After losing game one of their semifinal series to Jamestown, the Spikes rebounded, and outscored the Jammers 18-4 over the final two games of the series to advance to the New York-Penn League Championship Series. There, they met the Stedlar Division Champion Tri-City Valley Cats, falling in three games.
Game 2 vs. Jamestown – Saturday September 7, Win 12-4
The Jammers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, but two runs in the second, and back-to-back RBI singles from Michael Schulze and Mason Katz in the third gave State College a 4-2 lead. From there, they never looked back.
Carson Kelly led off the fifth with a solo home run, and delivered a two-run double as part of a four run sixth, giving the Spikes a 9-3 advantage. State College added one more in the seventh, and two more in the eighth.
Jimmy Reed got the start for State College, and allowed just the two runs in the first in his three innings of work. Chase Brookshire came on in relief of Reed, allowed two runs over 3.1 innings, and earned the win.
Victor De Leon pitched a scoreless frame while Jacob Booden shut out the Jammers over the final 1.2 innings.
Game 3 vs. Jamestown – Sunday September 8, Win 6-0
Andrew Pierce was the star of the show, pitching his best game of the season in the deciding game against Jamestown Sunday. Pierce went seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits, striking out seven and walking none.
Offensively, State College drew first blood in the bottom of the first on a two-run home run by David Washington. The first baseman added an RBI single in the eighth, leading the way with three RBI.
Mitch Harris backed up Pierce's effort with two shutout innings to close out the Jammers.
Game 1 @ Tri-City – Tuesday September 10, Win 2-1 (11)
Mason Katz slugged a solo home run to tie the game at 1-1 in the fifth, and the winning run came around to score when ‘Cats pitcher Edison Frias fielded Jimmy Bosco's sac bunt attempt and threw the ball into right field. That allowed Luis Perez to come home.
Arturo Reyes started the game for State College and allowed just one run over six innings of work, allowing just three hits.
Kevin Herget relieved Reyes and struck out six over his three shutout innings, while Booden held the ‘Cats hitless in the final two frames, while striking out four.
Game 2 vs. Tri-City – Wednesday September 11, Loss 5-4
Tri-City got out to a five-run lead before State College put up four of their own in the sixth. Their comeback effort fell short, however, as Tri-City evened the series at one.
Nick Petree appeared to be having a bounce back performance after giving up six runs in three innings in his first playoff start against Jamestown. After allowing just one run through five innings, Petree ran into some trouble in the sixth, however.
Jack Mayfield led off the inning with a double, then was sacrificed to third. Back-to-back singles brought in one run, and put runners at first and second with just one out. After getting a strikeout, Petree was relieved by Chase Brookshire, who allowed both inherited runners, as well as one run of his own, to cross the plate. That gave Tri-City a 5-0 lead before the inning was over.
The Spikes countered with four runs of their own in the sixth. The four State College runs were plated on a Washington RBI single, a Kelly sacrifice fly, a fielding error and a Perez RBI single.
State College had one hit in the seventh, and one in the ninth, but couldn't put anything else together. Tri-City evened the series at 1-1, forcing a deciding game three.
Game 3 vs. Tri-City – Thursday September 12, Loss 4-3
After a scoreless three innings, the Spikes drew first blood in the fourth when Katz flared a ball into center field, plating Kelly to give the Spikes a 1-0 lead.
Reed, State College's starter, cruised through the first five innings, allowing just two singles on 50 pitches. The ‘Cats right fielder Ronnine Mitchell led off the sixth inning with drag bunt single, a sign of things to come.
With Mitchell on first, shortstop Chan Moon laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Mitchell to second, but Mitchell beat the throw. Tri-City had runners on first and second. After another sacrifice bunt moved Moon and Mitchell to second and third, De Leon came on in relief of Reed with one out.
The first batter De Leon faced hit a chopper that should have been a relatively easy out at first, but Kelly, charging in from third, looked to cut down Mitchell at home, before deciding to try to throw to first.
The ‘Cats batter Jack Mayfield beat the throw, and Mitchell scored, tying the game at 1-1. With runners on the corners, De Leon threw a slider that bounced well in front of home plate. It skipped to the backstop, allowing Moon to score and giving the ‘Cats a 2-1 lead.
Jeff Rauh came on in relief of De Leon, and walked the first batter. He then forced Brian Holberton to ground into what should have been an inning ending double play. Unfortunately, Spikes' shortstop Cesar Valera's throw sailed wide of Washington at first, allowing two more runs to score. That gave Tri-City a 4-1 lead.
After going scoreless in the sixth, seventh and eighth, the Spikes were facing the daunting task of scoring three runs against ‘Cats reliever Gonzalo Sanudo. The closer only allowed three hits in 13 regular season innings after being called up in mid-August.
Schulze got the Spikes going in the ninth with a one out single to left. Katz then brought the Spikes within one at 4-3 when his towering fly ball soared of the left field fence for a two-run home run.
Perez then singled to right, and was sacrificed to second by Bosco, but there is where he remained. Steven Ramos, and Valera, two of the Spikes most consistent offensive threats during the regular season, struck out to end the ballgame, cementing Tri-City's 4-3 victory.
At the Plate
Mason Katz was the biggest offensive threat. He batted .435 in the postseason, including 5-for-11 in the Championship Series, with two home runs and nine RBI. State College needed the LSU product to step up in the absence of Brett Wiley, and he rose to the occasion.
On the other hand, Jimmy Bosco, Steven Ramos and Cesar Valera seemed to crumble under the playoff pressure. Ramos and Valera, the Spikes one and two hitters, along with Bosco, batted .174, .192 and .160, respectively in the postseason.
These three were State College's most reliable table-setters throughout the regular season, but were a shell of their normal selves in the playoffs. Ramos, who led the NY-PL in batting during the regular season, went 1-for-12 in the finals. Valera, who had three regular season walk-off hits, but made the costly error that possibly cost State College the championship, went 0-for-13 during the championship series.
On the Mound
Nick Petree struggled in game one of the semi-finals against Jamestown, but put together a solid bounce-back performance against Tri-City in game two of the finals.
Although Petree allowed four runs and was handed the loss, he put together an admirable performance. The Missouri State product was clearly fatigued after pitching a full NCAA schedule before shouldering the load in State College, but he gutted it out when the Spikes needed a quality start.
Spikes manager Oliver Marmol probably should not have let him come back out for the sixth, but you can't blame a manager for giving his ace a longer leash. Petree pitched well, but was ultimately let down by his bullpen on Wednesday.
Jimmy Reed and Andrew Pierce both pitched excellently in the playoffs, Pierce put together his best start of the season in the decisive game three against Jamestown, while Reed suffered a fate similar to Petree in his lone CS start. Reed worked a strong five innings in game three of CS against Tri-City before running into trouble in the sixth. He was ultimately let down by his bullpen when De Leon allowed both inherited runners to score.
On the Horizon
The sun has set on the Spikes season, but stay tuned to TheCardinalNation.com over the next few weeks for a season recap, as well as pieces highlighting the squad's best reliever, starter and player.
Follow Robert Davidson on Twitter at @robo_tweets, and on Flickr at flickr.com/photos/robert_davidson.
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