Daniel Poncedeleon cups his right hand as if he’s holding a baseball.
The Spikes pitcher explains it took some time to get used to the flat-seamed ball used professionally after throwing a raised-seam ball in college.
“It just didn’t feel right in my hand at first,” Poncedeleon said. “I was cutting my two-seam and it just didn’t feel comfortable in my hand.”
Poncedeleon has found his comfort zone in the final stretch of the season. In his last four starts, he’s allowed four runs in 21 innings and earned two wins.
The right-hander has recorded 23 strikeouts and walked four in those efforts, displaying the potential the St. Louis Cardinals saw when they drafted him out of Embry-Riddle (Fla.) in the ninth round of the First-Year Player Draft in June.
“He’s repeating his delivery and he’s got plus stuff, good curveball,” Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. “When he’s able to locate his fastball on both sides of the plate, you get the type of outings we’ve seen the last couple times there.”
Poncedeleon is 3-3 with a 2.44 ERA in 12 appearances, including 10 starts.
He didn’t turn in a five-inning outing until Aug. 9 against Connecticut. Poncedeleon took the loss in a quality start, allowing three runs and striking out five.
That was the start of his strong finish to the regular season.
Poncedeleon has won his last two starts, pitching 10 shutout innings.
Besides the adjusting to the flat seams, he realized he needed to be ready to work every day when getting to the ballpark.
“You can’t just take a day off,” Poncedeleon said. “You got to set your routine and get it right and it takes a couple tries to get that right and then once I get it good, I try to keep it.”
Spikes trio honored
Before the Spikes’ final home game of the regular season Saturday, the team presented its year-end awards.
Third baseman Danny Diekroeger was named the Most Valuable Player, Will Anderson was honored as Pitcher of the Year and Nick Thompson received the Leadership and Community Service Award.
Diekroeger consistently batted second or third in Marmol’s lineup throughout the season. The Stanford product recorded a Spikes’ record 21-game hitting streak in August, raising his batting average as high as .289.
“If you look at some of the numbers outside of just batting average, his pitches per plate appearance, he’s making those guys work,” Marmol said. “And he took some really quality at bats that didn’t result in hits early on in the season and towards the end there, we’re seeing him hit in the .290 range.”
Anderson went 6-2 with a 2.43 ERA, good for fourth-best in the New York-Penn League. He set the Spikes’ record for strikeouts in a game with 10 against Williamsport in late June and earned a spot in the league’s All-Star Game.
“I don’t have to say much about that cat,” Marmol said. “He’s done a tremendous job. He’s a steady guy. You know what you’re going to get every time he goes out there. He’s got great poise and mound presence and an idea of what he needs to do to have success.”
Marmol said Thompson has been a leader on and off the field. The Spikes outfielder led the team with 42 RBIs.
“He’s a guy that really cares about the community and he’s showed that by over 20 hours of community service,” Marmol said. “He just is a kid that cares about making a difference.”
A key cog in the bullpen
During State College’s win Thursday night, left-handed reliever Nick Lomascolo was ready to go after getting loose in the bullpen in the fifth inning.
But Marmol decided to hold off on using Lomascolo until later.
“You got to pick your spot with him,” Marmol said.
It’s a dilemma for Marmol as Lomascolo is the Spikes’ lone lefty in the bullpen.
Lomascolo was 1-1 with one save and a 2.77 ERA for State College. He made 10 appearances in August, allowing four runs in 13 2/3 innings.
He gave up three runs in 1 2/3 innings against Batavia in State College’s 15-inning victory Saturday night.
Left-handed hitters were hitting .266 against him, while right-handed batters were hitting .133.
On Thursday, Lomascolo pitched a scoreless eighth inning and struck out lefty Cord Sandberg to start the ninth before Marmol gave Kyle Grana the ball to seal a 1-0 win.
“It worked out,” Marmol said. “He’s done a nice job against lefties, he’s done a nice job against righties.”