State College Spikes Notebook: 2013 Week 3

Cesar Valera has a lot to smile about

State College had a "feast or famine" week offensively, going 4-4 on the week, as the Spikes now sit one game out of first place in the New York-Penn League's Pinckney Division with a record of 10-8.

State College had a "feast or famine" week offensively, going 4-4 on the week, as the Spikes now sit one game out of first place in the New York-Penn League's Pinckney Division with a record of 10-8. The Spikes earned contributions from newcomer Mason Katz, while Cesar Valera and Steven Ramos have picked up the slack offensively for injured outfielder Ronald Castillo.

June 29 at Batavia– Game 1, Loss 3-1 (7 innings)

Mason Katz earned his first professional hit, but it was all for naught as the Muckdogs took game one by a score of 3-1. Three of the Spikes' (6-5) four hits in the game went for extra bases, with David Washington contributing a pair of doubles, and Jimmy Bosco adding one of his own. State College got its only run from a Washington double in the fifth.

Willy Paulino took the loss after allowing a pair of runs in the fourth. Paulino yielded three hits and a walk while striking out one over two innings of work.

June 29 at Batavia– Game 2, Loss 5-4 (7 innings)

The Spikes carried a 4-1 lead into the seventh and final inning, but two hits, two walks and an error gave the Muckdogs the win, and the sweep on the day. State College scored all four of its second-game runs in the fourth inning, taking advantage of five walks and a hit batter. Trevor Martin landed the key blow for State College with a two-out two-run double, and later scored on an RBI single from Steven Ramos. Ramos collected two hits and a run batted in during game two, as the only Spikes player with multiple hits.

The final-inning collapse began when Jhonny Polanco gave up a leadoff double, and a Bruce Caldwell throwing error (from third base) gave Batavia two base runners, and no outs. After getting a groundout, Polanco was relieved by Jeff Rauh, who had a night to forget. Rauh walked the first batter he faced, and gave up a two run double to the second batter. Rauh got a strikeout, and then the Spikes decided to intentionally walk Batavia's 6-hole hitter to load the bases with two outs. The next batter smoked a ball to center field that drove in both the tying and winning runs. Rauh was only charged with two earned runs, but he also allowed both inherited runners to score.

June 30 at Batavia, Win 7-2

The Spikes exploded for five runs in the ninth to take a 7-2 win from Batavia, and avoid the series sweep. State College got going in the ninth when Ramos broke up the 2-2 tie with a two-run double. Bosco, Cesar Valera and Katz would each add RBI singles in the inning to bring the score to the 7-2 final.

Valera collected a pair of hits, including a triple, while Katz, Adam Lewis and Matthew Young also put together multi-hit games, with all three collecting a double as well. Five of the Spikes' 11 hits went for extra bases.

Kyle Webb earned his first professional victory in relief, logging 2 2/3 shutout innings, striking out three and allowing just two hits. Starter Chris Perry went 5 1/3, allowing two runs on three hits, two walks and a hit batter. Perry struck out a season-high five batters in the no decision.

July 1 at Williamsport, Win 7-5

Valera went 3-for-4 as State College won in comeback fashion. Luke Voit also produced three hits and reached base on a walk in the game for the Spikes. Caldwell added an RBI double in the eighth as part of a 2-for-3 evening in which he walked twice and scored a run.

Kevin Herget (2-0) earned the win in relief as the second man in a "piggyback" start for State College. Herget tossed 3 1/3 innings and allowed just one run on three hits and a walk. The right-hander also hit one batter and struck out three. Rauh picked up his first save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth inning in which he punched out two batters.

State College outhit Williamsport 13-10 and scored one run in the seventh, and three in the eighth for the dramatic victory.

July 2 vs. Williamsport, Loss 5-2

Valera had another big game for State College with two hits, including a double, but it was not quite enough, as the Spikes fell to the Crosscutters.

Ben O'Shea coasted through the first five innings on the mound for State College, but he faltered in the sixth, allowing back-to-back doubles, a single, and another double to begin the inning and conclude his night. O'Shea said he started getting tired in the sixth, and as expected, his command faltered, and he struggled to keep the ball down in the zone. O'Shea induced three double plays during the game, including a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out twin killing in the second, but ended up being charged with four runs, all earned, on a total of six hits, a walk and a hit batter. The big southpaw did record three strikeouts in his 5+ innings of work.

State College had taken the lead in the fourth on an RBI double from Washington. Ramos then added a run-scoring single in the seventh to bring the Spikes within three, but that was as close as the Spikes would get. Caldwell also had multiple hits for State College, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.

July 3 at Williamsport, Win 3-1

Valera, once again, stole the show offensively, continuing his strong early-season performance at the plate with his first home run of the year. The Spikes' pitching staff took care of the rest in a 3-1 win over Williamsport.

Valera's two-run dinger to left came in the third inning, and gave State College a 2-1 lead. Washington then smashed a double in the sixth for the Spikes' final run.

Once Valera put the Spikes ahead, a trio of Spikes pitchers quieted the Crosscutters. Starter Nick Petree went four innings and allowed the Crosscutters' only run on a total of two hits and two walks while striking out three. Jimmy Reed then tossed four scoreless frames, giving up three hits and collecting five strikeouts. Reed retired the last seven batters he faced to run his streak of innings without allowing an earned run to nine.

Brady Adamek pitched the ninth inning and gave up a single and a double to start the inning. However, Adamek sat down the next three batters in order, two of them on strikes, to notch the save and preserve the win for State College.

With his 1-for-3 night, Valera has gone 13-for-26 at the plate against Williamsport this season, including seven extra-base hits.

July 4 vs. Batavia, Win 13-2

Following a quiet first two innings from both teams, the Spikes got to business early in the third. Alex De Leon wore the first pitch of the inning between the numbers, and it was all downhill for Batavia from that point on.

Ramos walked, then Bosco, Valera and Caldwell put up three consecutive RBI singles. Washington then hit his first home run of the season, a grand slam that gave the Spikes a 7-0 advantage, and knocked Batavia's starter out of the game.

State College would put up three more in the inning to make the score 10-0 through three innings of play. The ten runs scored in the third inning Thursday is the most runs scored in an inning in franchise history. The Spikes added one more in the fourth, two more in seventh, and surrendered two in the ninth for the final score of 13-2.

Masked by the Spikes offensive explosion Thursday were two excellent pitching performances from State College. Andrew Pierce started the game for the Spikes, and worked 3 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and striking out four. Pierce pounded the strike zone, throwing 43 of his 65 pitches for strikes, and credited his success to his ability to command the strike zone.

Pierce was relieved in the fourth by Willy Paulino with two outs, and the bases loaded. Paulino did his job, and forced a weak groundout to second with his second pitch of the inning. Paulino stayed on the mound, and allowed just one hit and two walks over the next four innings of work.

July 5 vs. Batavia, Loss 4-3

State College faced a 3-0 deficit in the bottom of the third inning as Batavia put up a three spot in the top half. However, Washington would key the Spikes' comeback as his RBI single in the fourth plated Caldwell for the Spikes run. Washington then doubled and scored on a Muckdogs error in the sixth to bring the Spikes within a run.

Carson Kelly knotted the game, 3-3, in the eighth inning with an RBI single to bring in Katz after Katz had walked, stolen second and third in succession.

Rauh's week would end the same way it began, as he surrendered the game winning run on a go-ahead solo shot to left in the top of the ninth. The Spikes threatened in the ninth after Young hustled to turn a single into a double to leadoff the home half, but stranded the next three Spikes went quietly, stranding the tying run at second.

Caldwell and Brian Vigo joined Washington and Young in notching doubles for State College. Vigo, Kelly and Ramos all picked up multi-hit games for the Spikes as well.

At the Plate

Cesar Valera was the Spikes standout performer offensively, batting .385 over the last week. Valera also notched his first home run of the season, and drove in six runs in seven games played. Valera also managed to only punch-out three times in his 26 at-bats this week.

With Ronald Castillo out of the lineup, Steven Ramos as stepped in to replace him, and has filled in admirably. Ramos also batted .385 over the past week, going 10 for 26, and driving in six runs as well.

David Washington also started to show signs of life. Washington, who hit nine home runs last year, got the fireworks started early on the fourth, blasting his first big fly of year for a grand slam. Washington also hit .300 and drove in eight runs on the week.

On the Mound

Nick Petree, Andrew Pierce and Jimmy Reed were the most proficient hurlers for State College this week. Petree and Reed combined for eight innings of one run ball at Williamsport on Wednesday. Petree struck out three over four frames, and Reed worked four scoreless innings, and punched out five in his time on the mound.

Pierce backed up the duo's excellent work on Wednesday with a quality outing on Thursday. Pierce commanded his fastball all day, and showed a quality slurve when he wanted to mix speeds. Pierce struck out four over his 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball.

Jeff Rauh's week also stood out, but for different reasons. Rauh earned himself the dubious distinction of giving up go-ahead runs to the opposing teams in their last at-bats on two separate occasions this week. Rauh was tagged with the loss in both appearances, but did earn his first save of the season between his two losses.

Lineup Card

Below is what the average Spikes lineup looked like over the past week.

Jimmy Bosco – LF
Cesar Valera – SS
Bruce Caldwell – DH
Mason Katz – 2B
David Washington – 1B (played RF once this week – it was an adventure)
Carson Kelly – 3B
Alex De Leon or Luke Voit – C
Matt Young – RF
Steven Ramos – CF >{? With Castillo out of the lineup, Bosco has moved from CF to LF, and Ramos has taken over in CF.

Valera has played nearly game at SS and is a slick fielder. He has quick feet, a quick and strong-arm, and a fluid glove. He just looks at home at short.

Caldwell played most games at 2B before Katz arrived, but since arriving in State College, Katz has played a fair amount of second base, while Caldwell has DH'ed. The two have swapped on occasion, but Katz has spent most of his time at second, and played excellent defense as well.

Carson Kelly has started almost every game this season at third, and has looked very smooth defensively, and made some rather impressive throws. Strong arm.

De Leon and Voit are splitting the catching duties, while Adam Lewis is barely averaging a start a week.

Although Young has really struggled at the plate, he has started nearly every game in RF, in large part to his defense. Young is a true athlete, and patrols the corner with ease. Young also has a fantastic arm and has kept opposing teams from taking the extra base on multiple occasions this year.

Injuries

7/5 – Chase Brookshire was activated from the 7-day disabled list

7/5 – Josh Lucas, who was activated from the 7-day disabled list last week, but was placed back on the 7-day DL, retroactive to July 3. Lucas made one appearance without pain, but experienced pain and discomfort in his throwing arm when long tossing a day or two after his appearance. The Spikes are still not exactly sure what the issue is with Lucas. He experienced numbness, swelling and discoloration, which cut his long-toss session short. Lucas will undergo further evaluation to determine the problem.

Ronald Castillo – The Spikes leading hitter, and everyday left-fielder, has been out of the lineup since June 26th. Castillo's status is "day-to-day" due to a tweaked shoulder.

On the Horizon

The Spikes will wrap up a three-game series with Batavia Saturday night, before Mahoning Valley comes to town for a two-game set. State College will then hit the road for a three-game series in Auburn.

Follow Robert Davidson on Twitter at @robo_tweets, and on Flickr at flickr.com/photos/robert_davidson.



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