State College was one loss away from elimination on Thursday night before forcing a decisive third game in the New York-Penn League Finals. Friday was a repeat performance.
Six outs from the end of their season, the Spikes rallied in the eighth inning and edged Hudson Valley, 2-1, to advance to the best-of-3 Championship Series.
"They had their back against the wall the past couple games and they embraced it," State College manager Oliver Marmol said.
The Renegades put a run on the board in the first on an error by shortstop Robelys Reyes, then protected the lead for seven innings. But Marmol's team wasn't ready to go home.
Darren Seferina and Danny Diekroeger started the home half of the eighth with singles to put runners at the corners. Nick Thompson singled home the tying run and Alex De Leon walked to load the bases.
"It was a very gutsy inning," Marmol said. "It was just some good at-bats by some guys. They were able to lay off some pitches and work some great at-bats. It was pretty neat. Tying run got on and we knew we would be in a place to go ahead and bring in our closer in the ninth. The place was electric, especially when we had the bases loaded."
With the crowd of 2,095 Medlar Field at Lubrano Park chanting, "I believe that we will win," Diekroger was thrown out at the plate on Jake Stone's fielder's choice. But Reyes plated Thompson with a ground out to give the Spikes the lead.
State College starter Fernando Baez recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings, allowing an unearned run on four hits and a walk.
"Baez had a plus fastball, he was blowing it past people. Very electric," Marmol said. "We were proud of him."
Relievers Josh Lucas and Nick Lomascolo (1-0) blanked the Renegades until the eighth-inning rally and Kyle Grana tossed a 1-2-3 ninth for his first playoff save.
The Spikes will face Tri-City in a rematch of last year's Championship Series. Game 1 is Sunday evening in State College.
"These guys have shown mental toughness with their backs against the wall all season," Marmol said. "It's a very mentally tough team."