The State College Spikes are staying in the playoff chase.
The road is difficult to defend their New York-Penn League title, but they bettered their chances this week.
The Spikes raced to an early lead, then held off the West Virginia Black Bears 6-5 Thursday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. State College took two of three games from the Pinckney Division leaders and moved within three games of the lead with 14 games left in the season.
Matt Davis was 2 for 4 with a two-run double to lead the Spikes, who did all their scoring in the first inning.
State College (32-30) has three more games on the schedule against the Bears, plus three against Mahoning Valley, which moved into a tie for the division lead with a win Thursday.
Positioning the team for a playoff push, however, is not yet a priority for manager Joe Kruzel.
“The most important thing for this level is for the development of the players,” Kruzel said. “If you have an opportunity as the course of the season goes on, then you may look at it a little bit.”
The manager doesn’t discuss the standings with players, but he knows it’s part of an athlete’s natural instinct.
“Anybody that puts on a uniform is always looking to see how they can get in the playoffs,” Kruzel said. “I don’t think that’s ever a doubt. But is it something that we sit back and talk about on a daily basis? No.”
Player of the Game
Steven Farinaro: The right-handed pitcher worked four innings of relief for the win (2-10). He gave up three hits and a walk while striking out two. He cruised until the eighth when the bases were loaded with no out, scoring a run when Raul Siri grounded into a double play — the third of the night by the Spikes.
“He settled the game down, in all fairness for us,” Kruzel said. “He had bases loaded and nobody out and only gave up one run. ... Our defense really picked us up.”
West Virginia chipped away at the early State College lead with one run in the first, two in the second and another in the third off starter Paul Balestrieri.
Jason Zgardowski worked a scoreless ninth inning for his first pro save.
Nice for starters
The Spikes blasted off with the six-run first on the strength of six hits, four of them extra-base knocks. Scott Hurst ripped an RBI triple, and there were back-to-back-to-back doubles for Matt Davis, J.D. Crowe and Dennis Ortega. Davis knocked in two runs with his two-bagger, while one each were plated by Crowe and Ortega. Yariel Gonzalez also had an RBI single in the frame.
After the first, State College mustered just one more hit, a sixth-inning single by Davis. He reached third base with one out but could not score.
Play of the Game
Bryce Denton: The Spikes left-fieder made a diving catch of a Deon Stafford sinking line drive in the ninth inning to preserve the lead.
Williamsport at State College, 7:05 p.m. Friday: The Spikes will send left-handed pitcher Andrew Summerville (3-0, 1.90 ERA) to the mound to face 6-foot-10 lefty Kyle Young (5-1, 3.04).