State College chipped away in the middle innings, but it wasn’t enough.
The Spikes couldn’t overcome an early deficit in a 6-4 loss to West Virginia on Wednesday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
State College (31-30) is now four games out of first place in the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division after losing four of its last five contests. Meanwhile, the Black Bears (35-26) sit just above Mahoning Valley in the division’s No. 1 slot.
The Spikes dug themselves a first-inning hole against the division leaders, allowing four runs in the opening frame.
Letting up a single, hitting a batter and walking the next guy, State College starter Daniel Castano didn’t do himself any favors — and the Black Bears capitalized. West Virginia scored two on a fielding error by Wood Myers, and the Black Bears followed up with back-to-back RBI singles.
Despite being in a 4-0 hole, the Spikes didn’t give up. Edwin Figuera hit an RBI single in the third inning, Dennis Ortega scored one on a fourth-frame double, and Ricardo Bautista plated Scott Hurst on a two-bagger in the fifth.
But the Spikes could never conquer that first-inning deficit. West Virginia tacked on insurance runs in the sixth and eighth to ensure just its second win in the last six games.
Player of the game
West Virginia reliever Adam Oller: State College clawed its way back as Wednesday’s game progressed, but Oller helped shut the door. The 20th-round pick in 2016 relieved starter Beau Sulser in the fifth inning — and it was a smart switch. Oller, who owns a 1.91 ERA, struck out three and allowed one hit and one run in 3 2/3 innings of work.
State College vs. West Virginia, 7:05 p.m. Thursday: The Spikes close out their series with the Black Bears before a three-game series with Williamsport. Paul Balestrieri is scheduled to take the hill for State College against West Virginia. The 22-year-old right-hander is 3-3 this season with a 6.37 ERA.