State College Spikes Notebook: 2015 Week 4

As the Cardinals’ short-season Class-A club plays around .500 ball, Casey Grayson leads the offense.

This report covers the Week of Saturday, July 11 through Friday, July 17.

A month into the season, the State College Spikes have not only began to feel comfortable in their current environment, but also have become more aggressive in the way that they’ve been playing the game. After two single-game losses to the Tri-City Valley Cats (and ultimately a series loss) and one to West Virginia (but a series win), the Spikes are now 13-13.

Saturday, July 11: State College Spikes (7), Tri-City Valley Cats (8)
Location: State College – Medlar Field at Lubrano Park: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 1]

Though the Spikes came out strong with a season-high 17 hits (three each from Casey Grayson, Michael Pritchard and Jose Godoy), two Valley Cats’ homers and a sac fly in the eighth allowed the Houston Astros-affiliate to gain the lead and leave State College behind by one run.

The aggressive Spikes’ offense jumped a 5-1 lead over three innings with 10 hits. Pritchard’s three-hit performance included two doubles, while Godoy had three RBI – he plated a run in the second with a sac fly to kick off a Spikes scoring medley. He then drove in another run with one of the five hits in a three-run third.

Though starter Juan Perez allowed four runs (three earned) on four hits and five walks after four innings – with a break in the action on the Valley Cats side after Luke Harrison pitched two scoreless innings – it was Kender Villegas who took the loss. Villegas yielded the winning run in the eighth, while giving up three hits and striking out two.

WP: Whitt, Adam. (2-0) [2.79]
LP: Villegas, Kender. (0-1) [3.68]

Sunday, July 12: State College Spikes (0), Tri-City Valley Cats (3)
Location: State College – Medlar Field at Lubrano Park: 6:05 p.m. ET. [Game 2]

The Spikes’ lost the second game in the series to the Valley Cats, dropping a 3-0 decision after five shutout innings by Tri-City (HOU) starter Dean Deetz (who also got the win).

The offense managed just five hits. Casey Grayson (single), Craig Aikin (wild pitch on a strike three), Thomas Spitz (two-out single) and Michael Pritchard (walk [twice] and a single), all reached base.

Pitcher Landon Beck – despite a quality start – took the loss after yielding three runs on five hits, one walk and one hit batsmen over 6 1/3 innings. He struck out four batters on 81 pitches with 56 of them strikes.

WP: Deetz, Dean. (3-1) [1.23]
LP: Beck, Landon. (1-2) [2.01]

Monday, July 13: State College Spikes (7), Tri-City Valley Cats (2)
Location: State College – Medlar Field at Lubrano Park: 12:00 p.m. ET. [Game 3]

After producing 13 hits, the Spikes won the last game of a three-day series against the Tri-City Valley Cats (HOU) in their only day game of the season.

Leobaldo Pina became the third Spikes player to have a four-hit game (following Ronnierd Garcia and Pritchard). Along with Thomas Spitz, Pina brought home a total of three runs.

Pritchard stole a base three times – twice in the first – as well as stroked an RBI single in the second. Despite suffering an above-the-ankle hit from the Valley Cats’ pitcher Alex Winkleman, Brian O’Keefe still brought in the last run on an RBI single with the bases loaded.

Starter Carson Cross allowed only one unearned run on three hits with one strikeouts over four innings. Pedro Echemendia earned the win after retiring the six batters he faced (one via strikeout) over the fifth and sixth. Brennan Leitao continued with a scoreless inning but left the bases loaded for Jacob Evans. Evans stranded them, but later allowed one run – the first of his 10-inning career – and kept it together to strike out two batters over the final two innings.

WP: Echemendia, Pedro. (2-1) [3.38]
LP: Arauz, Harold. (0-2) [9.19]

Tuesday, July 14: OFF DAY

The Spikes had their second off-day of the season on Tuesday. Wednesday, they hit the road and traveled to face the West Virginia Black Bears again – this time on the Black Bears’ turf at Monongalia County Ballpark.

Wednesday, July 15: State College Spikes (10) at West Virginia Black Bears (7)
Location: West Virginia – Monongalia County Ballpark: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 1]

Despite their series loss to the Tri-City Valley Cats (losing the first two games in the series, but winning the third), State College bounced back and overcame the Pittsburgh Pirates-affiliate, West Virginia, 10-7 in the first game of the three-day series.

Orlando Olivera (38th-round, Missouri Baptist University), who came in last week from rookie-level GCL Cardinals after the promotion of Harrison Bader to Peoria, had a mutli-hit game Wednesday night. He collected three hits to rally the offense after they trailed 4-0 moving into the fourth – this is when fans watched as the Spikes marked their biggest frame of the season.

Five runs were scored on two outs: Cole Lankford’s RBI single, R. J. Dennard’s RBI single to right and Thomas Spitz cleared the loaded bases (courtesy of Olivera’s second hit of the night) with a triple to center. The Spikes had another big rally in the sixth, with back-to-back singles from Dennard and Olivera, Michael Pritchard’s RBI double and Danny Martin’s two-run triple. The game was finished with insurance runs from Casey Grayson (RBI double) and Lankford’s sac fly.

Ian McKinney was awarded the victory, after yielding five runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks, and six strikeouts over five innings.

WP: McKinney, Ian. (3-2) [3.45]
LP: Paula, Juan. (0-1) [27.00]

Thursday, July 16: State College Spikes (3) at West Virginia Black Bears (1)
Location: West Virginia – Monongalia County Ballpark: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 2]

Thursday night, the bullpen was strong as the Spikes overcame the Black Bears in a 3-1 decision. The end of Thursday’s game also marked the first time this season that the Spikes were above .500, at 13-12.

Jorge Rodriguez pitched six scoreless innings to start off the Spikes. Luke Harrison earned the save with three strong frames to seal the win. Rodriguez, over six innings, allowed three hits (including a double and a triple) and one walk, while recording three strikeouts and retired 10 straight batters that stranded three runners while in scoring position. Harrison gave up the Black Bears’ only run on a fielder’s choice in the eighth on three hits.

Casey Grayson, whose streaks – both on-base and game-hitting – stopped Thursday night, brought in two runners: one on a sac fly to center in the third and another on a fielder’s choice in the fifth. Spikes Orlando Olivera and Josh Swirchak also had multiple hits, with Olivera posting his second-straight multi-hit game and Swirchak tripling.

WP: Rodriguez, Jorge. (2-2) [2.92]
LP: Helton, Bret. (1-4) [5.19]

Friday, July 17: State College Spikes (3) at West Virginia Black Bears (7)
Location: West Virginia – Monongalia County Ballpark: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 3]

The Spikes were stopped by West Virginia on Friday night to end not only a three-game win streak, but also a four-game road win streak.

State College was held to only six hits, which included a late rally in the seventh and ninth innings. Pina scored on a groundout by Elier Rodriguez from second, and Rodriguez hit a sac fly to bring home Lankford.

Jose Godoy was the only player for the team to produce multiple hits, and his double in the second led to the first Spikes’ run of the evening. Godoy came home on an RBI single from R. J. Dennard.

After allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks – despite four strikeouts – over four innings, starting pitcher Dailyn Martinez took the loss.

WP: Agrazal, Dario. (3-1) [2.53]
LP: Martinez, Dailyn. (2-2) [4.97]

Who’s Hot

Casey Grayson. Grayson, before being shut down by the Black Bears the second game of the series, had a 14-game hitting streak with a 23-game on-base streak. Now second in the New York-Penn League in batting at .379, Grayson has – in 87 at-bats –17 runs on 33 hits. He has also has 20 RBI, 13 walks and 19 strikeouts.

Despite being shut down on Thursday night – preventing him from continuing his on-base and hitting streaks – he still managed to get two runners home in a narrow 3-1 win. In the lineups, Grayson frequents the fourth spot.

Michael Pritchard. After a shaky start to the season, Pritchard has become a reliable hitter for the Spikes, staying in the second-spot in the lineup. In 90 at-bats, Pritchard has scored 19 runs on 26 hits, with 4 RBI, 11 walks and eight strikeouts with an average of .289.

Pritchard has been one of three men on the roster to have a four-hit game (the other two being Ronnierd Garcia and – as of Monday’s game against Tri-City, Leobaldo Pina) this season. This week has been a series of highlights for Pritchard, including a three-hit performance (that included two doubles) on Saturday, two walks and a single on Sunday, and he stole three bases on Monday – twice in the first – with an RBI single all against the Valley Cats. Pritchard had another RBI double on Wednesday against West Virginia.

Leobaldo Pina. This week, Pina became the third Spikes player this season to have a four-hit game (following Ronnierd Garcia and Mike Pritchard). In 97 at-bats, Pina has scored nine runs on 26 hits with one home run, five walks and 17 strikeouts with an average of .268.

Luke Harrison and Jacob Evans. Harrison and Evans share the lowest ERA on the Spikes team - 0.90. In 10 innings, Harrison has allowed one run on seven hits, whereas Evans has yielded one run on five hits. Both have issued no walks. Evans is above Harrison in strikeouts, with 10 to Harrison’s seven and both pitchers have yielded no home runs.

Both pitchers had good weeks, with Harrison’s appearance Thursday and Evans’ on Monday. Harrison pitched a strong three-frames, saving the game after Jorge Rodriguez’s six scoreless. Evans closed the game against the Valley Cats on Monday, letting in only one run, the first of his professional career, in a bases-loaded situation and prevented any more while striking out two batters over the next two innings.

Who’s Not

Cole Lankford. Despite beginning to pull himself out of a slump, Lankford still has an average of less than .200 (.187, to be exact). In the NYPL standings, Lankford is third from the bottom. In 94 at-bats, Lankford has 17 hits, nine runs scored, seven RBI, six walks and 18 strikeouts. Catcher Jesse Jenner is also batting under .200 at .195.

Brian O’Keefe. Another Spikes backstop is in a slump as well, with an average of .143. O’Keefe has been at-bat 49 times with seven hits and two runs scored. He has one home run, four RBI, one walk and 10 strikeouts.

R. J. Dennard. The 2015 draftee has the lowest average on the team at .122. This week, Dennard had three hits to bring his average up from .067. Overall in 41 at-bats, he has scored four runs on five hits with five RBI, seven walks and nine strikeouts. In the lineup, he is usually the DH, although in recent games that position has been given to teammates Jesse Jenner and Jose Godoy.


For the first time, there were no transactions for the Spikes this week.


Ronnierd Garcia. After taking a line drive to the groin area two weeks ago during a game against Staten Island, the infielder is on the shelf until further notice – possibly for the rest of the season.

Brian O’Keefe. The returnee to the Spikes was hit in the ankle by a pitch from Tri-City Valley Cats pitcher Alex Winkleman (who was subsequently taken out of the game) during Monday’s game in the bottom of the sixth. O’Keefe, who fell to the ground in serious pain and couldn’t get back up, was carried off of the field by Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez and athletic trainer Dan Martin in an effort not to put any pressure on the injury. R. J. Dennard went in as pinch-runner for O’Keefe and remained the DH for the rest of the game.

After the game, Rodriguez said that O’Keefe was alright and would be able to play in the rest of their games this week, though O’Keefe has not yet appeared against West Virginia (Wednesday-Friday) after the off-day on Tuesday.

Team Stats

Batting     Pitching  
R 115   R 112
H 228   H 227
HR 7   HR 11
RBI 102   SO 172
SO 160   BB 77
BB 86   ER 95
AVG 0.258   ERA 3.76

New York-Penn League Pinckney Division Standings
1. Williamsport Crosscutters (PHI) [20-7]
2. State College Spikes (STL) [13-13]
3. Auburn Doubledays (WSH) [11-14]
4. West Virginia Black Bears (PIT) [11-15]
5. Mahoning Valley Scrappers (CLE) [9-17]
6. Batavia Muckdogs (MIA) [8-18]

New York-Penn League Wildcard Standings
1. Staten Island Yankees (NYY) [15-11]
2. Hudson Valley Renegades (TB) [14-12]
3. Tri-City Valley Cats (HOU) [14-13]
4. Aberdeen IronBirds (BAL) [13-13]
5. State College Spikes (STL) [13-13]
6. Connecticut Tigers (DET) [12-14]
7. Auburn Doubledays (WSH) [11-14]
8. Vermont Lake Monsters (OAK) [11-15]
9. West Virginia Black Bears (PIT) [11-15]

What is Next

The Spikes return home for a series against Batavia (MIA) from Saturday July 18 through Monday July 20. Then, they will travel to Maryland’s Ripken Stadium for the first three-day series against Aberdeen (BAL) this season. From there, the Spikes will travel to Hudson Valley, New York for a Friday through Sunday series against the Renegades (TB).

Follow Stephanie Panny on Twitter @StephaniePanny.

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