State College Spikes Notebook: 2013 Week 1

Despite an opening night loss, the State College Spikes are off to the best start in team history. Jhonny Polanco is one of several pitchers impressing early.

Despite their opening night loss, the State College Spikes (4-1) are out to the best start in franchise history, and are tied atop the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division with the Jamestown Jammers, who roll into State College for a three game series starting this Sunday. After being held hitless through their first four innings of the season, the Spikes exploded offensively, averaging 8.5 runs per game over their last four contests.

June 17 vs. Williamsport, Loss 2-4

Spikes starter Juan Bautista struggled to command his fastball in State College's season opener, and gave up three runs in his first four innings of work. That would be all the Crosscutters needed as the Spikes offense could only scratch out two runs on the evening.

Bautista took the loss and gave up three runs, two earned, on nine hits and a walk in five innings of work.

The Spikes were held hitless until the fourth inning when Cesar Valera led off with a single, which was followed by a single from Bruce Caldwell. David Washington then grounded a ball to Crosscutters' first baseman Logan Pierce, who throw the ball off Caldwell's back and into left field, allowing Valera to come around and score. Carson Kelly then drove in Caldwell with a two out single later in the frame, to make it a 3-2 game.

That was all the Spikes could muster though, as State College failed to capitalize on multiple chances later in the game.

The bright spot for State College on opening night was the work of their bullpen. Jhonny Polanco worked two shutout innings following Bautista. Polanco's fastball sat in the mid 90's and he touched 98 on the night. Polanco struck out four, walked none, and allowed two hits in his two innings of work.

Willy Paulino pitched the final two frames on the night, allowing one earned run on two hits, with a strikeout and a walk.

Alex De Leon, 23rd-round 2013 draft pick, was the Spikes Opening Day catcher after playing much of the college season at first base for the University of Kansas.

Trevor Martin was the lone State College player with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles.

June 18 at Williamsport, Win 7-3 (11 innings)

The Spikes went to extras on Tuesday, but exploded for four runs in the 11th and the road win.

Alex De Leon's leadoff walk started the damage, and Jimmy Bosco walked two batters later. Cesar Valera then delivered his fourth hit of the game to score pinch-runner Steven Ramos and put State College ahead, 4-3. David Washington followed with a two-run double to left-center field, and Ronald Castillo capped off the inning with an RBI single to bring in Washington.

State College got things going early as Valera doubled in the first, and scored on Bruce Caldwell's RBI single. Luke Voit, 22nd-round selection in 2013, then drove in Carson Kelly with RBI single in the second for his first professional hit. Carson Kelly walked with the bases loaded in the fifth to give the Spikes a 3-2 advantage.

Valera finished the game 4-for-6 with two runs scored and one batted in. Washington went 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles and two runs batted in. Kelly also added a double.

The Spikes had held the lead on three separate occasions through the first nine frames, including a 3-2 advantage in the eighth inning.

Jeff Rauh earned the victory after closing out the game with two scoreless innings in which he struck out three, walked one, and allowed no hits. Spikes starter Chris Perry went four-plus innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on six hits and two walks while striking out three. Victor DeLeon had a strong game in relief. Despite allowing the game-tying solo home run in the eighth, he punched out four in three innings of work. State College pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts on the night.

June 19 vs. Williamsport, Win 8-3

Bruce Caldwell and Ronald Castillo led State College offensively with four hits apiece as the Spikes collected 16 hits on their way to an 8-3 win.

State College took the season-opening series from Williamsport with the win. That put them above .500 after three games for the first time since the franchise's inaugural season of 2006, when the Cardinals were the parent organization.

The Spikes saw great pitching efforts from Mitch Harris and Kevin Herget on Wednesday, as each made their professional debut in relief. Harris, a 27-year-old rookie after being selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round in 2008, is coming back to baseball after serving five years in the Navy after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. Harris struck out the first batter he faced en route to a scoreless outing. The right-hander worked 1 2/3 innings, struck out one, and faced the minimum without allowing a baserunner.

Herget earned the victory in his first professional appearance with 3 1/3 scoreless innings in which he struck out two batters and gave up just three hits and a walk.

Jimmy Reed made his professional debut as the Spikes starter, but gave up two runs on four hits and a walk in two innings of work. Reed mixed speeds well, and showed a nice hook, but struggled in the second after making an error covering first on a ground ball. His error led to the two unearned runs. Reed didn't show much in terms of velocity, but attacked hitters, throwing first pitch strikes to eight of the 12 batters he faced.

The Spikes got going offensively with two outs in the fourth, as Luke Voit singled and Michael Schulze doubled to put runners on second and third. Steven Ramos then brought them both in with a single to left, and later scored on an RBI single from Jimmy Bosco to make it 3-2, State College.

The Spikes erupted again in the fifth. Five straight batters reached base to begin the frame, with Castillo's RBI single and a bases-loaded error plating two more runs. Schulze then drove in his first professional run with a sac fly, to put the Spikes up by a score of 6-2.

The Spikes added another run when Castillo singled and came around to score thanks to two wild pitches in the seventh. The Crosscutters pushed a run across in the top of the eighth, but State College returned the favor in the bottom half, as Caldwell reached on an infield single, stole second, and crossed the plate on Castillo's fifth hit of the game.

Caldwell and Castillo each went 4-for-5, and scored a pair of runs. Castillo also added a double to the Spikes' cause, while Cesar Valera continued his hot start by putting together a 2-for-5 night with the club's first triple of the year.

June 20 at Auburn, Win 7-5

Carson Kelly smashed a pair of doubles and Alex De Leon notched his first two RBI as a professional as the Spikes opened up a six-run lead in the sixth and held on for a 7-5 victory Thursday night.

The Spikes got on the board first in the second, when Ronald Castillo reached on a walk, stole second, and scored on an RBI single from Trevor Martin who was thrown out at trying to stretch it into a double. Auburn came back with a solo shot off of Spikes starter Ben O'Shea.

State College entered the fifth locked in a 1-1 tie. Kelly got the inning going with a double and following an Auburn pitching change, De Leon's two-out RBI single brought in Kelly and got the Spikes rolling. Jimmy Bosco and Cesar Valera followed De Leon with back-to-back RBI doubles to give the Spikes a 4-1 lead.

In the sixth inning, the Spikes received a couple of gift runs from Auburn. David Washington singled and later scored on a wild pitch. After a Matthew Young walk, Kelly came home on a fielding error as Young stole second. De Leon capped off the inning with his second RBI on a double to center.

O'Shea picked up his first win of the season in his debut for State College. The left-hander went 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out six. O'Shea's six strikeouts are the most for any Spikes pitcher in a single outing this season.

Brady Adamek gave up one run on one hit and a walk while punching out two in his two-inning save. Johnny Polanco continued to carve up NYPL batters, striking out four in 1 2/3 innings while allowing one unearned run on one hit.

June 21 at Auburn, Win 12-1

The Spikes tied a franchise record with 20 hits and used an eight-run second inning to propel them to a 12-1 win on Friday.

State College collected almost half of its hits in the second inning alone. Ronald Castillo and Carson Kelly started the inning off with back-to-back singles, and Matthew Young smashed an RBI double to center field to get the Spikes on the board. Adam Lewis, in his season debut, then drove in Kelly with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 2-0.

After Brian Vigo was hit by a pitch in his first professional plate appearance, Jimmy Bosco knocked in a run with a double. Michael Schulze followed with a two-run double to extend the State College lead to 5-0. Bruce Caldwell singled in another run, and David Washington's double one batter later brought in Caldwell to it 7-0. Castillo then finished off the scoring in the second with his second hit of the frame to give State College and 8-0 lead after two.

The Spikes didn't let up after the second though, as they added single runs to their total in the 4th, 5th, 7th and 9th. Trevor Martin put the exclamation point on the evening with a solo shot to left in the ninth. It was State College's first home run of the season.

Seven Spikes had multiple hits in the game, including Martin, who came on in a pinch-hitting role in the seventh inning. Bosco, Castillo and Kelly all notched three hits, with Bosco contributing two doubles before being lifted in the sixth. Castillo also collected his trio of base knocks in less than a full game after leaving in the seventh inning for a pinch-hitter.

State College also got a superb pitching effort from 2013 ninth-round pick Nick Petree. Petree tossed four scoreless innings in his professional debut, allowing just three hits and striking out three. Mitch Harris followed Petree, and earned his first professional win in the process. Harris went 1 1/3 innings and gave up just one unearned run on a hit and a walk.

At the Plate

Ronald Castillo and Cesar Valera led the offensive charge for the Spikes in the opening week. Castillo, who has played in all five games, leads the team with ten hits and four RBI, and is batting .455 on the young season. Valera, though, who in only four games played, is right on Castillo's heals with eight hits, and two RBI (from the leadoff, or second spot in the order), and a .421 batting average.

Trevor Martin was the only Spikes to homer this week, and went 5-for-10 in three games played with three RBI. The Spikes, as a team, are leading the New York-Penn League in batting average, .344, and OPS, .844.

On the Mound

Mitch Harris, Kevin Herget and Jhonny Polanco were the standouts on the mound this week for the Spikes.

Harris worked three full innings allowing one run, none earned, and struck out one, walked one, posted a WHIP of 0.67 on the week. In Harris' outing in State College on Wednesday, he showed great fastball command and attacked the strike zone. His fastball sat in the low 90's but had excellent life.

Herget worked all 3 1/3 innings in outing this week. He allowed no runs, scattered three hits, struck out two, walked one and hit a batter. Herget pounded the zone, throwing 32 of his 49 pitches for strikes. Herget sat in the low 90's, upper 80's, with his fastball, and worked down in the zone most of the night.

Polanco was the most impressive State College pitcher on the week though. Polanco worked 3 2/3 innings allowing three hits, one run, none earned, walked none, and struck out eight. His eight strikeouts in 3 2/3 frames averages out to 19.6 Ks/9. It's early, but the fact that Polanco can command a mid-upper 90's fastball makes him someone to keep an eye on this summer.


RHP Chase Brookshire was placed on the 7 day DL on the 17th, but should be throwing in games for the Spikes once he comes off the DL next week.

On the Horizon

The Spikes will be going for the sweep in game three of their series with the Auburn Doubledays Saturday night, before heading back to State College for a Sunday through Tuesday, three game series with the undefeated (5-0 as of Friday night) Jamestown Jammers. Following the three-game home stand, the Spikes will then hit the road for two games in Mahoning Valley (Wed. 26, Thu. 27), and three games in Batavia (Fri. 28 – Sun. 30).

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