State College lost the final two games of the New York-Penn League Championship Series at home by scores of 5-4 and 4-3, to the Houston Astros affiliate Tri-City Valley Cats. Still, Spikes manager Oliver Marmol is quite proud of his 2013 club. "These guys battled all the way to the end. I have no regrets," said Marmol after the Spikes season came to a heartbreaking conclusion.
The 2013 Spikes led the NY-PL in wins this season with a 48-27 record, a .640 winning percentage, and earned the club's first division title en route to the franchise's first playoff berth.
State College had eight walk-off wins on the year, and brought Medlar Field at Lubrano Park to life all summer with late inning heroics. They included three walk-off singles from shortstop Cesar Valera, as well as a walk-off grand slam from first baseman David Washington on July 20 against Connecticut.
The Spikes eased into the 2013 campaign, starting 7-6 in June, but only improved as the year went on. Despite a rough stretch during which State College lost five consecutive games, and eight straight road contests in July, the club managed a 19-13 record on the month.
Through the first month and a half of the season, State College was 26-19, and battling the Jamestown Jammers for the lead in the NY-PL Pinckney Division, but had yet to hit their stride.
August was the club's breakout month. Going 23-6, the Spieks went from four games down in the division, to four games up on the Jammers by the start of September. The Spikes also had five players - Jimmy Bosco, Ronald Castillo, Steven Ramos, Valera and Washington - named to the NY-PL All-Star team.
State College should have had a few pitchers nominated as well, but somehow the club's staff did not receive one nomination despite leading the league (and all of minor league baseball) in team ERA through mid-August.
Marmol and his men
Rolling into the playoffs as the number one seed, the Spikes looked like the clear favorite to win the Alice Nader Trophy, but it was not to be. A tough loss to Jamestown to end the regular season, followed by a less than easy three-game series with Jamestown to begin the playoffs had the Spikes on edge.
The team seemed to have regained their footing, and confidence with an extra-inning win in game one of the championship series in Troy, N.Y. against Tri-City, but the Spikes dug themselves into early holes that they just could not climb out of in games two and three.
State College had made a living coming from behind during the regular season, but their flare for the dramatic cost them a championship.
The Spikes were by far the most talented team in the league, and enjoyed a lot of success, but just came up short.
With an All-Star outfield of Bosco, Castillo and Ramos, as well as Carson Kelly at third and Valera at shortstop, the club definitely featured names to keep an eye on in the years to come.
I also cannot stress how many times I heard the phrase "The Cardinal Way" around the clubhouse this season, as this club absolutely resembled what a good farm team should look like. They were loose but focused almost every day, never seemed to panic, had a knack for winning ball games and just enjoyed playing baseball.
Let us also not forgot about second-year manager Oliver Marmol, who was stressing "The Cardinal Way" all summer. Marmol was the youngest member of his own coaching staff, and even younger than one of his players, Mitch Harris, but managed the club like he had been doing it for years. The former Cardinal minor league infielder seems incredibly confident in his coaching role, and could be on the fast track to managerial success at a very young age.
Even though they ultimately came up short of their championship goal, this was an incredibly successful season for the Spikes and Cardinals organization as well. They have a lot to be proud of, and a lot to look forward to as they had some strong pieces in State College this summer.
"This club battled, they learned how to be winning players. They understood the pressures of the game, how to slow the game down, they developed in a bunch of different areas," said Marmol. "Overall, as an organization, [The Cardinals] develop winning players and that's what we did this year."
Link to master article with all 2013 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the State College Spikes Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
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