Johnny Rodriguez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Manager Johnny Rodriguez leads the State College Spikes into New York-Penn League action for 2016.

Manager Johnny Rodriguez leads the State College Spikes into New York-Penn League action for 2016.

Editor’s note

This is a free sample, the first of The Cardinal Nation’s weekly State College Spikes Notebooks for 2016. Appearing each Saturday morning during the entire season, eyewitness, in-depth assessments of the club will be provided for TCN members by our local reporter, Kara Duriez from Penn State University. Read about Kara here.


Season Opener in Williamsport –  Crosscutters 4, Spikes 1      

The 2016 State College Spikes season began on Friday night at BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. With a sellout crowd, the defending Pinckney Division champion Crosscutters hosted the Spikes, who finished third last year, in both team’s first contest of the season.

Recording a 4-1 loss to the Crosscutters, the Spikes’ results mirrored last season’s theme. The Crosscutters played merely flawless defense, robbing the Spikes of base hits on multiple sharply hit balls. State College, however, struggled in the field, notching three errors in the loss. Most of the damage was done in the third inning when the Spikes were unable to defend consecutive bunts, the second of which moved the runner from first base to an uncovered third base. Two singles and a throwing error lead to the Crosscutters gaining a lead that State College would be unable to overcome.  

The Starting Nine

The opening day roster consists of 19 players new to the Spikes club and 12 returning veterans from the 2015 and/or 2014 season. As one would expect, the starting nine for State College did not consist of many familiar faces. However, Dailyn Martinez, a veteran, got the start on the mound. Additionally, returning Spike Danny Martin led off and started at second base.

However, spots two through nine were filled with new faces. Jose Martinez (trade from Kansas City) started at shortstop and singled in the third. Vincent Jackson (14th round – University of Tennessee) played left field and made himself known offensively, being robbed of a smash line drive in the sixth and showing off his home to first speed in the ninth, nearly beating out a grounder in the hole to second base. Danny Hudzina (10th round – Western Kentucky) played third base, along with Ricardo Bautista (Johnson City in 2015) in right field, Bladimil Franco (GCL) as DH and Ryan McCarvel (JC) at first base, all doubled in the opener.

Recently added from the Palm Beach Cardinals and another Johnson City standout last season, Chris Rivera made the start behind the dish and drew fans’ attention with a deep drive to center field in the fifth. Anthony Ray (JC) rounded out the lineup in center field.

Staff Continuity

Manager Johnny Rodriguez, pitching coach Darwin Marrero and hitting coach Roger LaFrancois are back with the Spikes for 2016. They are joined by new fourth coach and former Cardinals minor league outfielder C.J. Beatty, trainer Chris Whitman and strength and conditioning coach Frank Spinelli.

Something to Forget

With bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the third, an easy ground ball to starting pitcher Dailyn Martinez should have been a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning. But Martinez went to first and conceded a run, without any consideration of getting the force out at home.

Something to Remember

In the top of the ninth inning with two outs, back to back doubles from Spikes’ Bautista and Franco denied the Crosscutters the shutout.

Outlook for Home Opener

If the first game is any indication, the 2016 season looks promising for the Spikes. There were plenty of hard hit balls and a good performance from the Martinez-Rivera battery, with seven strikeouts for Martinez and a runner caught stealing by Rivera. Returning Spikes Gerwuins Velazco and Greg Tomchick also pitched well in relief.

If State College can shake off the rust and build upon the comeback attempt from their last at bat against the Crosscutters, the momentum should help them turn the tables Saturday evening when they host the Crosscutters at Medlar Field in Lubrano Park.

Another returnee from 2015, Carson Cross, will take the ball for the home opener. Other starters include Steven Farinaro, Ronnie Williams and Bryan Dobzanski, all making the step up from Johnson City last summer.  

For more information

Members of The Cardinal Nation can go deeper into the details behind the 31 players on the initial State College roster for the new season here: 2016 State College Spikes Roster Preview.

As more draftee signing and team assignment information is learned, it will be noted on team rosters here at The Cardinal Nation as well as on the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog. The latter source also is tracking the status of all 42 draftees. To go deeper on any of the Cardinals’ 42 draftees, check out this article.

By clicking on any highlighted player name, you will be taken to his individual player profile page. There, a wealth of past information about him is available – articles, injury news, photos, videos, interviews and more - all in one place.

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