Despite having just one hit entering the seventh inning, the Auburn Doubledays (6-7) exploded for four runs in the eighth and topped the State College Spikes (9-4) by a score of 5-3 at Medlar Field for their fourth consecutive win. Catcher Andrew Pratt had a multi-extra-base-hit outing for the second straight night as he went 2-4 with two doubles and an RBI.
The offense came early for the Doubledays in the top of the first inning against State College LHP Jacob Schlesener. Auburn center fielder Caldioli Sanfler led things off when he was hit by a 1-0 offering from Schlesener. In the next at-bat with Jose Sanchez at the plate, Sanfler took off for second. It looked like he would be cut in a rundown between first and second base, but Spikes first baseman Dariel Gomez threw wide of the second base bag, allowing Sanfler to move up to third. He came in to score just a few pitches later on a sacrifice fly to center from Sanchez. The Doubledays then loaded the bases by way of an Andrew Pratt double, Anthony Peroni reaching on an error and a J.T. Arruda walk. No more runs were to be had, however, as Eric Senior grounded into an inning-ending double play to keep the lead at just 1-0.
Outside of that first inning earned run, Schlesener was absolutely masterful in his second outing of the season at the Class A Short Season level. The Pratt double was the only base hit the left-hander allowed across his six and two-thirds innings of work. The Missouri native walked three and struck out five.
The Spikes threatened to explode in the bottom of the third against Auburn RHP Niomar Gomez. With one out in the inning, Andres Luna singled on a sharply hit groundball to center. Moises Castillo followed with a perfectly placed bunt single before Carlos Soto sent a liner into left field to load the bases. That’s when the clamps came down. Gomez struck out the next two batters he faced to escape the inning unscathed and strand the bases loaded.
State College did, however, strike in the fourth. Donivan Williams led things off with a single into center field. First baseman Dariel Gomez pushed Williams over to third on an inside-out single down the left-field line. In the next at-bat, Cameron Knight sent a bouncing ground ball to Auburn second baseman Phil Caulfield. Caulfield flipped to second for the first out of a would-be double play, but shortstop Jose Sanchez dropped the ball on the transition, allowing Knight to reach safely and Williams to scamper home and knot the game at 1-1.
The Doubledays regained the lead in a big way in the eighth against State Collge reliever Junior Gonzalez. Caulfield sent the first pitch he saw in between the shortstop and third baseman for a single to kick things off. Sanfler then smacked a double into deep right field to put runners at second and third. Sanchez followed with a line-drive single back up the box to plate Caulfield and move Sanfler to third. Pratt then dug in for his fourth at-bat of the game and the result was the same as the first one.
The Lubbock Christian product mashed a moonshot double that clanged off the wall in center field, plating Sanfler and advancing Sanchez to third. After a Peroni groundout and with Arruda at the dish, Gonzalez delivered a pitch that snuck under the glove of State College catcher Carlos Soto. Sanchez broke for home as the ball bounced back off the brick backstop, but Soto’s tag was not in time as Sanchez slid in feet first to score the third Auburn run of the inning while Pratt scampered to third on the play. After Arruda struck out, Senior shot a ground ball at Gonzalez on the mound. The ball deflected off his glove and careened to shortstop, giving Pratt enough time to dash home to score and for Senior to reach safely at first with a 5-1 lead.
In the next half inning, the Spikes got one of those four runs back against Pearson McMahan. With two outs in the inning, Williams walked on a 3-2 offering from the righthander McMahan. One batter later, Gomez sent a pop fly into shallow left field and Williams went off with the crack off the bat with two outs. The left fielder Senior lost the ball in the lights, however, and it fell to the ground, allowing Williams to hustle home from first and score. Senior was charged with an error and the play and the run was unearned against McMahan, but it still made the score 5-2 in favor of the Doubledays.
State College made it tight in the bottom of the ninth. Luis Flores led off with a four-pitch walk before Luna sent a grounder back to McMahan. The righty tried to throw out the lead runner at second, but Sanchez couldn’t come up with the throw, allowing both Flores and Luna to reach on the missed catch error. McMahan was then lifted in favor of lefty Jairon Peguero. Moises Castillo was the first batter Peguero faced and he sent a jam shot into shallow left. Neither Senior nor Sanchez could come up with the ball as it fluttered to the grass for a single that brought Flores in to score and tighten the game to a 5-3 Auburn advantage.
After striking out Soto for the inning’s first out, Peguero induced a double-play ball from Stanley Espinal that went 5-4-3 to quell the State College threat and give the Doubledays win number four in a row.
LHP Gilberto Chu got the win for Auburn while Gonzalez was tagged with the loss for State College. Meanwhile, Peguero picked up his first save of the season.
Auburn looks to make it five wins in a row on Saturday night when they square off with the Spikes for the second of the three-game set at Medlar Field at 7:05. RHP Pedro Gonzalez is set to take the bump for Auburn while LHP Connor Thomas is scheduled to toe the rubber for State College. You can listen LIVE starting at 6:45 pm on FingerLakes1.com Radio.
By JD Raucci / Auburn Doubledays