The State College Spikes started off the week in the best way possible, with a 3-1 win over Auburn that clinched the Pinckney Division championship and a playoff spot to fight for the New York-Penn League title. The Spikes won the Auburn series 2-1, coming back after a tough loss to start the series. State College then struggled at home, going 1-2 against Aberdeen with two back to back losses. However, the Spikes closed out the week with two wins in Mahoning Valley, allowing the Spikes to match the franchise record of 48 wins.
With one more win breaking the franchise record and another putting the team at 50, manager Johnny Rodriguez wants the team to keep pushing through the final three regular season games, despite the playoffs being less than a week away.
“I could sit all of these guys for a couple games to give them rest, but I want to clinch that top seed. I think these kids deserve a 50 win season. But other teams know we have the best record and they know we made the playoffs,” Rodriguez said. “Every team that is coming to play us wants to beat us. They’re playing with a little swagger trying to beat you, so you have to answer the challenge.”
Saturday, August 27th: State College Spikes 3 at Auburn Doubledays 1
State College’s 3-1 victory on Saturday clinched the Pinckney Division and guaranteed a spot in the postseason, the first team in the league to do so.
Jeremy Martinez (1-for-3) knocked in all three runs, with a sacrifice fly to deep right in the first, followed by a line drive single to right in the third that scored two more. Tommy Edman (2-for-5) reached base with a double and a single, and made his way around the bases both times thanks to Martinez’s timely hitting. Andy Young scored the third and final run after reaching on a walk.
Jordan Hicks did his job, tossing seven strong innings and allowing just one earned run on three hits and no walks. The 19-year-old struck out six, earning his fourth win in one of his strongest performances this season. Brady Bowen earned the save after throwing the final two frames, yielding three hits, no walks and no runs, striking out one.
WP: Hicks, Jordan (4-1, 1.95)
LP: Bogucki, A.J. (0-5, 7.66)
SV: Bowen, Brady (9)
Sunday, August 28th: State College Spikes 7 at Auburn Doubledays 0
Sunday night’s 7-0 victory over Auburn gave the Spikes a 2-1 series win and the pitching staff’s third shutout of the season.
Danny Hudzina (2-for-4), who doubled twice, and Yariel Gonzalez (1-for-4) both brought in two runs apiece. Andy Young (3-for-5) also had a big game, tripling in the ninth to bring in a run. The Spikes two other runs came in the third inning, when Ricardo Bautista hit a ball up the middle that caused the Doubledays to commit a fielding error.
Carson Cross threw 79 pitches, 58 for strikes, over the first six innings, yielding four hits and two walks while striking out four to earn the win. Max Almonte followed with three innings, tossing 31 pitches, 23 for strikes. Almonte gave up just two hits to earn his first save. Both Cross and Almonte powered through to keep the Doubledays from scoring.
WP: Cross, Carson (5-5, 3.25)
LP: Davis, Weston (3-5, 2.57)
SV: Almonte, Max (1)
Monday, August 29th: State College Spikes 5, Aberdeen Ironbirds 2
Although two hitters made the team’s five runs happen on just two big hits, the Spikes tallied 12 total in the 5-2 victory to open up the three game home series with Aberdeen.
Ryan McCarvel (2-for-2) broke it open in the fourth, smashing a two run home run far over the left field fence. Ricardo Bautista (2-for-4) followed McCarvel’s example, hitting a three run home run to deep right field in the sixth. Bautista’s long ball marks his second of the season. Every Spikes batter but one notched one or more hits in the effort.
Steven Farinaro also shined, earning his franchise record ninth win of the season. The right-hander tossed six solid innings, yielding five hits and one run, unearned, while striking out five. Connor Jones came on in relief for one inning, but gave up two hits and one earned run, in addition to striking out one. Eric Carter closed with two scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out one to earn his seventh save.
WP: Farinaro, Steven (9-1, 3.72)
LP: Seabrooke, Travis (1-7, 3.82)
SV: Carter, Eric (7)
Tuesday, August 30th: State College Spikes 1, Aberdeen Ironbirds 6
Despite a 5-2 victory the night before, Tuesday night featured a flipped script that left the Spikes lacking on offense.
Elier Rodriguez (1-for-4) drove in the only run, on a single in the fourth that plated Jeremy Martinez (1-for-3) after he had doubled to right field. Anthony Ray (2-for-4) produced the only other two hits of the night, bringing the team total to four.
But Johnny Rodriguez does not think the loss was really the offense’s problem.
“I wouldn’t blame it on the hitters,” Rodriguez said. “The starter sets the tone on the mound and coming out like that...it’s almost like the team knows how the game is going to go and they don’t show up to play.”
Dewin Perez started and yielded five runs, four earned, on six hits and a walk over just 3 ? innings to take the loss. Although Perez struck out three, he was replaced by Jonathan Escudero in the fourth. Escudero tossed 1 ? innings, allowing one hit and striking out two. Jordan DeLorenzo followed with two innings, giving up a solo home run despite striking out one. Gerwuins Velazco tossed the final two and gave up two hits, but struck out two.
WP: Muckenhirn, Zach (5-2, 2.67)
LP: Perez, Dewin (3-5, 4.93)
SV: Knutson, Max (1)
Wednesday, August 31st: State College Spikes 3, Aberdeen Ironbirds 6
Wednesday night’s 6-3 loss to Aberdeen translated into the Spikes dropping the series 1-2. Although the Spikes were only outhit 8 to 6, two big fielding errors contributed to a less than great pitching performance from the bullpen.
Elier Rodriguez’ (1-for-4) double in the first scored Andy Young and Vince Jackson (1-for-3). Jackson, whose single to the pitcher in the fifth plated Mick Fennell, was credited with the RBI that brought in the third and final run.
Greg Tomchick started and tossed six innings, but gave up four runs, three earned, on five hits and three walks. Tomchick struck out five but earned the loss. Spencer Trayner followed with three innings, and gave up two runs, unearned, on three hits, while striking out two.
“It was a tough loss. Tomchick didn’t come out throwing that well,” manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “We made two errors on two routine balls, and that’s what hurt us. That game could have been a lot closer. If they made those plays, it would have been a different game.”
WP: Humpal, Lucas (1-2, 3.34)
LP: Tomchick, Greg (0-1, 6.00)
SV: Elliott, Andrew (3)
Thursday, September 1st: State College Spikes 8 at Mahoning Valley Scrappers 6
The Spikes bounced back with an 8-6 decision in their favor on Thursday night, despite the Scrappers’ ninth inning comeback attempt.
Tommy Edman (3-for-4) led the offense with two runs scored and two runs batted in. Anthony Ray (3-for-5) also tallied three hits, including a double and a triple. Ryan McCarvel (1-for-2) drove in two runs with his double, in addition to walking three times. Mick Fennell, Ricardo Bautista, Jeremy Martinez and Vince Jackson all also knocked in one run apiece. Even though Mahoning Valley outhit State College 12 to 10, the Spikes managed to take advantage of a Scrappers’ error and their timely hits to hang on to the victory.
Bryan Dobzanski started, giving up just one earned run on five hits and three walks over four innings. Max Almonte followed with two scoreless innings, giving up two hits and a walk but striking out four, to take the win. Brady Bowen followed with 1 ? innings, nearly giving up the game after yielding five earned runs on one walk and four hits, including one home run. Eric Carter pitched the final ? inning and earned his eighth save after allowing just one hit.
WP: Almonte, Max (3-1, 2.91)
LP: Aiken, Brady (2-1, 4.43)
SV: Carter, Eric (8)
Friday, September 2nd: State College Spikes 4 at Mahoning Valley Scrappers 2
Friday’s 4-2 decision over Mahoning Valley put the Spikes at their 48th win, matching the franchise high set by the 2013 and 2014 squads. With the victory, the Spikes claimed a hold on the first seed in the NYPL playoffs set to begin on Wednesday.
Ryan McCarvel (1-for-4) hit his 10th home run of the season in the fourth. The two run shot to left gave him the franchise record for the most home runs hit by a right-handed batter in a single season. The Spikes’ other two runs came in the seventh, when Mick Fennell (1-for-5) brought in Anthony Ray from third and Tommy Edman from second, with a two-out squeeze bunt single.
Jordan Hicks started and tossed three innings, giving up just one hit but five walks. Jordan DeLorenzo followed with four solid innings, yielding one earned run on four hits and a walk, while striking out five to earn the win. Connor Jones picked up his first save after tossing the final two, allowing four hits and one earned one, and striking out two.
WP: DeLorenzo, Jordan (2-1, 2.90)
LP: Jimenez, Luis (1-5, 5.24)
SV: Jones, Connor (1)
Eric Carter. Even though Carter rarely sees more than two innings at a time, his role as a closer for the Spikes has become extremely important and that showed twice this week. The St. George, Utah native earned two saves after tossing a combined 2 ? innings, allowing three hits and no earned runs, while striking out one. Even if the stats don’t convince you, trust that Carter’s impact this week was nothing less of clutch, throwing well with both games on the line.
Ryan McCarvel. McCarvel makes the hot list this week because he hit two big home runs at times when the Spikes really needed them. The first baseman only went 4-for-16 this week, but scored three runs, walked five times and tallied six RBI. McCarvel also currently ranks second in the league in home runs (10) and runs batted in (45).
Anthony Ray. Even though Ray just came back full time from his head injury, he has already made a huge impact on the offense. The outfielder made four starts and went 6-for-17 (.353) with one walk, a stolen base and five runs scored. The Spikes have been missing Ray in the nine hole to turn the lineup over, in addition to adding speed to the basepaths and generating energy in the outfield. His return to the lineup will continue to make a positive impact heading into the playoffs.
Steven Farinaro. Farinaro earned his ninth win of the season, which currently leads the New York-Penn League, not to mention has broken the Spikes single season pitching wins record. In his start on Monday, the right-hander tossed six solid innings, yielding five hits and one run, unearned, while striking out five.
Dewin Perez. The Cartagena, Columbia native has been struggling lately and Johnny Rodriguez knows it. In his start against Aberdeen on the 30th, Perez gave up five runs, four earned, on six hits and a walk after just 3 ? innings, forcing the Spikes to go the bullpen early and use three pitchers. Rodriguez put it simply, stating that “Perez just hasn’t had it lately.” In addition, Perez’s ERA has increased from 1.46 from the beginning of July, to a current 4.93.
Riley Drongesen. Although Drongesen had an amazing tag at home plate during Wednesday’s game, his hitting has been less than desirable. In his two starts this week, the catcher went 1-for-7 with two strikeouts and no runs scored or batted in. The 24-year-old is technically doing the job as a backup catcher to Jeremy Martinez, but it would benefit his team even more if he could hit more consistently when put in the lineup.
Bladimil Franco. Franco had a tough week at the plate, going 2-for-14 over four starts in the outfield. The Dominican Republic native also struck out three times. His batting average has dropped from a respectable .288 on August 18th, to .213.
After the second inning of the home game on September 1st, the Spikes announced a two year extension of their Player Development Contract with the Cardinals, renewing State College’s minor league affiliation with St. Louis through the 2018 New York-Penn League season.
The St. Louis Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak offered positive comments regarding the contract extension. “We have enjoyed our last four years in State College and are looking forward to many more,” Mozeliak said. “We are grateful to Chuck Greenberg, Jason Dambach, and Scott Walker as they provide a tremendous environment to our players to grow on and off the field.”
Although no Spikes players received any awards this week, State College’s Frank Spinelli received the 2016 New York-Penn League Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Year award. Spinelli is in his first season as the Spikes strength and conditioning coach, but has worked hard to keep the Spikes in good shape.
Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez had nothing but positive things to say about Spinelli and his work this season. “He’s been outstanding all year long,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a true professional and definitely deserves that award. He’s been on top of everything and he truly earned it.”
Something to forget
The Spikes tallied seven errors in the field this week, which often led to their opponents taking advantage of the miscues and scoring unearned runs. Manager Johnny Rodriguez said that the errors may have been the difference makers in a few of the close games.
“We just need to make the routine plays,” Rodriguez said. “At this level, those little errors shouldn’t be happening. We don’t have strikeout artists on the mound so we have to make the plays a lot. And if we don’t, then those errors in the field will continue to hurt us.”
Something to remember
In the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Ironbirds, Spencer Trayner gave up a triple in the gap to right center field which gave Aberdeen another chance to widen the scoring edge from three to four. But when Aberdeen hit a hard line drive to shallow left, Mick Fennell caught the ball and threw it to Riley Drongesen at home for the 7 to 2 double play. The one hopper bullet from Fennell allowed Drongesen to make the perfect tag at the plate and get the Spikes out of the inning and back up to the plate.
“That was an amazing double play,” Rodriguez said. “The extra effort is still there and we’re really still playing hard. That’s how I know we’re not tanking late in the season like this.”
State College now leads the NYPL in runs scored (371) and runs batted in (327). The Spikes rank second in hits (639) falling just behind Lowell’s 657. A .256 team batting average ranks third in the league.
The Spikes pitching staff ranks fifth in team ERA (3.13) and second in hits allowed (640) just behind Batavia’s 673. The staff ranks eighth in runs allowed and first in saves (28). State College is also tied with Connecticut, Staten Island and Hudson Valley for the fewest home runs allowed at 22.
New York-Penn League Pinckney Standings
1. State College Spikes (STL) [48-25]
2. Williamsport Crosscutters (PHI) [38-34]
3. West Virginia Black Bears (PIT) [36-37]
4. Mahoning Valley Scrappers (CLE) [35-37]
5. Auburn Doubledays (WSH) [28-43]
6. Batavia Muckdogs (MIA) [19-52]
The Spikes continue to lead in Pinckney standings, as Saturday night’s win clinched the division. Williamsport is now 10 games behind State College. In other divisions, Hudson Valley has clinched the McNamara Division with a 46-25 record. Lowell leads the Stedler Division with a 46-27 record.
Anthony Ray made his first appearance back in the lineup for the Spikes on Saturday night in Auburn. The outfielder was substituted defensively in the bottom of the seventh, replacing Bladimil Franco in left field. Ray got just one at bat in his first start since August 11th, and struck out. However the Chicago, Illinois native went on to make four starts in the outfield this week and went 6-for-17 with five runs scored.
“He’s getting his rhythm back,” manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “When you don’t play for a while you get sore more easily, so he’ll still get a few games off so he can get back to feeling his best...but I like him out there because he always brings a lot of energy.”
State College is set to close out its three game series in Mahoning Valley and then return home to play Williamsport on Sunday. Following Sunday’s game, the Spikes will travel to Williamsport for their final game of the regular season. As Pinckney Division champions, State College will continue on into playoffs, but the team’s seeding, game locations and times are still to be announced.
Follow Kara Duriez on Twitter @KaraDuriez.
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