UNIVERSITY PARK — The era of the young pitcher in State College has ended. Partially.
The Spikes, who begin their seventh season tonight at Williamsport, will unveil teenagers Jacob Burnette, Luis Heredia and Clay Holmes this week.
But unlike the past two seasons, the staff should receive an early-season boost from pitchers with significant college experience.
Aiding the Spikes quest to leave the Pinckney Divisions basement are six pitchers who spent this past spring participating in tense college games. The combination of youth and experience intrigues second-year pitching coach Justin Meccage.
It will be an interesting mix, it will be a nice mix, Meccage said. Last year we had a lot of high school and junior college guys. We were a lot younger. Hopefully these experienced guys will help the younger guys.
The youth showed in the Spikes results the last two seasons. They finished 11th in the 14-team New York-Penn League in ERA from 2010-11. The Spikes coming to the minor leagues.
Dalton Friend didnt play Division I baseball. But he played in some charged games. The 6-foot- 3 left-hander attended Jefferson (Mo.) College, which went 53-12 and reached the Junior College World Series.
The Pirates drafted Friend in the 12th round of this months Major League Baseball Draft. He quickly agreed to terms and reported to Bradenton, Fla., for a physical. Friend considers himself a competitor, and hes antsy to pitch again.
This is what its all about, he said. You get to go out there and compete and show what you can do.
The only newly-drafted pitched who didnt play for a winning team this past spring is 10th-round pick Pat Ludwig. But the right-hander spent four years in one of the nations most competitive academic environments. Ludwig attended Yale.
The Ivy League baseball schedule concluded in April. Ludwig went a deceiving 1-5. He posted a 2.73 ERA and struck out 64 in 622/ 3 innings to become the Bulldogs highest drafted player since 2008.
Ludwig endured a month gap between the end of his college career and the draft. He said he needs more time to work his arm into game shape.
When he does pitch, he might be facing some familiar opponents.
I was telling some guys earlier this week, top tier talent is top tier talent, Ludwig said. (Thirteen) guys got drafted in our league, which is good. There are guys that can definitely play. I got to pitch against a Stony Brook team that made the College World Series. They had seven guys drafted.
Summer workload could be the biggest adjustment facing the newcomers. The Pirates place rigid restrictions on NY-PL pitchers, making six-or seven-inning outings odd occurrences.
Harlan (1062/3), Breedlove (971/ 3 ), Smith (952/ 3) and Haynes (93) worked more
than 90 innings in their final college seasons. Meccage said the Pirates will monitor usage. The current roster includes 16 pitchers, and Meccage said the organization is still determining roles for the newcomers.
All six pitchers have already thrown fastball-only bullpen sessions. Some might make their professional debuts this week.
Im excited to see what they offer us, Meccage said.
The pitchers are also eager to experience the contrasts between the results-driven college game and a professional league where development often supplants records
It will be different, said Haynes, a weekend starter for a Virginia Commonwealth team that went 34-25. Friday night with a college team you have to give your best performance there. Here you have to develop your pitches and get your work in.
Jason Creasy, an eighth-round pick in last years draft, is starting tonights opener against the Crosscutters. Joely Rodriguez, who spent parts of the last two seasons with the Spikes, will start Tuesdays home opener.
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy