With the open of the single-A, short-season New York-Penn League, the State College Spikes went 3-5 in their first week of play against the Williamsport Crosscutters (Phillies), the Auburn Doubledays (Nationals), and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Indians).
Friday, June 19: State College Spikes (2) versus Williamsport Crosscutters (3) Location: State College – Medlar Field: 7:05 p.m., ET. [Game 1]
In State College, the Spikes opened their 2015 season with the Williamsport Crosscutters (PHI) in view of 5,921 fans – the second-highest game attendance in team history.
Danny Martin and Leobaldo Pina scored the only two Spikes’ runs in the bottom of the first against the ‘Cutters’ on a sacrifice fly from catcher Brian O’Keefe to right field and a line-drive single from Casey Grayson. However, the ‘Cutters scored in the top of the second and added another two runs in the top of the fourth and the Spikes couldn’t catch up.
Ian McKinney started on the mound, lasting seven innings before being relieved by Landon Beck for the eighth and Pedro Echemendia for the ninth. McKinney, though giving up all three runs on eight hits and one walk, threw 63 strikes in 87 pitches and struck out two. Beck and Echemendia held the ‘Cutters hitless and Beck had one strikeout.
Saturday, June 20: State College Spikes (6) versus Williamsport (7) Location: Williamsport – Bowman Field: 2:55 p.m. ET. [Game 2]
In the second game of the series, the Spikes traveled to compete in the rain on ‘Cutters territory and dropped the decision, 7-6.
The Spikes’ offense was led with four hits and two runs scored by Ronnierd Garcia, one in the third and the other in the eighth. One of those runs was Garcia’s first homer of the season.
After scoring four runs in the top of the ninth, State College had what seemed to be a commanding lead. Yet, the pen gave up six in the bottom of the inning on a grand slam from the ‘Cutters’ Venn Biter and a single from Grenny Cumana that allowed in another two runs for the walkoff.
Kender Villegas followed with a perfect eighth, but yielded the grand slam in the ninth. Pedro Echemendia, who walked two and gave up the game-ending hit, took the loss.
Sunday, June 21: State College Spikes (1) versus Williamsport Crosscutters (8) Location: State College – Medlar Field: 6:35 p.m. (30-minute rain delay) ET. [Game 3]
The Spikes dropped the entire opening series for the first time since 2010 with their loss at home against Williamsport on Sunday night.
After a half-hour rain delay, the ‘Cutters gained an early lead by scoring seven runs in four innings and left State College struggling to come back.
Dailyn Martinez, the Spikes’ starter, allowed the seven runs (six earned) on nine hits and a walk. Martinez had 44 strikes in 71 pitches and threw four strikeouts in 3 1/3. With strong relief by Nick Frey, the Spikes were able to stop Williamsport from scoring again for the next 3 2/3 innings. Frey yielded four hits with one strikeout.
Monday, June 22: State College Spikes (6) versus Auburn Doubledays (2) Location: State College – Medlar Field: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 1]
The Spikes won their first game of the season on Monday night as the Nationals-affiliated Auburn Doubledays arrived in State College.
O’Keefe hit his first homer of the season to begin the scoring in the second. Two more runs were scored on an RBI single by Grayson and a double by Garcia, respectively. Martin highlighted the game by becoming the first Spikes player to triple twice in one game (fourth and sixth) and allowed Elier Rodriguez to come home on both hits.
Juan Perez started, with the Spikes turning double plays in the first two innings. He went five innings while allowing one run on two hits with one strikeout. Reliever Jonathan Escudero yielded on run on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts in his first appearance in the 2015 season.
Villegas made another appearance in the ninth, allowing two hits and a walk with two strikeouts before ending the game on a forced popout.
Tuesday, June 23: State College Spikes (1) versus Auburn Doubledays (8)
The second game against Auburn was, as manager Johnny Rodriguez calls it: “a game of two halves.” State College won the first half, but was overwhelmed late.
Landon Beck started. Beck, who had only pitched a partial inning of relief during the opening series against Williamsport, went five innings, allowing only one run on two hits with four strikeouts.
The only run against Beck came in the top of the fifth inning, but the Spikes retaliated with a run of their own by Pritchard, who took advantage of a hit by Grayson against Auburn relief pitcher Joey Webb.
In the top of the sixth, the Spikes’ luck began to run out. Tyler Bray, who pitched in relief once in the first series, allowed four runs on three hits. Before Bray could get the third out, Pedro Echemendia was brought in.
Echemendia went on to allow another run on three hits before he was relieved by Jery Then for the top of the ninth.
“Beck was outstanding,” manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “That was not a good performance from all of the relievers. When you have a four-to-one lead, you have to take care of business.”
Wednesday, June 24: State College Spikes (3) versus Auburn Doubledays (8) Location: State College – Medlar Field: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 3]
Wednesday night’s game decided the series. The Doubledays came out strong and took a large lead that the Spikes could not close, winning 8-3.
McKinney started and – throughout his 4 2/3 innings – allowed seven runs (five earned) on nine hits and two hit batsmen – plus an umpire. However, he had a season-high seven strikeouts before being relieved by Nick Frey. Frey greatly limited Auburn’s chance of scoring to a single run on two hits and a walk.
Over the course of his 4 1/3 innings, Frey struck out five batters, for a team total of 12.
Outfielder Craig Aikin, who had joined the Spikes earlier that day from rookie-level Johnson City, singled and came around to score in the third. Aikin also scored the Spikes’ second run of the night in the fifth. Grayson had the last run of the night, scoring on a line drive single by Spitz in the sixth.
Thursday, June 25: State College Spikes (6) versus Mahoning Valley Scrappers (0) Location: Mahoning Valley – Eastwood Field: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 1]
Jorge Rodriguez made his second start on Thursday and pitched five scoreless innings that set up the Spikes’ second win of the season.
After Scrappers’ Willi Castro got a leadoff single and then was thrown out at second on an attempted steal, Rodriguez allowed no more hits, giving up two walks and striking out six batters. Rodriguez retired the last ten before being relieved by Villegas and Bray.
Villegas yielded two hits and struck out two over three innings, while Bray redeemed himself somewhat by striking out two in the ninth and yielding one hit.
Spitz started the scoring with an RBI single and Grayson added one of his own, both in the third. Pina drove in two in the sixth, while Aikin and Cole Lankford scored on bases-loaded walks in the eighth and ninth, respectively.
Friday, June 26: State College Spikes (5) versus Mahoning Valley Scrappers (0) Location: Mahoning Valley – Eastwood Field: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 2]
Dailyn Martinez led the Spikes to their third victory of the season – second against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers – in the second game of the three-day series in Ohio.
After giving up a single in the first inning to Scrappers’ Anthony Santander, Martinez retired the next 15 batters until walking Ka’ai Tom in the sixth inning. Overall, Martinez allowed two hits and two walks with three strikeouts in seven innings. Out of 77 pitches, 51 were strikes – a complete turnaround from his first start of the season.
The scoring started in the fifth, as Thomas Spitz singled, stole second and scored on a Jose Godoy groundout. Another run in the sixth by Craig Aikin increased the lead to two. In the ninth, Godoy had a bases-loaded walk, and an error on a Martin single allowed another two runs to close out the scoring.
This season, former Johnson City manager - and 2014 Appalachian League Championship winner - Johnny Rodriguez was called up to manage State College, replacing Oliver Marmol. Marmol managed the 2014 Spikes team to a New York-Penn League championship against the Tri-City Valley Cats and now leads Palm Beach of the A-Advanced Florida State League.
Ronnierd Garcia. Though Garcia has struck out five times over the course of his seven games, he has been having a good season so far. Garcia is fifth in the league in batting, with an average of .429 on nine hits. He has scored four runs and has five RBI. His one home run occurred in the second game in the opening series against the Williamsport Crosscutters and it was not only Garcia’s first homer of the season, but also the first home run of the season for the Spikes.
Nick Frey. Frey has pitched in two games out of the eight the Spikes have played, and has yielded just one run in eight innings, with six strikeouts for an ERA of 1.13. Most notably, he held the Auburn Doubledays at bay in relief of Ian McKinney on Wednesday. Frey limited the Doubledays to a single on two hits, one walk and five strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings.
Ian McKinney. The left-handed pitcher started two games this season – the Friday season opener against Williamsport and the third game of the Doubledays’ series. In both games, McKinney took the loss. McKinney has an ERA of 6.17, allowing 10 runs on 18 hits. McKinney has yielded one homer, but between the two games also had nine strikeouts.
Brian O’Keefe. Catcher O’Keefe has played in five out of the eight games so far this season, but is just 2-for-20 at the plate for a .100 average. O’Keefe has contributed, though, driving in three runs. He homered against the Auburn Doubledays to begin the Spikes’ scoring in their first win of the season.
Prior to the last game of the three-day series against the Doubledays, there were a number of changes to the roster.
After playing against the Crosscutters and the first two games against Auburn, outfielders Jhohan Acevedo and Kenny Peoples-Walls were promoted to the Peoria Chiefs. Two players were added to fill in the empty slots – outfielder Craig Aikin and infielder Josh Swirchak – up from rookie-level Johnson City.
Though Swirchak hasn’t been in game action yet, Aikin was the starting center fielder against the Doubledays on Wednesday night after arriving earlier that day.
New York-Penn League Pinckney Division Standings
1. Williamsport Crosscutters (8-0) [PHI]
2. Auburn Doubledays (5-3) [WSH]
3. West Virginia Black Bears (4-4) [PIT]
4. Mahoning Valley Scrappers (3-5) [CLE]
5. State College Spikes (3-5) [STL]
6. Batavia Muckdogs (1-7) [MIA]
What is Next
The Spikes continue their six-game road trip with the finale at Mahoning Valley on Saturday night before heading to Staten Island for three with the Yankees. State College returns home on Wednesday to open a three-game set against West Virginia (Pirates).
Follow Stephanie Panny on Twitter @StephaniePanny.
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