NILES - The bullpen woes continue for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
This time, it was a three-run eighth inning by the State College Spikes which doomed the home team. The result was an 8-6 Spikes win in front of 2,945 fans at Eastwood Field.
The Spikes' rally came at the expense of Luis Morel, who was working in his third inning of relief. Morel had shut down State College in his first two innings of work, but was roughed up in the eighth, giving up four hits, including a pair of doubles.
The Spikes received RBIs from Roderick Jones, Alex Fuselier and Barrett Barnes in consecutive at-bats to erase a 6-5 deficit.
The loss drops the Scrappers to 15-15.
The Scrappers took a quick 1-0 lead when Joe Wendle homered to right-center in the bottom of the first inning. The blast was the first of his professional career. The third baseman was the Indians' sixth-round pick in the recent June draft.
After State College scored a pair of runs in the top of the second, the Scrappers tied the game at 2 in the bottom half of the frame on an RBI base hit by Hunter Jones.
Trailing 5-2, the Scrappers mounted their own rally with a run in the fifth, followed by a three-run sixth. Jones and Eric Gonzalez each plated a run in the inning, and a third run scored on a throwing error.
Scrappers starter Josh Martin worked five innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits. He struck out three.
Morel suffered the loss, while Pat Ludwig (2-1) pitched three scoreless innings to pick up the win for the Spikes.
The story of the night revolved around Spikes starter Luis Heredia. The 17-year-old is believed to be the youngest professional player ever to perform at Eastwood Field.
Heredia (1-1, 1.86 ERA) worked five innings, surrendering three runs on six hits. He had three strikeouts.
Heredia was signed as a free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates in August of 2010, just days after his 16th birthday. His $2.6 million bonus was a franchise record.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound righty hails from Mazatlan, Mexico.
"I thought I did pretty good tonight, I was a little off early but I felt good, I felt strong as the game went on," Heredia said. "I just keep working hard and doing what they ask of me."
Heredia's arsenal includes a changeup and a strong curveball. Earlier this year his fastball was clocked at 96.
"It's a huge change from Mexico to here. It's a lot different. Here, everyone is good. You really have to compete," Heredia said.
Shortly after signing with the Pirates, Heredia moved his family to Tampa.
"I love it. I love everything about living here," Heredia said.
Despite his youth, Spikes manager Dave Turgeon said that Heredia's strongest asset is his maturity.
"He is beyond his years, emotionally, mentally and physically," Turgeon said. "He is very unaffected by what has happened to him over the past few years. He has an inner quietness and inner confidence that never gets shaken."
Turgeon noted that he has seen his share of teen-age players during the course of his managerial career. He called Heredia, "the most mature of the bunch, by far."
"Luis is impressive. You could tell he was brought up right. He's got it all together," Turgeon said. "He definitely has a bright future."
Heredia turns 18 on Aug. 10.
The Scrappers return to action tonight when they begin a two-game series at Jamestown.
TOP DOG: Scrappers catcher Jeremy Lucas was 3-for-4, including a pair of doubles.
IN THE DOGHOUSE: Scrappers fan Cassie Carroll, now a resident of South Carolina, was in attendance. The Scrappers are 0-20 in games attended by Carroll.
BARK OF THE NIGHT: "I love everything about the United States, but I brought my grandmother here because I really love her cooking." - Heredia, the Mexico native who recently moved to Tampa.
KIBBLES 'N BITS: Scrappers infielder Joe Wendle is batting .337, which is fifth- best in the New York-Penn League. ... The Spikes' victory marked the first time Dave Turgeon won at Eastwood Field as an opposing manager. Turgeon guided the Scrappers in 2001. ... The Scrappers added Andrew Campbell to the roster, while catcher Mark Bradley was promoted to Lake County.
STADIUM SCRAPS: The Scrappers are 13,562 fans short of welcoming their 2-millionth fan to Eastwood Field. ... The Scrappers return home Saturday. They will host Jamestown for a two-game series.