Jordan Hicks (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

In-depth weekly news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ short-season Class-A affiliate in the New York-Penn League for the period of August 6-12.

State College leads the New York-Penn League with a 37-17 record, a 6 ½ game lead over Williamsport in the Pinckney Division. Five Spikes were selected for the NYPL All-Star game next week. 19-year-old Jordan Hicks makes an impressive second appearance on the mound. Yariel Gonzalez and Jeremy Martinez look impressive at the plate. Gerwuins Velazco earns a save and a win.

A 5-2 week by the State College Spikes may have included more losses than hoped for, but they still have a healthy lead in the standings. State College opened up the week by sweeping the Vermont Lake Monsters, but dropped two against the West Virginia Black Bears. The Spikes avoided being swept with a 7-4 victory to split the rain delay induced doubleheader Thursday night.

“Coming out of that doubleheader was tough, but it will just make us better for the next series,” manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “When you’re tested, and you’re beaten and you fight back, you come back wanting to do better the next series.”

The first place team did just that, closing out the week with a 4-3 victory over the Staten Island Yankees in the first game of three in the crucial home series.

“It’s very important, against a great team, to set the tone that we’ve gotten this far with this record, and we really play hard, and now they think they have to match us,” Rodriguez said. “We seem to play well against the tough teams with great records. They seem to play just a little bit crisper, with a little bit more swagger to them. This is the team that kind of just plays right and they have what it takes.”

 

Game Summaries

Saturday, August 6th: State College Spikes 3 at Vermont Lake Monsters 2 (11 innings)

State College started the week with an 11-inning win in Vermont, 10 of which were scoreless. Four errors by the Lake Monsters and five strong pitching performances from the Spikes gave State College a 3-2 victory.

Elier Rodriguez (1-for-4) put the Spikes on the board first with an RBI single to right field that scored Vince Jackson. A double from Danny Hudzina (2-for-5) and a passed ball added two more to cap the State College scoring.

Harley Holt started, giving up five hits and two walks while striking out three. Connor Jones made his first appearance as a Spike, tossing two innings, yielding one hit and striking out one. Jordan DeLorenzo and Eric Carter pitched two innings apiece, and Carter earned the win after striking out four.

Gerwuins Velazco pitched the final inning, but gave up a walk and a two run home run, nearly giving the game away. Velazco still picked up his first save of the season after posting one strikeout and forcing the final ground ball out.

WP: Carter, Eric (2-0, 1.38)
LP: Damron, Ty (0-2, 2.70)

SV: Velazco, Gerwuins (1)

 

Sunday, August 7th: State College Spikes 11 at Vermont Lake Monsters 2

Sunday’s 11-2 win over Vermont was the result of an electric offensive night for State College, posting 15 hits compared to the Lake Monsters’ five. A five run fifth inning gave the Spikes an 8-2 lead that they would continue to build upon.

Jeremy Martinez (3-for-5) made history with his inside the park home run in the fifth, smashing a fly ball to just inside of the right field line, which led to the right fielder overrunning the ball and colliding into the fence. Ricardo Bautista (2-for-5) also tripled in the fifth to add to the scoring. Yariel Gonzalez (3-for-5) and Ryan McCarvel (2-for-4) doubled. However, the win was a team generated effort, as every single Spike in the lineup had at least one hit.

Jordan Hicks made his second career NYPL start and earned the win after striking out three and throwing 87 pitches, 49 for strikes, over 5 1/3 innings. The 19-year-old yielded two runs, one earned, on five hits and three walks. Jhonatan Escudero followed to toss 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, striking out four and walking three. Greg Tomchick pitched the final 1 1/3 innings, walking one.

WP: Hicks, Jordan (2-0, 0.79)

LP: Altamirano, Xavier (2-2, 2.44)

Monday, August 8th: State College Spikes 4 at Vermont Lake Monsters 2

A 4-2 decision over the Lake Monsters on Monday gave State College the road sweep, earning them their 35th win of the season and becoming the first team in franchise history to reach that mark this quickly in the season.

Although the Spikes were quiet early on, a four run fifth inning gave them a lead big enough to hold down the Lake Monsters. Back to back singles from Ricardo Bautista (1-for-4) and Danny Hudzina (2-for-3) started the rally. Bautista scored the first run after beating out a force out throw home. A single to center field from Anthony Ray (1-for-4) brought in Hudzina, before two more runs scoried on a throwing error by the Lake Monsters’ shortstop.

Carson Cross started and earned the win after giving up one run, unearned, on three hits and two walks over five solid innings. Spencer Trayner came on in relief in the sixth to toss three scoreless innings, striking out three. Brady Bowen gave up a home run in the ninth, but earned the save after striking out the final batter.

WP: Cross, Carson (4-3, 3.07)
LP: Puk, A.J. (0-2, 3.31)

SV: Bowen, Brady (6)

Tuesday, August 9th: State College Spikes 4, West Virginia Black Bears 7

Despite a late rally in the ninth inning, the Spikes could not overcome the Black Bears’ 16 hits and early scoring.

A line drive single to left from Tommy Edman (3-for-3) and line drive double to right by Yariel Gonzalez (2-for-4) scored the Spikes first run in the fifth inning. A three-run push in the ninth allowed the Spikes to pull close with singles from Elier Rodriguez, Danny Hudzina (2-for-4) and Bladimil Franco. A Black Bears fielding error and passed ball allowed Rodriguez and Hudzina to score the first two. Gonzalez capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly that plated Franco.

Steven Farinaro started, but struggled to keep West Virginia from attacking early, yielding 12 hits, five runs and two walks in 5 2/3 innings to take the loss. Max Almonte tossed 2 1/3 frames in relief, but gave up three hits, a walk and two runs, both unearned. Jordan DeLorenzo pitched the final inning, yielding one hit and striking out one.

WP: Meyer, Stephan (2-4, 4.96)

LP: Farinaro, Steven (6-1, 4.94)

Wednesday, August 10th: Game 2 against the Black Bears was suspended in the middle of the first inning due to rain. The game resumed on Thursday as a doubleheader.

 

Thursday, August 11th: Doubleheader in State College (due to previous night’s postponement)

Game 1: State College Spikes 4, West Virginia Black Bears 8

After Wednesday’s game was resumed, the Spikes were unable to get enough momentum going and struggled on defense, committing two errors. West Virginia also outhit State College 10 to four.

Ryan McCarvel (1-for-3) got things going in the fourth with a two run home run, also scoring Vince Jackson on the long ball to center. In the seventh, Riley Drongesen doubled to left field and Elier Rodriguez singled to put him at third. Drongesen then scampered home on a wild pitch. State College posted its final run in the eighth after Mick Fennell (1-for-3) doubled and came around on two sacrifice flies.

Bryan Dobzanski started, but ended up taking the loss after pitching the one inning prior to the rain, yielding one walk and a solo home run. Dewin Perez tossed two frames, but struggled, giving up five runs, all earned, on four hits and four walks. Jonathan Escudero tried to hold down the Black Bears with four stellar innings, allowing just one run, unearned, on two hits and one walk. Despite his six strikeouts, Escudero’s efforts did not correlate to any more offense from his teammates. Greg Tomchick threw the final two, yielding two hits, including a home run.

WP: Beddes, Danny (4-2, 2.30)
LP: Dobzanski, Bryan (4-5, 3.83)

Game 2: State College Spikes 7, West Virginia Black Bears 4 (7 innings)

Trailing in the series 2-0 coming into the final game, the Spikes avoided being swept with the 7-4 victory after seven innings in the shortened doubleheader game.

Tommy Edman (2-for-3, 1 RBI), Andy Young (3-for-4, 2 RBI) and Elier Rodriguez (2-for-3, 2 RBI) led the offense to 10 hits, compared to the Black Bears’ eight. Young’s two triples tied the Spikes record for three-baggers in a single game. State College tallied two runs in the fourth, three in the fifth and the final two in the sixth.

Spencer Trayner started, throwing four scoreless innings, yielding three hits and striking out one. Gerwuins Velazco received the win after throwing just one inning, yielding no hits, no runs and no walks. Eric Carter nearly gave up the Spikes lead, allowing four earned runs on five hits in just two innings, but the defense was able to hold on to the win.

WP: Velazco, Gerwuins (2-0, 3.86)
LP: Hightower, Scooter (2-4, 2.45)

 

Friday, August 12th: State College Spikes 4, Staten Island Yankees 3

State College’s first game with Staten Island ended in a 4-3 decision in favor of the Spikes, thanks to two home runs and a bullpen-led night on the mound.

Vince Jackson and Ryan McCarvel launched back-to-back home runs in the first inning, giving the Spikes a 3-0 lead. Jackson’s shot to deep left field also scored Tommy Edman, who had walked. McCarvel’s solo shot landed in almost the exact same spot as Jackson’s. The Spikes fourth and final run came in the third when Edman singled and Jackson’s line drive single to right brought Edman home.

Jordan DeLorenzo started, yielding one run on four hits over four innings of work. DeLorenzo struck out five and retired his first eight batters.

“The stuff that he showed, the stuff that he has is good,” Rodriguez said. “He has found himself. I felt comfortable starting him and having him go three innings, but I challenged him. We needed him to go for four and he did.”

Max Almonte followed, pitching two innings in relief to earn the win after yielding one run and one hit, while striking out three. Connor Jones also threw two innings, allowing one hit and walking one, giving up one run. Brady Bowen earned his seventh save after pitching in the ninth, striking out one.

“In a big series, against a great team like that, it's huge. They [Staten Island] can play the game,” Rodriguez said. “Defensively, we made every play and we had the key hits. They saw the impressive record of the Yankees, but they kept that slow heart beat and just raised the intensity a little bit.”

WP: Almonte, Max (1-1, 3.65)
LP: De la Rosa, Simon (4-3, 3.47)

SV: Bowen, Brady (7)

 

Who’s Hot

http://www.scout.com/player/200621-jordan-hicks?s=321

Jordan Hicks. In his second start, Hicks earned his second win of his Spikes career this week, throwing 5 1/3 innings yielding two runs, one earned, on five hits and three walks against Vermont. The 19-year-old struck out three, tossing 87 pitches, 49 for strikes. Hicks cemented his spot in the starting rotation with a 0.79 ERA.

http://www.scout.com/player/210027-yariel-gonzalez?s=321

Yariel Gonzalez. Although Gonzalez struggled at first for the Spikes, the infielder has gotten more comfortable in his offensive role. Gonzalez went 5-for-12 this week (.417) with five RBI. The Mayaguez, Puerto Rico native shined especially in Sunday’s 11-2 victory over Vermont, going 3-for-5 with a double and three RBI.

http://www.scout.com/player/190432-jeremy-martinez?s=321

Jeremy Martinez. Martinez’s inside-the-park home run on Sunday makes him hot this week. The deep fly ball that barely landed fair is a testament to his ability to find holes in the defense, get on base, and score multiple runs while doing it. Martinez leads the team in batting average (.311) and ranks second in on-base percentage (.427) behind Danny Martin. The 21-year-old went 5-for-18 this week (.278) with three RBI in five starts. His selection this week to the 2016 NYPL All-Star game also speaks to his strengths as a hitter, as well as a catcher, and his positive impact on this team.

http://www.scout.com/player/122629-gerwuins-velazco?s=321

Gerwuins Velazco. Velazco is hot this week, not just because of how well he pitched, but because of his ability to be flexible for his team’s needs. He only pitched two innings this entire week, but managed to earn a save on Saturday, his first this season, and a win on Thursday. The Caracas, Venezuela native gave up just one hit, two earned runs and one walk over those two games, which shows his ability to dial it in and be dependable for his team in times of struggle. Velazco has also managed to lower his ERA from 8.31 (from nearly a month ago) to a current, respectable 3.86.

 

Who’s Not

Riley Drongesen. Although Drongesen is set to see more time behind the plate with Jeremy Martinez out for a few games, he can’t quite seem to rise to the occasion offensively. The catcher went 2-for-13 this week (.154) over four starts. Although he batted in two runs with big hits, he struck out four times. The 24-year-old has sporadic moments of powerful hitting, but lacked consistency this week, which is what the Spikes need if they are looking to temporarily replace Martinez, both as a catcher and at the plate.

Steven Farinaro. Although Farinaro was on the hot list last week, he moved down a peg after a poor performance in the Spikes loss to West Virginia on Tuesday. He struggled as the Black Bears attacked early, yielding 12 hits, five runs and two walks in 5 2/3 innings to get marked with his first loss of the season and bump his ERA up from 4.61 to 4.94.

Bladimil Franco. Although Franco was recently in Peoria, his recent transition back down to State College is not really a surprise when looking at deeper at his stats. Franco may have had a .258 batting average for the Spikes in the beginning of the year, but that dropped down to .218 right before he was brought back down from the Chiefs. Franco went 2-for-14 in his first week back, striking out three times in four starts.

 

2016 NYPL All-Star Game Selections

Catcher Jeremy Martinez and pitcher Eric Carter were among those selected to represent State College in the 2016 New York-Penn League All-Star game occurring on August 16th at Duchess Stadium in Wappinger’s Falls, New York. Infielders Tommy Edman, Elier Rodriguez and Danny Hudzina will join their two teammates on the south squad, with five Spikes’ players selected to take the field.

http://www.scout.com/player/209703-eric-carter?s=321

Five All-Star selections for the Spikes matches a franchise record. Additionally, this is the third time in the last four seasons that State College has had five players selected.

“Well deserved; all of them deserved to be selected,” Rodriguez said. “We could have put nine, ten guys in there because they’ve all performed. I’m happy with the five and they definitely all deserve to be there.”

 

Something to forget

Bryan Dobzanski and Greg Tomchick gave up a home run apiece in State College’s 8-4 loss in Game 1 against West Virginia on Thursday night. Dobzanski served up a solo shot in just his second batter of the first inning and Tomchick yielded his on his third batter of the top of the seventh inning. The homers helped give the Black Bears an 8-4 victory in what could have been just 6-4, a deficif that might have turned out to be easier for the Spikes to climb back from.

 

Something to remember

Jeremy Martinez hit an inside of the park home run on Sunday while visiting Vermont. The catcher made history in the fifth, smashing a fly ball to just inside of the right field line that scored three runs and caused the right fielder to overrun the ball and collide into the fence. The barely fair shot marks the fifth in franchise history as he adds his name to the list behind current teammate Danny Martin, who hit his inside-the-parker last season.

 

Team Stats

Batting     Pitching  
R 276   R 215
H 469   H 460
HR 25   HR 15
RBI 241   SO 350
SO 341   BB 165
BB 196   ER 168
AVG 0.255   ERA 3.12

The Spikes rank fourth in team batting average (.255) but are second in runs, RBI and hits in the 12-team league, falling again behind Tri-City. With a home run spurt, State College has also jumped to second in the long ball column at 25, behind Tri-City’s 43. The only category that the Spikes lead the league in batting is number of at-bats (1,842).

The pitching staff leads the league in saves (19) and is fifth in ERA (3.12). Although State College ranks sixth in runs given up (215), they have yielded the second highest amount of hits (460). The Spikes are tied with Mahoning Valley and Hudson Valley for the lowest number of home runs given up (15).

 

New York-Penn League Pinckney Standings

1. State College Spikes (STL) [37-17]

2. Williamsport Crosscutters (PHI) [30-23]

3. Mahoning Valley Scrappers (CLE) [25-27]

4. West Virginia Black Bears (PIT) [24-30]

5. Auburn Doubledays (WSH) [22-32]

6. Batavia Muckdogs (MIA) [13-40]

State College is the first team in the NYPL to reach 35 wins so far this season State College’s biggest threat for the league’s best record is Hudson Valley, but they are six games behind the Spikes.. The Spikes have been in first place for six straight weeks, currently holding a 6 1/2 game divisional lead over Williamsport.

 

Transactions

8/6 - OF Bladimil Franco received from the Peoria Chiefs (single-A). The San Cristobal, Dominican Republic native was promoted to Peoria on July 1, but now rejoins the Spikes after playing eight games in State College early on in the season. The 22-year-old hit has a .258 batting average, with three doubles and five RBI. Franco also had his number changed from 56 to 33 once back in State College.

8/6 - RHP Connor Jones received from the GCL Cardinals (rookie-level). Jones, the Cardinals 2016 second-round draft pick posted a 2.25 ERA, yielding three hits and a walk over four single-inning appearances as a GCL Cardinal. The Hartford, Connecticut native also struck out four. Jones was an ABCA and NWBCA First-Team All-American for the University of Virginia this year in 15 starts, going 11-1 with a 2.34 ERA.

8/10 - RHP Harley Holt promoted to the Peoria Chiefs. Holt made four appearances, including two starts, with the Spikes before his promotion, recording a 1-0 record with a 5.06 ERA. The Honolulu, Hawaii native gave up 16 hits, seven runs, one home run and three walks. The 24-year-old did however strike out four in 10 2/3 innings.

 

Injuries

Anthony Ray is out for concussion protocols and on a day to day basis, according to manager Johnny Rodriguez.

http://www.scout.com/player/179980-anthony-ray?s=321

“It will probably be a week before he comes back,” the manager said. “The concussion symptoms are going down, but I imagine his return is at least still four or five days away. We have the all-star break, so he has two days to really get better before even thinking about playing.”

Jeremy Martinez did not start on Friday due to soreness in his throwing arm and will not start behind the plate in the second game against Staten Island on Saturday. Rodriguez did however say that he may put Martinez in as a DH, depending on how he feels and what the trainer has to say. Martinez’s bat is so significant to the offense and would make a huge difference, especially against a difficult team like Staten Island.

“He felt really good today, had a lot of flexibility. It’s still swollen more than normal, but it wasn’t bothering him nearly as much, so he really could DH tomorrow [Saturday]. I probably won’t catch him Sunday, but he will catch in the bullpen as a test so that he is ready to catch a few innings in the all-star game.”

 

Up Next

State College will finish its week with a final game against Staten Island before having a day off on Monday. On Tuesday, the five Spikes players will represent State College in the 2016 NYPL All-Star game. The Spikes will then finish out the week with a three-game series with Williamsport, with one home game and two on the road.

 

Follow Kara Duriez on Twitter @KaraDuriez.

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