Poor 8th-inning pitch leads to decisive home run

Pat Borders liked the thought process and decision-making which got catcher Logan O’Hoppe and pitcher Gabriel Yanez to agree on an 0-1 change-up in the top of the eighth inning. But the execution of the pitch just wasn’t there.

Yanez’s pitch center-cut the plate and State College’s Andrew Warner didn’t miss it. The Spikes designated hitter launched the baseball over the State College bullpen in left field for the decisive two-run home run Monday at Bowman Field. The Spikes handed Williamsport its sixth loss in its last eight games, 4-2.

Williamsport embarks on its longest road trip of the season beginning tonight in State College. The seven-game trip coincides with the Major League Baseball Little League Classic which will be played at Bowman Field on Sunday. With the New York-Penn League All-Star break next Monday and Tuesday, the Cutters don’t return to Bowman Field until Thursday, Aug. 22 against Mahoning Valley.

“The intent was good, he just didn’t throw it where you want to,” said Borders, Williamsport’s fifth-year manager.

But that one pitch was kind of a microcosm of the night for Williamsport. A couple inches here, a couple inches there and the game ends differently than its seventh loss in 10 meetings with the Spikes this season.

Two Williamsport runners were picked off second base in the top of the third inning on bang-bang plays. A fly ball dropped in front of the Cutters’ Johan Rojas in right field after he took two steps backward before racing in for the shallow fly ball. Kendall Simmons threw a ball away at first base on a difficult slow roller up the middle which led to a run in the third inning.

It was just that kind of night for a Crosscutters team which fell to 22-35 this season. They didn’t have many opportunities with runners in scoring position, and the ones it did have they didn’t really capitalize on.

The Cutters’ lone runs came on a Herbert Iser bases loaded fly ball in the second inning and an O’Hoppe double play ball in the sixth. Other than that, State College pitchers Enmanuel Solano and Fabian Blanco controlled the Williamsport offense.

Solano grinded his way through six effective innings. He allowed five hits and three walks, but worked out of the only two serious jams he faced. Like in the second inning when O’Hoppe reached on a fielder’s choice, D.J. Stewart singled and Nicolas Torres reached on an infield single to load the bases. Iser lifted the first pitch he saw to left field for a sacrifice fly to score O’Hoppe, but Solano then struck out Rojas with two in scoring position to end the threat.

When a two-out walk to Stewart and Torres’ second hit of the night put two runners on for Iser in the fourth, Solano picked up the third of his five strikeouts to end the frame. And Solano traded the tying run for two outs in the sixth on O’Hoppe’s double-play ball.

Overall, Solano and Blanco held Williamsport’s top five hitters to a 2-for-18 performance. The Cutters managed just five hits last night.

“It wasn’t our best hitting night, but it wasn’t bad,” Borders said. “Gotta give them some credit as well.”

The job by the State College pitching staff gave the Spikes offense an opportunity to pull back ahead, which they did when Warner homered off Yanez. There were two outs and a runner on first after Pedro Pages walked, but Yanez could see his way out of the inning.

Then his 0-1 delivery to Warner was just 81 mph and right in the middle of the plate. Warner, a 40th-round draft pick in the 2018 draft, hit his seventh home run of the season which is the most on the team and tied for the sixth-most in the league.

His crushing two-out home run came one night after Williamsport’s Bryson Stott his a pair of deflating two-out home runs in a 10-3 victory.

“I thought the pitch selection was good. The intent was good, he just didn’t throw it where you want to,” Borders said. “And that happens here. It happens in the big leagues. The plan was good, it just wasn’t executed.”


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