After advancing to the 2013 New York-Penn League Championship game, but ultimately coming up short, manager Oliver Marmol led the State College Spikes back to NYPL Championship Series in his second season at the helm in 2014.
With a mix of system veterans and newly drafted rookies, the short-season Spikes club had a solid mix of higher-end talent, and experience to help lead the club to a .632 regular-season winning percentage and the NYPL title, the Spikes’ first ever.
The New York-Penn League is a short-season league. The 76-game regular-season schedule ran from June 13 to September 1. The 14-game league is divided into three divisions, two four team divisions (McNamara and Stedlar Divisions) and one six team division (Pinckney Division). The Spikes are in the Pinckney Division along with the Cleveland, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington NYPL affiliates.
The teams in the larger Pinckney Division almost exclusively play each other, facing each of the eight non-division teams in one three-game series at some point throughout the season. The 76-game schedule is played in the span of just 80 days, meaning a lot of bus travel from Pennsylvania to Vermont and many stops in between.
State College opened the season with a 13-7 record in the month of June, but hit their stride in July, winning 14 games in 16 days to start the first full month of the season. The Spikes slowed down toward the end of July, and lost 10 of their first 11 to begin August.
After the All-Star Game on August 19, the Spikes then won 10 of their final 13 games to clinch the division and second seed in the NYPL playoffs. Their 48 regular-season victories tied the franchise record, set in 2013.
In the post-season, they defeated Hudson Valley (TB) in the first round, two games to one, and followed with the same result against Tri-City (HOU).
The Cardinals’ commitment to developing young arms showed through in State College this year as the Spikes’ staff combined for a 2.97 ERA.
Pitching coach Dernier Orozco coached his hurlers to a second straight season of a sub 3.00 team ERA, and helped a few of the newly drafted arms to some of their best appearances toward the end of the season, when State College needed them most.
The Spikes’ 2.97 team ERA was the second best in the NYPL, and their 644 strikeouts and 1.20 WHIP were the third-best league totals.
Although the State College pitching staff was a key to the Spikes’ NYPL Championship run, the State College offense was the best in the league in almost every major offensive category.
Led by hitting coach Ramon “Smokey” Ortiz, the Spikes were first in the NYPL in batting (.269), slugging (.399), on base percentage (.343), hits (705), home runs (55), RBI (357), and struck out the second fewest times of any team in the league (494).
Many of the club’s power numbers were driven by the incredible production by Rowan Wick, who hit 14 home runs, and drove in 38 runs in just 35 games in State College before his promotion to Peoria.
The State College roster featured 20 system returnees and 10 players picked in the 2014 draft.
The Spikes had more newly-drafted position players, as Danny Diekroeger (10th), Darren Seferina (5th) and Andrew Sohn (6th, but injured early) manned the State College infield, while Collin Radack (20th), Chase Raffield (37th) and Nick Thompson (8th) roamed the State College outfield.
Diekroeger and Thompson were two of State College’s most consistent offensive threats, and a talented trio of arms – Fernando Baez, Josh Lucas and Trey Nielsen – all have the stuff to rapidly move through the system.
For more detailed reports on the best players in State College, check out the “Scouting the Spikes” series, and stay tuned for pieces featuring the top State College reliever, starter and position player of 2014, all for members of The Cardinal Nation.
With the Cardinals’ fall instructional league underway, nine State College players are among those in Jupiter, Fla. in September and October for more individualized instruction.
Fernando Baez, Ian McKinney and Dewin Perez are the three State College hurlers invited to camp, while six position players – Luis Cruz, Alex De Leon, Danny Diekroeger, Brian O’Keefe, Darren Seferina, and Robelys Reyes – will play on for the next few weeks.
It will also be interesting to see if Oliver Marmol returns to State College for his third season at the helm of the Spikes, or if he will be giving the opportunity to manage at a higher level. Regardless of where Marmol is managing in 2015, the Cardinals have to be pleased with his two seasons leading the Spikes.
Link to master article with all 2014 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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