WILLIAMSPORT — The Williamsport Crosscutters opened the 2019 season against the State College Spikes in front of a packed house at BB&T Ballpark on Friday night and perhaps the lights, sights and sounds of Opening Night were just a bit overwhelming for manager Pat Borders’ young squad.
The Crosscutters made seven errors on the night and State College capitalized on Williamsport’s repeated miscues in the field to squeeze out a 4-3 win on the road in the season opener.
“I don’t think they’ve made that many errors in the past two weeks,” Borders said. “I think most of them are only a year out of high school, the infielders especially. Some of them have never played underneath the lights, and most of them have never played in front of a crowd. It was fun to watch how excited they were.”
Williamsport starter Gustavo Armas worked a scoreless top of the first and the Crosscutters grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the bottom half of the frame. A sacrifice fly by second baseman Logan Simmons plated shortstop Nicholas Torres who worked his way around the bases after drawing a one-out walk off of State College starter Inohan Paniagua.
The Spikes tied the game in the top of the third inning when Williamsport catcher Logan O’Hoppe threw a ball away trying to finish off what would have been an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded. O’Hoppe’s errant throw allowed Moises Castillo to score from second base after the force out at home.
In the bottom of the third, the Crosscutters regained the lead after Torres and Simmons again teamed up to create an offensive spark.
Torres walked to start the inning and after a groundout by Julio Francisco, Simmons doubled him home with a perfectly placed ball to right field.
Torres scored all three runs in the game for Williamsport and Simmons went 1-for-2 with a double, two RBI and a walk.
“For me personally, the hitting coaches have been great,” Simmons said. “We worked and worked and worked in extended spring training for moments just like this. I’m just blessed to be here and have the coaching staff that we have because they’ve helped me so much.”
State College took the lead for the first time in the top of the fourth, thanks again to mistakes by the Crosscutters.
A catcher’s interference call on O’Hoppe put two runners aboard for Dariel Gomez who hit a sharp ground ball through Williamsport first baseman Connor Litton’s legs which allowed Donivan Williams to score and bounce Armas from the game.
Borders went to the bullpen for lefty Abdallah Arias who recorded three strikeouts in his lone inning of work, but also surrendered an RBI double to Luna which plated Matt Duce who reached on the catcher’s interference call.
Kevin Woodall homered for State College in the top of the fifth to put the Spikes up, 4-2. Williamsport would add a run in the bottom half of the inning to cut the score to within a run, but the Crosscutters stranded the game-tying run at third in the ninth.
Though Borders acknowledged his team’s jitters, the fifth-year Williamsport manager noted that walking the tightrope of emotions that comes along with being a professional baseball player is always a work in progress.
“You want that adrenaline, you don’t ever want that excitement to go away,” Borders said. “That’s the fun of baseball and you utilize it to help you, but you’ve got to straighten it out and manage it and they will.”