Lugo holds Spikes in check, lifts MV to win

NILES – Despite allowing just one earned and two total runs in his first two starts of the season for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, pitcher Luis Lugo hadn’t recorded a win.

On Thursday evening at Eastwood Field, the Barquisimeto, Venezuela, native changed that. Lugo pitched five shutout innings and got just enough run support to collect his first win in the Scrappers’ 2-0 win over the State College Spikes at Eastwood Field.

He struck out five batters in his one-hit performance.

“I finally got (my first win),” Lugo said. “I feel like this was a great start for me because all my pitches were working good and I felt comfortable out there. I was totally locked into home plate. I didn’t hear anything, I didn’t look at the people, just totally to the home plate and the hitters.”

His curveball was deadly early in the game. Of the first six batters the 19 year old faced in the top of the first inning, four struck out looking, and on three of those strikeouts, the Spikes (6-4) froze on his curveball.

“I’ve been working really hard on my curveball, make it really sharp, not too slow,” Lugo said. “I think that worked tonight good. I will still work on it.”

To go with his deadly breaking ball, Lugo’s command was spot on from the start, and he never lost it. He amassed 56 pitches over five innings, and only 16 of them were balls.

In fact, his only hiccup came in the first inning, when Lugo committed a balk with State College’s Alex De Leon up to bat and Cesar Valera on first. Valera moved up to second, but Lugo buckled down and struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning unscathed.

That was the closest the Spikes came to scoring off of Lugo.

“Lugo’s been outstanding,” Kubiak said. “He hasn’t given up anything. Great thing about it is he’s been throwing strikes with everything, keeping the ball down.”

Relievers Trevor Frank and Manuel Carmona finished the final four innings, allowing just one more hit – a double to right-fielder Brian Vigo in the sixth.

WIth the pitchers dealing, the Scrappers (5-6) didn’t need much run support, and they got in the fourth and eighth innings. In the bottom of the fourth, Juan Herrera got on base with a walk, and designated-hitter James Roberts and first basemen Manuel Boscan hit consecutive singles to score Herrera.

While that run proved to be the game-winner, Claudio Bautista added an insurance run with a lead-off home run in the bottom of the eight. On a 0-1 count, he belted a fastball over the left-field fence and almost out of the ballpark, slamming into the wall behind the visiting team’s bullpen.

“(I) feel comfortable here and on the road, and (I) want to help the team everyday,” Bautista said through a translator.

Although the offense hasn’t poured in the runs yet, Kubiak said that he’d rather have great pitching and defense than a team full of great bats, and this win was an example of that.

“They got a good club – there’s no doubt about that – but the pitching and the defense, in my opinion, always wins out,” Kubiak said. “I’d just as soon have that than a lot of hitters sometimes. We’ve been pitching lights out. There’s no doubt about that. It’s been incredible.”