State College Spikes Notebook: 2015 Week 6

Casey Grayson is leading the offense for the third-place State College Spikes, who are 19-20.

After a three-game sweep against Hudson Valley (TB) including two this week, the State College Spikes [19-20] lost two of three to the Vermont Lake Monsters (OAK) to open their home stand. The Spikes then dropped the opener against Lowell for a 3-3 week.

The team is beginning to produce consistent power hitters – two or three – while also increasing their on base percentage. They are also developing some speed and using their rabbits (Thomas Spitz, Craig Aikin, Michael Pritchard and Josh Swirchak) to their advantage to successfully pull off steals and hit and runs.

Saturday, July 25: State College Spikes (6) at Hudson Valley Renegades (2)
Location: Hudson Valley – Dutchess Stadium: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 2]

State College took the lead early in the second game against the Hudson Valley Renegades and propelled themselves to a 6-2 victory. Five players, including newly-returned center fielder Jhohan Acevedo, contributed multiple hits.

Over the course of the first five innings, the Spikes scored five runs on 11 hits – including a two-run homer by catcher Jesse Jenner on a 1-1 pitch at the start of the second inning. The Spikes capitalized on their early lead in the third inning, collecting four hits and RBI singles from Casey Grayson and Cole Lankford while Leobaldo Pina followed up on the 4-0 lead in the fifth with a RBI single that brought home Thomas Spitz. After three slow innings, Michael Pritchard drove in newcomer Champ Rowland with an insurance run to seal the deal.

Starter Carson Cross pitched four scoreless while allowing two runs and two hits with three strikeouts. Reliever Brennan Leitao allowed only two hits over 1 1/3 scoreless to be awarded the win. Newcomer Kevin Alexander got the final six outs (two via strikeout) while giving up one walk for his first Spikes save.

WP: Leitao, Brennan. (1-0) [4.00] LP: Moss, Benton. (1-1) [3.48]

Sunday, July 26: State College Spikes (5) at Hudson Valley Renegades (3)
Location: Hudson Valley – Dutchess Stadium: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 3]

After leaving the first inning down 3-0, the Spikes came back to win the game – and the series – against Hudson Valley.

Leobaldo Pina, a returner from last year’s team, tied a Spikes’ record with three doubles as part of a four-hit, four-RBI game. He started the rally, bringing his team within a run of the Renegades with his second double of the game that bounced high down the third base line. It was on this hit that Pina collected his first two RBI. Craig Aikin tied the game in the fifth, scoring on an errant throw on Michael Pritchard’s bunt single.

The game winning runs came from Pina in the ninth, collecting his last two RBIs with a wall-ball double that allowed Thomas Spitz and Pritchard to score. Pina became the second player this season – and sixth in the club’s history – to produce three doubles in a game.

Pitcher Ian McKinney set down six straight after a rough first inning, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out five. Reliever Jacob Evans – who was awarded the win – added three scoreless while yielding three hits and striking out one. Pedro Echemendia retired the last three batsmen in order (striking out the last) in the ninth for the save.

WP: Evans, Jacob. (1-1) [1.59] LP: Castillo, Diego. (1-2) [3.14]

Monday, July 27: OFF DAY

The Spikes had their third off day this season on Monday, June 29 after getting home from a three-game win against the Hudson Valley Renegades. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the Spikes faced the Vermont Lake Monsters in a three-game home series and then battle the Lowell Spinners for another three games at home Friday through Sunday.

Tuesday, July 28: State College Spikes (7) versus Vermont Lake Monsters (9) (10 innings)
Location: State College – Medlar Field at Lubrano Park: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 1]

A big fifth inning from Vermont (OAK) allowed them to lead the game until the Spikes came back with six runs to tie up the score 7-7 at the end of the ninth to go into extra innings. However, only one extra frame was needed for Vermont to score two more runs and, consequentially, win the first game in the three-day series against the Spikes.

“There is no moral victory in a loss,” Spikes’ manager Johnny Rodriguez said in a postgame interview. “I hope they learn from this.”

Starter Jorge Rodriguez, whose 15 1/3 inning scoreless streak ended, yielded the first four runs of a seven-run fifth from the Lake Monsters. In total, Rodriguez allowed five hits and a walk while striking out three.

Reliever Jery Then pitched two scoreless and Brennan Leitao added another. However, Kender Villegas took the loss after allowing two runs on two hits and a walk in the tenth.

The offense came back after a 7-1 deficit in the eighth with a score from Jhohan Acevedo on a Thomas Spitz single. Casey Grayson earned a two-out walk and with back-to-back Josh Swirchak and Cole Lankford singles, brought the score to 7-4. Catcher Jose Godoy scored another run with a single and a double from R.J. Dennard closed the gap to one-run. The Spikes tied the game in the ninth when a single from Josh Swirchak brought in Michael Pritchard. A grounder-turned-double play from Cole Lankford forced extra innings.

“If you accept a moral victory,” Rodriguez said. “You’re not a champion.”

WP: Naile, James. (1-0) [1.64] LP: Villegas, K. (0-2) [3.74]

Wednesday, July 29: State College Spikes (0) versus Vermont Lake Monsters (3)
Location: State College – Medlar Field: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 2]

Held to four hits, the Spikes lost their second game to Vermont (OAK) in a 3-0 decision, despite Josh Swirchak’s second consecutive multi-hit game. Swirchak rallied late with a single in the seventh and a double down the right field line in the ninth. However, State College could not repeat the six-run comeback from the previous night.

Dailyn Martinez threw six quality innings for State College, yielding three runs (one earned) on seven hits and a hit batter while striking out four.

WP: Massad, Jonathan. (3-3) [3.48] LP: Martinez, Dailyn. (2-3) [4.25]

Thursday, July 30: State College Spikes (10) versus Vermont Lake Monsters (1)
Location: State College – Medlar Field: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 3]

After losing two games to Vermont (OAK), State College changed the tone of the series with their 10-1 win on Thursday night.

Casey Grayson led the offense with three hits and two RBI. He plated two runs with a single in the first, while the team added two more runs in the second on a Craig Aikin double and a Thomas Spitz RBI groundout.

The Spikes exploded in the fifth with ten batters coming to the plate. Jhohan Acevedo had a two-run triple and Leobaldo Pina had an RBI double. Orlando Olivera, slowly integrated back into action after an injury sustained while playing Hudson Valley, also knocked in a run in the fifth. This matched the largest single-inning output for the Spikes this season. In the sixth, Grayson capped scoring with an RBI double and extended his on-base streak at home to 20.

Starter Juan Perez yielded six walks and four hits while leaving the bases loaded twice and stranding a total of nine runners during his four innings. In his four-strikeout effort, Perez threw 85 pitches. Reliever Pedro Echemendia was awarded the win after two perfect innings in addition to striking out two.

WP: Echemendia, Pedro. (4-1) [3.22] LP: Manarino, Evan. (2-1) [3.60]

Friday, July 31: State College Spikes (3) versus Lowell Spinners (9)
Location: State College – Medlar Field: 7:05 p.m. ET. [Game 1]

Though the Spikes had a huge rally the night before, they couldn’t carry the momentum into the first game against the Lowell Spinners (BOS) in a 9-3 decision.

With a crowd of 5,084 fans – the third-largest attendance of the 2015 season – watching, the Spikes took a 3-2 lead in the sixth on Orlando Olivera’s two-run single. Olivera also collected a third RBI as Thomas Spitz scored on a groundout.

Lowell rallied in a huge sixth with eight runs to gain – and maintain – the lead over the Spikes.

“I’m going to be honest – that’s going to happen,” Spikes’ manager Johnny Rodriguez said in a postgame interview. “But we played hard.”

The pitchers totaled 16 strikeouts over the course of the nine innings. Landon Beck, the starter, left the game with the lead after he fanned nine batters – one less than the Spikes’ single game record – over his six innings while yielding two runs on three hits and two walks.

Reliever Jery Then took the loss after allowing four runs – three earned – on three hits and a walk after 1 1/3 innings with three strikeouts. Kender Villegas allowed another three runs on six hits while striking out four over 1 2/3 innings to finish the game.

WP: Kent, Matt. (3-0) [1.38] LP: Then, Jery. (0-2) [6.16]

Who’s Hot

Casey Grayson. Grayson extended his on-base streak at home to 21 games on Friday with a double in the eighth as well as tying for first place in the New York-Penn League batting ranks with Williamsport Crosscutters (PHI) first-baseman Brendon Hayden. Both first basemen have an average of .336. In 37 games, Grayson has been at-bat 131 times, scoring 21 runs on 44 hits while collecting 24 RBI, 22 walks and 34 strikeouts. Within the team, Grayson has the highest average followed by Leobaldo Pina.

Leobaldo Pina. Pina is developing as a reliable power hitter, like teammate Grayson. He has increased his average to .287 and made it into the league’s top-20 this week (Grayson-Hayden tie for first) in average at No. 20. In his 50 games, he appeared at-bat 150 times, scoring 15 runs on 43 hits while collecting one home run, 21 RBI, eight walks and 27 strikeouts. On Sunday night, he led the scoring against the Hudson Valley Renegades, becoming the second player this season – and sixth in the club’s history – to produce three doubles in a game. Another was Cole Lankford earlier this month, at a home game against the Batavia Muckdogs.

Juan Perez. Perez is ranked sixth on the NYPL pitching board with an ERA of 2.27 and a 4-1 record. He has yielded 10 runs on 31 hits, nine errors, two home runs and 21 walks. Perez has collected a total of 30 strikeouts over seven games and 35 innings pitched.

Ian McKinney. McKinney follows his teammate, Perez, on the ERA leader board at No. 7. He has an ERA of 2.43 – only .16 behind Perez. McKinney, over the course of seven games and 40 innings pitched, has yielded 19 runs on 42 hits, 11 errors, one home run and nine walks. McKinney has retired a total of 33 batsmen via the strikeout and has a 3-2 record. This week, he went six solid innings after a rough first inning, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out five in Sunday’s game against the Hudson Valley Renegades.

Who’s Not

Dailyn Martinez. Martinez, with high ERA of 4.25, has a record of 2-3. In his seven games started, he has yielded 23 runs on 43 hits, two errors, two home runs and 14 walks. Martinez has struck out 24 in exactly 36 innings pitched.


On Thursday, July 30, right-handed pitcher Brennan Leitao was sent down to rookie-level Johnson City from State College.

Last week, catcher Brian O’Keefe was promoted to the single-A Peoria Chiefs as former Spikes teammate and center fielder Jhohan Acevedo was called back to State College.

Right-handed pitcher Kevin Alexander was also sent down to the Spikes while infielder Champ Rowland was called up from the GCL Cardinals.


Danny Martin, after suffering from a re-injured groin, was sent back home to Escondido, California for the remainder of the season as a safeguard from further injury. He has been removed from the active roster as a result.

Orlando Olivera was injured during the games against Hudson Valley – plantar fasciitis - was slowly integrated back into the lineup. Spikes’ manager Johnny Rodriguez said in a postgame interview on Wednesday that Olivera would be put back into play, first as designated hitter and then, most likely, in the outfield. Rodriguez stayed true to his words. After a Tuesday and Wednesday absence, Olivera reappeared on Thursday night as the designated hitter. Friday night, he played his usual right field.

Ronnierd Garcia, who has been out with an injury to the groin area (resulted from a line drive directly to that area) will be back in action within the next five or six days. “Maybe [designated hitter],” Rodriguez said on Friday. “Maybe.”

After a June 30th game against Staten Island, Garcia took a line drive to the groin area and, though he initially pronounced himself okay, collapsed when returning to the dugout at the end of the seventh. The team was driving through New Jersey on the way home from SI and had to check Garcia into a hospital where surgery was reportedly required. Garcia’s time out was unknown, ranging from a week or two to the rest of the 2015 season.

Team Stats

Batting     Pitching  
R 170   R 138
H 343   H 338
HR 9   HR 12
RBI 150   SO 283
SO 256   BB 120
BB 136   ER 131
AVG 0.255   ERA 3.38

State College is fourth in the New York-Penn League in batting average at .255. Williamsport – which is leading the New York-Penn League with a record of 26-14, is first with a batting average of .259 – only .04 above the Spikes.

Pitching wise, State College – as a team – is sixth in the NYPL with an ERA of 3.38. The Brooklyn Cyclones (NYM) [22-17] are leading with a team ERA of 2.66 – .72 below State College.

New York-Penn League Pinckney Division Standings

1. Williamsport Crosscutters (PHI) [26-14]
2. West Virginia Black Bears (PIT) [21-19]
3. State College Spikes (STL) [19-20]
4. Mahoning Valley Scrappers (CLE) [18-20]
5. Auburn Doubledays (WSH) [18-21]
6. Batavia Muckdogs (MIA) [13-25]

Wildcard Standings

1. Lowell Spinners (BOS) [21-19]
2. West Virginia Black Bears (PIT) [21-19]
3. Hudson Valley Renegades (TB) [20-19]
4. Staten Island Yankees (NYY) [20-19]
5. State College Spikes (STL) [19-20]
6. Aberdeen IronBirds (BAL) [19-20]

What is Next

The Spikes will finish their series against the Spinners at home Saturday and Sunday. After their six-game home stand (Tuesday through Thursday and Friday through Sunday) the Spikes will travel to compete against the Batavia Muckdogs for the second time this season on the Muckdogs’ home turf – Dwyer Stadium. Then, State College will travel to West Virginia Thursday through Saturday for another three game series before returning home to face the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

Follow Stephanie Panny on Twitter @StephaniePanny.

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