As the New York-Penn League opened its 2015 single-A short season on Friday, June 19, the State College Spikes and the Williamsport Crosscutters (Phillies) were pitted against each other in a three-game/three-day series. Twice at home (June 19 and June 21), and once on ‘Cutters territory (June 20), the Spikes lost, dropping the entire opening series for the first time since 2010.
Opening night, State College fell to Williamsport 3-2 in view of 5,921 baseball fans – the second-largest attendance in Spikes history.
Though the weather was favorable, with a warm, cloudy evening and 5 mph winds traveling from left to right, State College – after leading the ‘Cutters 2-0 at the end of the first inning – couldn’t catch up after a ‘Cutters run at the top of the second inning and another two runs at the top of the fourth.
In the second game of the series, the Spikes traveled to compete on ‘Cutters territory and lost 7-6 in the rain.
Although the Spikes led through the eighth inning – 1-0 at the end of the third, 2-1 at the bottom of the eighth and 6-1 by the bottom of the ninth with runs from Michael Pritchard, Casey Grayson, Leobaldo Pina, Danny Martin and the first home run of the season from Ronnierd Garcia - the ‘Cutters retaliated by making big plays of their own. A grand slam from Venn Biter and a single from Grenny Cumana allowed in a total of six runs.
The final game in the series was played back at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Sunday, June 21. After a half-hour rain delay and as soon as the first pitch was thrown by the Spikes’ pitcher Dailyn Martinez, Williamsport gained an early lead and left State College struggling to come back. The only Spikes run was scored by Thomas Spitz in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The Spikes fell to Williamsport 8-1 for their third loss in a row, which made their record 0-3.
“They gave us an opening, and we didn’t take advantage of it,” Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “When it was 7-1, and that error was right there to just take it –boom – and we didn’t.”
The weekend served not only as a season debut for the Spikes team as a whole, but also as a MiLB debut for Dennard, Martin and Jesse Jenner. Dennard played in Friday’s game as the designated hitter, while Martin has appeared in all three games at second base. Jenner made his season debut on Sunday, replacing Spikes returnee Brian O’Keefe as starting catcher.
Ian McKinney opened for the Spikes on Friday night and was followed by Landon Beck and Pedro Echemendia. McKinney lasted seven innings to ‘Cutters’ pitcher Alejandro Arteaga’s five. McKinney allowed three runs on eight hits and two strikeouts before being relieved in the top of the eighth inning by Beck, who had one strikeout. Beck was relieved by Echemendia in the top of the ninth.
In the second game, Jorge Rodriguez was the starting pitcher. Rodriguez pitched five innings and collected three strikeouts before Tyler Bray relieved. Bray had one strikeout in one inning. Kender Villegas pitched two innings, including a perfect eighth with two strikeouts, yet allowed the grand slam to Venn Biter before being subbed for Pedro Echemendia.
The final game of the series showed Martinez struggling to keep it together. Martinez allowed seven runs on nine hits and four strikeouts.
“It was a hard hill to climb, and Martinez didn’t have it,” Rodriguez said. “But, you’re going to see better of him.”
After Martinez went just over three innings, Nick Frey relieved him and pitched three innings on four hits, no runs and one strikeout. Jery Then followed Frey and remained in for the rest of the game. Then allowed one run on three hits and one strikeout.
“Bottom line: win an inning,” Rodriguez said. “Take care of your business inning-by-inning.”
Follow Stephanie Panny on Twitter @StephaniePanny.
© 2015 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.