

“They’re learning opportunities,” Borders said. “A safe baserunner is one who doesn’t get the extra base and doesn’t get us an extra 90 feet.”

Brayan Gonzalez took some chances on the basepaths following Simmons’ home run in the seventh inning which allowed the Cutters to tie the game. He doubled down the first-base line to snap a string of five consecutive strikeouts. On the first pitch to Connor Litton, Soto lost the ball beneath him and Gonzalez took off for third.

The throw to third beat him to the bag, but third baseman Dariel Gomez took the throw in front of the base and Gonzalez was able to slide around the tag head first to take third. Two pitches later, a ball in the dirt kicked away from Soto and Gonzalez beat pitcher Junior Gonzalez to the plate reaching out his left hand to get just under the tag.

They were daring dashes for the 19-year-old in his second tour of duty with the Crosscutters, but they paid dividends. All of a sudden, a Cutters offense which hadn’t been able to muster more than two hits through the first six innings had the game tied 2-2 behind Gonzalez’s baserunning and Simmons’ home run.

“Gonzo is a freak athlete,” Simmons said. “He’s probably one of the best athletes we have on the team. Those slides are him being him and he’s always making great plays in the field.”

Williamsport struggled early against State College starter Jacob Schlesener, who struck out eight over five shutout innings. The left-hander paired a well-located fastball with a pair of breaking balls which he painted on the outside corner to right-handed hitters better than Bob Ross constructed happy little trees in his nature landscapes.

It was enough to keep Williamsport totally off-balance. The only damage was done by a Smith infield single and Edgar Made’s single to right field. And when Schlesener found himself in trouble with two runners on base and nobody out in the third, he dialed up a four-pitch strikeout of Williams before Soto threw out Smith trying to steal third by five feet.

“He makes pitches really well and he threw us off-balance,” Simmons said. “It’s something we have to work on as a club.”

Williamsport starter Leonel Aponte was fantastic in his four innings, his only hiccup a titanic 426-foot solo home run to center field by Gomez. State College added another run on the first of Castillo’s two RBI doubles before Luis Cedeno shut the door on the Spikes offense until the 10th inning.

The Cutters finish the series with two games in State College today and Thursday before returning home for three games against Batavia.