State College Spikes Notebook: 2014 Week 14

Backed by strong pitching, the State College Spikes won their first-ever New York-Penn League title.

After beating Hudson Valley (TB) in three games to move to the New York-Penn League Championship Series, the State College Spikes met the Tri-City Valley Cats (HOU) in a rematch of last year’s championship series.

After splitting the first two games, State College took the rubber match in dominant fashion on the road to win their first ever NYPL Championship.

September 7 vs. Tri-City, NYPLCS Game 1, Win 2-0

Trey Nielsen gave the Spikes six innings of one hit baseball and two timely State College runs gave the Spikes a 2-0 win in game one.

Luis Cruz tripled to center to score Robelys Reyes in the second inning to give State College a 1-0 lead, and that was all the Spikes would need, as four Spikes hurlers combined for the two-hit shutout.

Neilsen struck out four and walked two in his six scoreless innings. Brandon Lee walked one batter in a hitless inning, and Josh Lucas gave up a single while striking out two in the eighth.

After Alex De Leon doubled home Nick Thompson in the sixth, Kyle Grana earned his second save of the postseason with a hitless ninth.

September 8 at Tri-City, NYPLCS Game 2, Loss 3-0

A three-run third inning by the ValleyCats doomed State College as the Spikes scratched out just three hits in their 3-0 game two loss to Tri-City.

Austin Gomber started for State College and kept the ‘Cats off the board for two innings, before allowing three straight singles and walking a run in to open the third inning. Joe Scanio replaced Gomber and allowed two inherited runners to score, one on a wild pitch, the other a passed ball, and State College was in a 3-0 hole through three innings.

Scanio then shut out Tri-City over the next three frames and gave way to Kevin Alexander, who worked two scoreless innings.

But the Spikes managed just three hits on the day, with Thompson’s double being the only one for extra bases. The loss set up the deciding game three of the NYPLCS for the second straight season.

September 9 at Tri-City, NYPLCS Game 3, Win 11-2

The Spikes wasted no time in game three, jumping out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning. Thompson hit a one-out two-run dinger to left to give State College a 2-0 lead. After a fielding error plated Alex De Leon, Luis Cruz doubled home Adam Ehrlich to make it 4-0. After a Tri-City pitching change, Brett Wiley tripled, scoring Cruz, and then scored on a wild pitch to cap the Spikes’ six-run inning.

State College added a run on an Adam Ehrlich RBI single, then the Spikes broke out for four runs in the top of the sixth to push their lead to 11-0.

Daniel Poncedeleon started the game for State College and allowed just three hits and a walk over six shutout innings while striking out five. Josh Lucas took the ball with an 11-run lead in seventh and gave up two runs on four hits before Nick Lomascolo and Kyle Grana both worked scoreless frames to seal the Spikes’ first New York Penn League Championship.

Offensive standouts

Until their 11-run outburst in the final, every State College post-season game had featured a total of three runs or less. As a result, the Spikes batted just .199 as a team.

Nick Thompson led the Spikes in all slash line categories for the playoffs, with a .292/.346/.458/.804 average and was first among all league players with seven post-season hits.

Thompson and Luis Cruz tied for the most RBI in the circuit during the playoffs with four each.

Thompson’s five runs scored also led the NYPL post-season. Danny Diekroeger was tied for second with three.

Pitching standouts

State College pitching was the difference-maker as the team ERA in six games was 0.87. The staff fanned a collective 54 and walked 15 in 52 post-season innings.

Three Spikes starters did not allow an earned run during the playoffs. Will Anderson went 7 1/3 innings, Trey Nielsen tossed six frames and Fernando Baez 5 1/3. Reliever Joe Scanio added five scoreless innings of relief.

Daniel Poncedeleon yielded just one earned run in 11 1/3 innings for a 0.82 ERA. His 11 strikeouts was second in the league. Baez was third with 10 and Josh Lucas was tied for fourth with eight Ks.

Wins were credited to Anderson, Nielsen, Poncedeleon and Nick Lomascolo. Kyle Grana saved two games and Lucas added another.

On the Horizon

Look for the final two installments of the Scouting the Spikes series as well as the season recap and the three State College Players of the Year, coming soon.

Follow Robert Davidson on Twitter @robo_tweets.

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