UNIVERSITY PARK — Nearly three hours before last Tuesday’s game, State College infielders Danny Diekroeger and Andrew Sohn were the lone Spikes’ players on the field with manager Oliver Marmol.
Marmol dropped to a knee in the infield and rolled ground ball after ground ball to Diekroeger and Sohn, both working on starting double plays from second base. Marmol, a middle infielder during his playing days, offered instruction on footwork when delivering flips and throws to second base before they transitioned to turning double plays.
The pregame session revealed a plan to make both players versatile enough to play any position in the infield.
Diekroeger has played six games at third base and five at second. Sohn has spent all six games he’s played at shortstop, committing one error.
“Sohn’s the type of guy that he should be able to play third, short and second base,” Marmol said. “He’s mostly played short throughout his career, but in order to get him more at bats and add value to him as a player, it’s going to be very important for him to feel comfortable playing other positions.”
With Diekroeger and Sohn in the mix to see time at second base, the Spikes now have four options at the position. Robelys Reyes has played nine games at second for the Spikes, and Darren Seferina made his debut at the position after being activated Sunday, going 2 for 4 and scoring two runs.
The Spikes (11-6) had their first day off on Monday before they travel to Batavia to begin a three-game series against the Muckdogs on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.
Sohn was Western Michigan’s starting shortstop for the final 18 games of his freshman season and became a standout at the position during his sophomore and junior years.
Like Sohn, Marmol said the ability to play multiple positions will only add value to Diekroeger and help get him extra at bats during the season. Diekroeger started 60 games at first base for Stanford this season after playing second base for the Cardinal as a junior.
The transition back to second has gone smoothly as he’s been flawless in five games. He’s still trying to find his comfort zone at third base, where he’s committed six errors, including four in State College’s 8-4 loss to Batavia on June 19.
“I’ve had a rough time over there so far,” said Diekroeger, who’s batting .294. “But me and the coaches are doing extra work to get me comfortable, and I think I’ll be alright in the long run.”
Reyes, a 23-year-old in his fifth year in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization, has recorded a hit in his last seven games to push his average to .349, good for second on the team.
“He’s played a lot of baseball,” Marmol said. “It took him a while for him to get to the (United) States and played a lot in the Dominican academy there before coming here. The kid knows how to play. He’s going to give you a good at bat, so this is kind of what we saw throughout extended and what we’re going to continue to see.”
The Spikes paced the New York-Penn League in home runs (21) and runs (91) through 17 games in June.
Rowan Wick led the way, tying the team’s single-season record with 10 blasts in addition to hitting .407. Alex De Leon was tied for second in the league with four home runs. Diekroeger added two home runs, and five players notched one homer.
State College’s explosive start came against three opponents — Williamsport, Batavia and Jamestown. That trend continues with the upcoming three-game series against Batavia followed by a three-game series against Jamestown at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
State College’s series against Batavia will be a battle for first place in the Pinckney Division. Both teams finished June tied atop the standings at 11-6.
After playing its first 23 games against the same three teams, State College will finally see some different competition, starting with a two-games series at Auburn next Monday.
Notes: State College left-hander Dewin Perez (1-0, 3.97 ERA) will be on the mound Tuesday, while lefty Gabriel Castellanos (0-1, 4.76) will get the start for Batavia. ... Will Anderson leads the Spikes’ starting pitchers with a 1.06 ERA after throwing seven scoreless innings and recording a team-record 10 strikeouts Sunday. ... Others in the rotation are building up their innings. Marmol said he expects Wednesday’s starter Daniel Poncedeleon (1-0, 2.25) to go three innings after lasting two innings in each of his first two appearances. Cody Schumacher, who will start Thursday, has pitched seven innings in two starts.