STATE COLLEGE - There's no reason for Nelson Prada to hit the panic button. Not three games into the season.
It doesn't mean the first-year Crosscutters manager doesn't see a trend which concerns him. Williamsport stranded at least nine runners on base for the third consecutive night Wednesday after producing at least nine hits for the third consecutive night. It was an offensive performance Prada said is both encouraging and concerning.
State College beat Williamsport for the second consecutive night, this time 8-3 at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Despite 31 combined hits in the three games, the Cutters scored just 10 runs.
"We have to be more patient with runners on base. We left too many runners on base in this series," Prada said. "We have to get a better approach. But I don't want to talk to the guys yet. Just wait. It's only one three-game series. We'll go to Jamestown and see how it goes over there with a different team and different pitcher. If that continues, we'll have to address the team. If maybe after five or six game we still don't produce, we have to address the team. We're getting the hits, but we have to produce."
State College didn't have trouble producing last night. Its 16 hits came one night after recording 14 hits in an 11-inning win over the Cutters.
The Spikes jumped on a Williamsport pitching staff which constantly fell behind batters and recorded just one 1-2-3 inning. Four Cutters pitchers threw first-pitch strikes to just 21 of 42 hitters. And only four times of those 21 attempts did the staff get an 0-2 count.
Josh Warner, in his second stint with Williamsport, pitched just four innings and took the loss. He allowed eight hits, three runs and struck out three.
"They looked a little more calm and under control (Wednesday). They took some pitches that were close for balls and put themselves in a position where they could drive the ball," State College manager Oliver Marmol said. "We did a nice job of laying off some pitches out of the zone."
"The hitters are expecting 50-50 fastball or breaking pitch when its 0-0 in the count. But they're expecting maybe 80-20 or 90-10 fastball when it's 3-1," Prada said. "If you run away from contact early, now you're going to be in trouble. For me, we're wasting too many pitches. They're trying to pitch too fine and you go 3-0 or 3-1. Then you have to go with a fastball down the middle."
All four Williamsport pitchers allowed at least one run last night. Ramon Oviedo, also in his second stint with Williamsport, allowed three runs and four hits in his one inning of work.
Oviedo allowed four consecutive hits to start the fifth inning. Ronald Castillo recorded the second of his four hits to score a run. After an infield single loaded the bases, Oviedo got a ground ball to first, but as Logan Pierce readied to throw home he bobbled the ball. But when he turned to toss it to first base to Oviedo, the right-hander was looking at the sky in disappointment and no out was recorded. Michael Schulze followed with a sacrifice fly to give State College a 6-2 lead.
Williamsport had its scoring chances to cut into the lead, but couldn't seem to come up with a big hit. Zach Green led off the sixth with an infield single and Andrew Knapp was hit by a pitch. Pierce (1 for 3, RBI) drove a 2-2 pitch to the wall in right field, but Jimmy Bosco made a great catch with his back to the field just before hitting the wall. Green didn't move to third because as he took off he slipped and fell.
Cutters left fielder Justin Parr and catcher Gabriel Lino combined to leave five runners on base. Lino came to the plate three times with runners in scoring position and he was 0 for 3 in those at-bats with two strikeouts.
Parr came up four times with runners on base and three times with runners in scoring position. He singled home Knapp with a two-out, two-strike hit in the first, but grounded into a double play and flew out to center field in his other two at-bats.
"They might be too anxious. They feel excited here and they want to hear the crowd when they get a hit," Prada said of the entire lineup. "They can get impatient. They want to be the heroes."
State College's bullpen was again lights out, allowing just one run in seven innings. Eight different relievers combined to allow just three runs in 18 innings in the three-game series.
Mitch Harris made his pro debut for the Spikes and aided in that strong bullpen performance. The 27-year-old was a 13th-round selection of the Cardinals in 2008, but just made his debut last night after serving in the United States Navy.
A U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Harris was forced to serve part of his active duty required by admission into the Naval Academy until he was released from his duty earlier this year in order to pursue professional baseball. With a fastball that topped out at 90 mph, Harris retired the five hitters he faced in his 1 2/3 innings of work, striking out the first batter he faced.
"That's a guy you absolutely root for," Marmol said. "He doesn't have his best stuff yet, but you can't know it the way he competes. When you're talking about a competitor, that's who you look at."