By Steve Ruman
Tuesday was dubbed Racing Night at Eastwood Field. Fans attending the Mahoning Valley Scrappers-State College Spikes game received racing shirts, and auto racing-themed activities took place throughout the evening.
NASCAR driver Dave Blaney was in attendance, while son Ryan Blaney threw out the first pitch.
Proving to be accommodating guests, the Spikes played along with the promotion and spent the night racing around the bases in a 13-8 win over the Scrappers in front of 3,513 fans.
For the Scrappers (19-26), the setback at least temporarily halts the momentum which was built up during a 16-game stretch which included 11 wins.
State College (31-14) maintained its strong lead atop the Pinkney Division of the New York-Penn League.
In addition to the 13 runs scored, the Spikes pounded out 17 hits and reached base eight times via walks. They left 11 runners on base.
“It’s a tough loss, but they are a really good club and we played them well for three straight games,” said Scrappers outfielder Bradley Zimmer. “Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the opposition. They were better tonight. We just have to put this one behind us and bounce back tomorrow.”
The Spikes roughed up Scrappers starter Juan Santana (0-6, 4.71 ERA) before Santana was forced out of the game in the fourth inning when he was hit on his pitching arm by a Jake Stone line drive.
Before exiting the game, Santana gave up six runs on seven hits. He also issued five walks.
Relievers Edward Estella and Anthony Viczaya each surrendered three runs.
Every State College starter in the lineup had at least one hit, while seven Spikes had at least two hits. Danny Diekroeger went 2-for-5. His three-run homer in the ninth extended State College’s lead to 13-6 after the Scrappers earlier had cut a seven-run deficit to 9-6.
Zimmer capped the scoring with a two-run homer in the ninth. The shot over the right-field wall was Zimmer’s second of the year and lifted his RBI total to 18.
“They were working me in all game, and I was looking for something over the plate and got a good pitch to hit,” Zimmer said.
“It felt good to connect. As a team, we didn’t quit all night. We kept coming up and taking our best swings right to the end, and that’s the sign of a confident group.
“This team battles. No matter the score, we never feel like we’re out of a game.”