State College Spikes Notebook: 2015 Week 3

The defending NYPL champions are becoming more comfortable, going 4-2 this past week. Casey Grayson is leading the league in hitting.

This report covers the Week of Saturday, July 4 through Friday, July 10.

The word of the week, with regard to the State College Spikes’ latest games, is “consistency”. Out of the six games (two series) the Spikes played, they won four, extending their series winning-streak to three. The team has not only looked more comfortable in the field, while producing highlights in efforts to both catch and throw out batsmen, but also at the plate with consistent hits and runs despite the loss of a key player this week.

“I think we’re coming together not only in terms of baseball, but as a team,” infielder Danny Martin said in a postgame interview. “Everybody’s getting to know each other and helping each other out on things mentally and physically. The coaching staff has been above and beyond as well.”

Saturday, July 4: State College Spikes (2) at Auburn Doubledays (4)
Location: Auburn, New York – Falcon Park: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 1]

Though the Spikes attempted to rally late into the game at Auburn, the Spikes lost on Independence Day for the second time in franchise history, dropping a 4-2 decision. In a strange twist of fate, State College lost the Independence game the first time to Auburn in 2011 at Falcon Park as well.

Casey Grayson began the scoring with a two-out RBI single in the first and followed with a base hit in the eighth. Trailing 4-1 in the ninth, Brian O’Keefe – who produced multiple hits – began with a double, while Josh Swirchak had an infield single and Spitz brought O’Keefe across home with a single on two outs. But the attempted ninth-inning rally ended there.

Juan Perez was awarded his first loss after yielding three runs on eight hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Perez lasted 5 2/3 innings before Kender Villegas took over and yielded one run on two hits with three strikeouts over 2 1/3 innings.

WP: Feddle, Eric. (1-0) [1.50]
LP: Perez, Juan. (2-1) [2.87]

Sunday, July 5: State College Spikes (7) at Auburn Doubledays (1)
Location: Auburn, New York – Falcon Park: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 2]

Sunday night’s game was highlighted by the first professional home run by Jesse Jenner in a Spikes victory over the Doubledays. This win tied the Spikes for second-place in the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division.

Jenner, who had three hits, doubled down the left field line in the fifth. He then cracked the ball deep over the left field wall for a two-run shot that sealed the scoring in the Spikes’ favor. Michael Pritchard contributed three singles as well as a pair of runs. Other multiple hits were from Harrison Bader, Craig Aikin, Leobaldo Pina and Cole Lankford. Casey Grayson and Thomas Spitz extended their on-base streak to 16 and 14, the former the longest streak in the NYPL.

Landon Beck successfully stifled the Doubledays during his six innings on the mound. He yielded one run on four hits, one walk and one hit batter with eight strikeouts. Relievers Pedro Echemendia and Jacob Evans allowed only one hit between them in three scoreless innings.

WP: Beck, Landon. (1-1) [1.13]
LP: Baez, Joan. (0-2) [14.85]

Monday, July 6: State College Spikes (9) at Auburn Doubledays (7)
Location: Auburn, New York – Falcon Park: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 3]

The Spikes made a huge comeback on Monday night, with a season-high 15 hits to beat the Doubledays by two runs in Auburn, New York.

After being down 6-0 in the second inning, the Spikes gained three runs to pull to within a 6-3 deficit. They tied it up with Lankford’s RBI double and Bader’s scoring single in the fourth and Pina’s sac fly in the fifth.

Dennard broke his 0-for-22 streak in style – first with a single up the middle in the second – and a three-run double in the sixth with a smash hit to right that bounced off the wall. The shot cleared the bases and gave State College the lead.

Carson Cross relieved Greg Tomchick (two innings, six runs on five hits, six errors, two walks and one strikeout) on the mound and was awarded the win. Cross, who had only pitched one game so far this season and lost, found his rhythm and pitched three shutout innings (third to fifth) while yielding one hit. He also got eight groundouts and one strikeout.

Following Cross, reliever Tyler Bray had three shutout innings, striking out two and allowing one hit. Pedro Echemendia finished the game in the ninth, giving one up one unearned run on two hits and struck out one.

WP: Cross, Carson. (1-1) [6.75]
LP: Mills, McKenzie. (0-1) [5.06]

Tuesday, July 7: OFF DAY

The Spikes had their first off-day of the 2015 season on Tuesday, after coming back to State College off of a series win against the Auburn Doubledays in New York.

Wednesday, July 8: State College Spikes (4), Connecticut Tigers (0)
Location: State College – Medlar Field: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 1] (Official Game Called: 9:30 p.m.)

One word that would describe the way the Spikes played in their first game in the series against the Tigers would be “efficient”.

The Spikes started the scoring at the bottom of the fourth – as Spikes fans took cover when the rain made its first appearance – with a risky slide into home from Jenner on a wild pitch that got away from the Tigers’ catcher, Kade Scivicque. Jenner had reached base with a walk.

In the fifth, the Spikes scored three runs on a double from Spitz, a sac fly from Pritchard and a fielding error from the Tigers.

Starter Ian McKinney went five innings, allowing only three hits – all singles – and one walk while striking out four – 53 strikes in 84 pitches – over the course of five innings. Following McKinney, Luke Harrison had a perfect seventh before the game was called due to rain.

WP: McKinney, Ian. (2-2) [3.42]
LP: Moreno, Gerson. (0-2) [6.52]

Thursday, July 9: State College Spikes (7), Connecticut Tigers (2)
Location: State College – Medlar Field: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 2] (Rain Delay: 8:19 p.m.)

After a rain delay that lasted an hour and 14 minutes, the Spikes dropped a 7-2 decision to the Connecticut Tigers their second game in the three-day series.

Although Grayson continued his hitting streak to a division-leading 18 games with his double in the second inning, it wasn’t enough to break the Spikes out of the Tigers’ hold that only allowed two hits – Grayson and Lankford – and two runs – Grayson and Swirchak – in the second and ninth innings, respectively.

Starter Jorge Rodriguez was awarded the loss, giving up five hits and a walk while striking out three batsmen over five innings. Relievers Jery Then, Brennan Leitao and Kender Villegas tried to prevent the Tigers’ win, but were unsuccessful. Then allowed two hits on one run, while striking out one and walking one during his one inning (the sixth). Leitao, throughout the course of his 1 2/3 innings, gave up three runs on four hits with two errors, one walk and two strikeouts. Both Then and Leitao walked off the mound with ERAs of 7.36 this season.

Finally, Villegas was able to contain Connecticut. Villegas allowed only three hits and no walks, with no strikeouts in the final 1 1/3 innings.

WP: Watkins, Spenser. (2-1) [0.89]
LP: Rodriguez, Jorge. (1-2) [3.86]

Friday, July 10: State College Spikes (7), Connecticut Tigers (5)
Location: State College – Medlar Field: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 3]

After taking the lead in the first inning, with runs scored by Spitz and Aikin and an inside-the-park homer (that got another runner – Grayson – in as well) from recently returned Danny Martin, the team was able to maintain a consistent two-run lead over the Tigers and win the series with a 7-5 decision.

“Once I saw Johnny [Rodriguez] waving me from third base, I wasn’t sure [I had the run],” Martin said in a postgame interview. “Honestly, I hit [second] straight ahead and had a pretty big turn. Off the bat, I didn’t think it was a home run – I thought it was a pop-out. I just ran it hard and was fortunate enough for it to kick off the wall and have it go far enough that I could have my first in-the-park home run.”

WP: Echemendia, Pedro. (1-1) [3.97]
LP: Edwards, Chase. (2-2) [7.48]

Who’s Hot

Casey Grayson. In addition to leading the NYPL with a batting average of .388, Grayson has produced a total of 12 runs on 26 hits, 15 RBI, 10 walks and 17 strikeouts. He is also leading the league with a 19-game on-base streak, which is currently the longest streak in the NYPL. Grayson also hold a 10-game hitting streak, which is the second-longest active streak in the division. The University of Houston product also has been all over first base defensively, fielding and recovering with efficiency to get consistent outs.

Ian McKinney. After a shaky start to the season, McKinney has been consistently retiring batters from his place on the mound. With an ERA of 3.42, McKinney has allowed 11 runs on 27 hits including one homer, nine errors, four walks and 17 strikeouts. Even when the team wasn’t doing well as a whole, McKinney kept his head and kept opposing runners away from home plate.

Who’s Not

Greg Tomchick. Tomchick started on the mound against the Doubledays on Monday and allowed six runs on five hits, with six errors, two walks and one strikeout. Over his two outings, his ERA is 16.20 – highest among the Spikes pitchers.

Transactions

After spending almost exactly a week on the Spikes, Bader was called up to single-A Peoria on Tuesday afternoon. With the Chiefs, Bader joined former 2015 Spikes players Jhohan Acevedo, Kenny Peoples-Walls and pitcher Nick Frey.

Spikes’ manager Johnny Rodriguez said before the series against Connecticut that the team as a whole just didn’t talk about/acknowledge Bader’s departure. He told them to just play the game and play it hard.

The roster spot was filled by the rookie-level GCL Cardinals outfielder Orlando Olivera, who started his first Spikes game on Friday night – the last in the series against the Connecticut Tigers.

Injuries

Ronnierd Garcia will be out until further notice – possibly for the rest of the season. The injury – the result of a line drive to the groin area – is keeping him on the shelf. Garcia initially pronounced himself okay until he collapsed when returning to the dugout at the end of the seventh inning on June 30th. The team was driving through New Jersey on the way home from Staten Island and had to check Garcia into a hospital where surgery was reportedly required.

Danny Martin was placed back in the lineup on Friday after recovering from a groin strain suffered before the first home game of the West Virginia series last week. The infielder missed seven games.

Team Stats

Batting     Pitching  
R 85   R 84
H 166   H 171
HR 7   HR 8
RBI 74   SO 131
SO 121   BB 61
BB 73   ER 73
AVG 0.246   ERA 3.76

In the NYPL, the Spikes are seventh of 16 teams in batting average. Their ERA is also seventh.

New York-Penn League Pinckney Division Standings

1. Williamsport Crosscutters (PHI) [15-5]
2. State College Spikes (STL) [11-9]
3. West Virginia Black Bears (PIT) [10-10]
4. Auburn Doubledays (WSH) [8-11]
5. Batavia Muckdogs (MIA) [6-13]
6. Mahoning Valley Scrappers (CLE) [6-14]

Game Lineups

As the Spikes become more consistent – with three consecutive series wins against the Black Bears, the Doubledays and the Tigers – so does the lineup.

Spitz, Aikin, Pritchard and Swirchak – the so-called ‘rabbits’ – have all moved around between one, two, eight and nine in the lineup. Bader, during his week-stint in State College, claimed the three-hole. Now that he has left, that spot has been given to Jenner, who has been consistently gaining RBI. If Jenner falls through during a game, he has Grayson and Pina to back him up with reliable hits.

“When I put (together) a lineup,” Rodriguez said. I don’t change a lot at the top.”

What is Next

The Spikes are home at Medlar Field to simultaneously enjoy last two days of The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts (a yearly Wednesday-Sunday event in State College in early July) and play another three-game series against the Tri-City Valley Cats with a day-game on Monday. The team then has another off-day that Tuesday before hitting the road and traveling to face West Virginia on the Black Bears’ turf.

State College returns to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park to play Batavia in a three-game series starting Friday, July 17.





Follow Stephanie Panny on Twitter @StephaniePanny.

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