State College (29-12) suffered its first three-game losing streak of the season, but capped the week with a blowout victory over Auburn (WSH) to take an eight-game division lead over Williamsport (PHI).
July 19 at Tri-City (HOU), Win 9-2
A five-run first inning powered the Spikes to a dominant series-opening win over the ValleyCats last Saturday. The first four State College batters reached and Collin Radack capped the inning with a two-out, two-run double to right, giving the Spikes an early 5-0 lead.
State College added three more runs in the fourth on three singles and Rowan Wick’s RBI double.
Dewin Perez hurled four shutout innings for the Spikes, allowing just two hits, walking four and striking out five. Jeff Rauh earned his third win of the season despite allowing two runs in his lone inning of work and Tyler Bray and Nick Lomascolo each tossed a pair of shutout innings in relief.
July 20 at Tri-City, Loss 12-2
The ValleyCats returned the favor on Sunday when they scored 11 runs in their final four at-bats. State College opened the scoring with two runs in the top of the third, but Tri-City responded with one run in home half before tacking on four more runs in the fifth.
Fernando Baez started the game for the Spikes and was knocked around for five runs on five hits and three walks in just four innings.
Both Jacob Booden and Anderson Gerdel pitched two innings in relief, and neither faired much better than Baez. Booden allowed three runs, one earned, on three hits and Gerdel allowed four runs, all earned, on six hits over his two frames.
July 21 at Tri-City, Loss 4-1
State College spoiled Daniel Poncedeleon’s best start of the year en route to losing its second straight game for the first time since June 25. Poncedeleon surrendered just one run while scattering four hits over four innings Monday.
The ‘Cats knocked in a run off 6-foot-4 righty in the third before plating three more runs, two off Lomascolo and one off Joe Scanio, in the fifth to take a 4-0 lead.
The Spikes had just two hits through the first six innings and scored their only run when Wick tripled and scored on a Jake Stone groundout in the ninth.
July 22 vs. Mahoning Valley (CLE), Loss 3-1
The Spikes’ offensive struggles continued Tuesday when they lost their third straight game for the first time all season. State College opened the scoring with a run in the third, but the Scrappers responded with two runs in the top of the fourth and the Spikes never recovered.
State College had opportunities throughout the game, but went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners.
Starter Trey Nielsen allowed two runs on five hits over four innings and took the loss. Bray and Grana each tossed a pair of scoreless frames in relief that bookended an inning from Booden in which he allowed one run on one hit and a walk.
July 23 vs. Mahoning Valley, Win 5-3
The Scrappers took an early lead Wednesday, plating three runs in the second inning, but five runs over the Spikes final three at-bats put State College back in the win column.
The comeback effort began in the sixth when Alex De Leon belted a solo shot to right before Nick Thompson reached on an error and came around to score on a wild pitch, bringing State College within a run.
Then, in the home half of the eighth, Brian O’Keefe hit an RBI ground-rule double to tie it and Ronnierd Garcia drove in the go-ahead, and eventual game-winning, run on a two-out, two run single.
Aside from the three-run third inning, Cody Schumacher turned in a solid outing, allowing just three runs on four hits and four strikeouts over six frames. Gerdel worked two shutout innings for the win and Lomascolo earned his first save of the season.
July 24 vs. Auburn (WSH), Win 5-3
State College fell behind early again Thursday, but a four-run fifth powered them to their second straight 5-3 victory.
All four State College runs in the fifth were unearned, thanks to two fielding miscues by the Doubledays as the Spikes managed just three hits on the night. Darren Seferina had two of the three, going 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and an RBI.
Rauh struck out three batters in three innings on his way to his fourth win of the season. Lomascolo and Grana each tossed a scoreless inning as well.
Will Anderson gave up two runs in four innings on five hits, while walking one and striking out five.
July 25 vs. Auburn, Win 17-4
Despite State College’s offensive struggles this week, the offense broke out in a big way Friday night. De Leon started the party with a two-run home run in the second to give the Spikes an early 2-0 lead, but the real fun came in the third when the Spikes plated nine runs on six hits and five walks. State College sent 15 batters to the plate and forced the Doubledays’ pitching staff to throw 46 pitches in the inning.
Although Auburn responded with three in the fourth and another run in the top of the ninth, this game was over after the third inning. The Spikes added two more runs in the sixth and four runs in the eighth to take a two touchdown lead into the ninth.
Each State College starter scored at least one run and Seferina was the only Spike to not record a hit on the night. Robelys Reyes and Chase Raffield each knocked in four RBI and De Leon, Cruz and Radack each recorded two hits while Reyes had two singles and a double.
On the mound, Dewin Perez went seven strong innings. The hard-throwing lefty allowed three runs, all earned, on six hits and three walks with two strikeouts. Joe Scanio tossed the final two innings, allowing one run on four hits and two walks.
At the Plate
Alex De Leon has quietly put together a solid season so far. The former Kansas Jayhawk is seven for his last 15 and has hit two home runs since Rowan Wick was called up to Peoria. De Leon owns .301/.559/.383 slash line on the year with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 18 RBI.
Darren Seferina has been excellent for State College since joining the team in late June. The 20 year-old second baseman is batting .312 with an on-base percentage that has hovered around .400 for most of the season. Seferina has batted leadoff every game in which he has played and has done a great job of setting the table, by scoring 15 runs in 24 games, stealing eight bases and batting .375 when leading off an inning (entering play Friday).
Robelys Reyes has been a constant for State College for most of the season, but the Spikes’ starting shortstop has struggled mightily of late. Reyes is batting just .111 in his last 10 games, and just .059 (1-for-17) in his last five games entering play Friday.
Jake Stone has also struggled recently. You may remember us highlighting the Spikes’ first baseman last week, but he really cooled off this week and looks more like the player that struggled to hit .200 early in the season with Peoria. Stone was also just 1-for-17 in his last five games entering play Friday.
On the Mound
Kyle Grana has proved to be one of the Spikes’ most consistent late inning arms. The 6-foot-4 righty leads the team with a 0.78 ERA, 35 strikeouts and owns an impressive 0.96 WHIP.
Trey Nielsen, despite having a higher ERA (1.75), has also impressed for the Spikes. Nielsen began the season as another late inning arm for State College, but has started each of his last two appearances, and looked good doing so. The converted infielder, in his first full professional season on the mound, has struck out 25 batters in 25 2/3 innings. The Salt Lake City, UT native leads State College with a 0.76 WHIP and has walked just five batters.
July 23 – OF Rowan Wick promoted to Peoria; OF Kenny Peoples-Walls received from Peoria
July 22 – INF Andrew Sohn placed on 7-day Disabled List, retroactive to July 18
INF Leobaldo Pina, who has not played since being put on the 7-day disabled list on July 5, is down in Jupiter, FL rehabbing, but there are very few details regarding his progress or a possible return, so I don’t expect to see Pina back in State College any time soon.
On the Horizon
The Spikes will wrap up their homestand against Auburn Saturday, then hit the road for a three-game series in Mahoning Valley (CLE) before returning to Happy Valley to welcome Aberdeen (BAL).
Follow Robert Davidson on Twitter @robo_tweets.
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