State College Spikes Notebook: 2014 Week 9

The first-place New York-Penn League club is in a losing stretch, but Will Anderson is leading the pitching staff.

The State College Spikes’ fortunes have gone from bad to worse over the past week as the team won just one game to go with five defeats. Despite their recent string of losses, the Spikes (33-21) still hold a 7 1/2 game lead over Auburn (WSH) in the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division.

August 2 vs. Hudson Valley (TB), Loss 5-2

The Spikes’ bullpen troubles continued as Brandon Lee gave up four consecutive singles that led to a three-run eighth inning for Hudson Valley. That ended up being the difference in the game.

Jake Stone hit a two-run ground rule double in the bottom of the first to give State College an early 2-0 lead, but the Spikes managed only three more hits over the final eight frames and just one hit after the fourth inning.

Daniel Poncedeleon and Jacob Booden split the first six stanzas, allowing one run each. Poncedeleon allowed three hits and a walk while striking out five, and Booden gave up two hits, walked two and struck out three.

August 3 vs. Hudson Valley, Loss 2-0

Trey Nielsen, Tyler Bray and Nick Lomascolo turned in solid performances on the mound Sunday night, but a pair of State College miscues led to the Renegades’ two runs. The first came on a passed ball in the fifth and the second on a throwing error by Danny Diekroeger in the eighth.

State College had nine hits in the game, but could not come up with the big one as the club went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, stranding eight.

Despite being shut out, there were three bright spots for State College offensively as Darren Seferina, Luis Cruz and Diekroeger each went 2-for-4 on the night.

August 4 vs. Hudson Valley, Loss 3-2

State College was swept for the first time in 2014 as Hudson Valley eked out a 3-2 win, ending the Spikes’ six-game homestand on a sour note Monday night.

The Renegades took a 2-0 lead into the fourth, before Chase Raffield doubled home a run in the fourth to get State College on the board, breaking a 20-inning scoreless drought. After Hudson Valley responded with a run in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead, Raffield smacked a solo shot to right, his second home run of the year, to bring the Spikes back within a run.

State College put a runner on base in both the eighth and ninth innings, but failed to bring either around.

After Monday’s scheduled starter, Ian McKinney, was put on the 7-day disabled list with a sore arm that morning, Jeff Rauh made his first professional start and worked a gutsy 4 1/3. Rauh allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits and walk while striking out two. Kyle Grana tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings in relief and Josh Lucas tossed a scoreless frame in his return to State College.

August 6 at Lowell, Win 7-0

After the Spikes’ longest losing streak of the season, four games, a day off and a long road trip to Lowell, Mass. May have been just what Oliver Marmol’s club needed. State College plated seven runs on twelve hits, including back-to-back home runs, on Wednesday.

Seferina set the tone, leading off the game with a double to right, and coming around to score on a sacrifice fly from Diekroeger. Raffield and Brian O’Keefe then smacked consecutive long balls to lead off the three-run second inning for State College, giving the Spikes an early 4-0 lead. Diekroeger drove in two more runs in the fourth before Jhohan Acevedo capped the Spikes’ offensive outburst with an RBI double in the ninth.

Seferina went 3-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI, and Robelys Reyes, Diekroeger, Raffield and O’Keefe each had two hits.

Will Anderson showed why he has been State College’s most reliable starter this year. The soft-tossing righty scattered six hits, struck out five and walked just one over seven scoreless innings, before turning the ball over to Brandon Lee who struck out four over two perfect frames to close it out.

August 7 at Lowell, Loss 2-3

Dewin Perez did an excellent job of damage control against Lowell on Thursday to keep State College in the ballgame, but his ability to stay out of the big inning didn’t matter as the Spinners came back from a 2-1 deficit and won the game in the ninth.

Perez spread eight hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings while striking out five and allowing just two runs Thursday night. Lucas got the final out of the sixth, stranding a runner on third, and worked two more scoreless innings to get State College to the ninth knotted at 2-2 with Lowell.

The Spikes scored both runs in the fourth inning on a two-out, two-run double from Brett Wiley, plating Alex De Leon and Nick Thompson.

After a 1-2-3 top of the ninth for State College, Marmol called on Joe Scanio to pitch the ninth. The first batter reached when Seferina booted a groundball at second, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and came around to score the winning run on a single to center.

State College had just five hits on the night, and went just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

August 8 at Lowell, Loss 4-3

Thompson hit his fourth home run of the season to help State College to an early 3-0 lead Friday, but Lowell battled back for its second walk-off win in as many nights.

Reyes tripled and scored to give State College a 1-0 lead in the first before Thompson hit his two-run shot to right in top of the second. But Lowell responded with two runs in the home half of the inning before Spikes’ starter Austin Gomber gave up a solo home run to tie the game at 3-3 in the third.

The Spikes added just one more hit and the game remained tied for the next five and a half innings. But, in the bottom of the ninth, another State College miscue helped the Spinners to their second straight walk-off win.

The leadoff batter for the Spinners reached with a bunt single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, moved to third on a passed ball by Brian O’Keefe and scored the game-winning run on a single by the next batter.

At the Plate

Chase Raffield has come around offensively in August. Raffield was batting just .179 (12-for-67) through the first two months of the season, but the Spikes’ recent outfield fixture is batting .250 in month of August and .278 with three home runs, seven RBI and five multi-hit games in his last ten, although he also went hitless in the other five games. A player that has been known for his feast or famine efforts this year, Raffield has been feasting much more of late, and has helped pick up a struggling Spikes offense at times.

It has been tough sledding for Kenny Peoples-Walls since he arrived in State College. The 2011 fourth round pick is batting .107 with just three hits as a member of the Spikes. Peoples-Walls has struck out nine times, and walked just once, in 29 plate appearances, continuing the trend of a high strikeout rate that he carried in Peoria. He has not looked comfortable in the batters box or the outfield, as fly balls can become adventures for the converted shortstop as well, although he has yet to make an error in nine games with State College.

State College hit .282 as a team in the month of the July, but since the calendar turned to August, it’s been a much different story. The Spikes are just 1-6 this month and are batting .211 through the first seven games.

Marmol’s club has scored 20 August runs, good for 2.8 a game, but if you throw out their seven-run effort in Wednesday’s game, that number drops to an abysmal 2.1 runs per game in their six losses. The Spikes’ struggles against Hudson Valley can be explained, as the Renegades have the lowest team ERA in the NYPL, but State College’s difficulty in Lowell is a bit more concerning as the Spinners have the worst team ERA in the NYPL at 4.67.

On the Mound

Will Anderson continues to impress. Despite working with a limited arsenal, he holds the third-best ERA in the NYPL at 2.22. Although Anderson has given up 54 hits in 52 2/3 innings, he has walked just eight and struck out 43. Anderson consistently works backward in counts to use his changeup and curveball to set up his low 90s fastball. Anderson’s fastball isn’t exceptional, but the combination of arm-side run and command allows Anderson to consistently sneak his fastball in on the hands of hitters.

The Pleasanton, Cal. has showed the ability to do much of Nick Petree was able to last year in State College, keep hitters off balance and walk rates down without an overpowering repertoire. Anderson has already given up eight more hits in three fewer appearances than Petree, but it will be interesting to see if Anderson can keep his hit numbers low as the season winds down.

Dewin Perez has given up seven runs in his last three starts, but the 19 year-old boasts a 3.35 ERA, a .240 opponent average and 7 K/9. The southpaw has yet to give up a home run, but, oddly enough, has been more effective against righties than lefties this year. Lefties are batting .310 off Perez, but righties are hitting just .227 against him.

Command continues to be the biggest issue for Perez, as he’s walked 20 batters in 48 1/3 innings, but the southpaw has shown an ability to put rough at-bats, innings and outings behind him and focus on the task at-hand. Perez’s first start in August, against Lowell on Thursday, was less than stellar, but he will play a key role in the Spikes’ rotation coming down the stretch.

Transactions

August 6 - RHP Joe Scanio activated from Temporarily Inactive List
August 4 - RHP Josh Lucas received from Single-A Peoria; INF Brett Wiley reinstated from Suspended List; LHP Ian McKinney placed on 7-day Disabled List (sore arm, retroactive to August 1); RHP Joe Scanio placed on Temporarily Inactive List (retroactive to August 3)

On the Horizon

State College will finish up its East Coast road trip with three games in Connecticut before returning home for a short three-game homestand as Mahoning Valley comes to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

The Spikes’ three games in Connecticut will be their last non-divisional games of year. Facing familiar foes over the final month may lead to a return to form for the club. The Spikes are 23-10 against Pinckney Division teams this year, but are just 10-11 against teams out of their division.



Follow Robert Davidson on Twitter @robo_tweets.

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