Josh Swirchak waited through the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft and didn’t see his name among the 1,215 selections.
Two minutes after the draft ended, Swirchak said, the St. Louis Cardinals called. Swirchak signed with the Cardinals and started the season on the Johnson City Cardinals’ roster.
But after Johnson City’s opener, Swirchak joined the State College Spikes last Wednesday. Swirchak waited four games until he made his professional debut as a pinch-runner. He made his first start on his seventh day with the team and recorded his first hit.
Swirchak was back in the lineup for his second straight start Wednesday, going 2 for 4 with four RBIs to lead the Spikes to a 5-2 win over the West Virginia Black Bears at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
“It’s all about being patient,” Swirchak. “I knew at some point I would get my opportunity and it’s all about working my way and staying working hard — as hard as I can to be ready for that opportunity when it does happen.”
Swirchak, a Wilmington University product, made the most of his opportunities Wednesday, coming through with a two-out, two-run single to give the Spikes the lead in the first inning and a two-run double in the eighth to give State College some breathing room for the final three outs.
Spikes starting pitcher Ian McKinney benefited from the early lead and allowed one run in six innings to earn the win. Tyler Bray benefited from the late double, allowing a meaningless run in the ninth to finish a three-inning save.
Danny Martin finished with three hits, while Harrison Bader and Casey Grayson each had two hits for the Spikes (5-7).
Dario Agrazal went five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) to take the loss for West Virginia (5-7), which relocated from Jamestown after last season.
Swirchak’s single in the first inning gave the Spikes a 2-0 lead.
Bader sent a double to center field with two outs, and Grayson followed with a walk. Grayson and Bader advanced to second and third on a wild pitch with Swirchak at the plate. On the next pitch, Swirchak singled to right-center field to drive in both runs.
“It was a big situation where I could come up and be clutch for my team,” Swirchak said. “I tried to use the middle of the field and really work the other way and I hit the ball over second base and it felt good to get those first two RBIs.”
It was the same approach that impressed Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez as Swirchak waited to get in the lineup.
Rodriguez watched Swirchak pepper the middle of the field during batting practice. The manager described Swirchak as a low-key player who handled his first week with the team as a professional.
He was supposed to get his first start Saturday at Mahoning Valley, but that game was postponed by rain. Swirchak then pinch-ran Monday before starting and going 1 for 3 Tuesday while hitting ninth in a loss to Staten Island.
Rodriguez moved him to fifth in the lineup Wednesday.
“He’s got a great approach,” Rodriguez said. “He can swing it. That’s why I put him in the fifth hole.”
Swirchak, Bader and Grayson combined for six hits in the middle of the Spikes’ order.
Bader finished 2 for 4 after hitting two home runs in his professional debut Tuesday. His first-inning double went off the glove of West Virginia center fielder Alexis Bastardo.
“Sometimes in baseball you need those kinds of breaks to start something,” Bader said. “It definitely got our offense going.”
Grayson went 2 for 3 with the walk and scored two runs, extending his on-base streak to 12 games.
West Virginia cut the Spikes’ lead to 2-1 in the fourth, when Daniel Arribas led off with a single, advanced to third on a single and scored on a wild pitch.
Martin scored when Mike Pritchard grounded into a double play in the fifth inning to make it 3-1.
Swirchak then gave the Spikes a four-run cushion for the ninth.
After Pritchard walked and Grayson singled, Swirchak sent a double to the left-center field gap to drive in both runs.
“I was just blessed and fortunate to have the opportunity and to be able to continue my career playing professionally,” Swirchak said. “And everything up to this point — being in Johnson City so briefly and just being shipped here — has just been great.”
Notes: Kevin Newman, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first-round pick in 2015, went 1 for 5 for West Virginia on Wednesday night. … Right-handed pitcher Nick Frey was promoted to Single-A Peoria on Wednesday. Frey made three appearances for the Spikes this season, allowing four runs on 11 hits in 8 2/3 innings. … State College and West Virginia continue their series Thursday at 7:05 p.m. Jorge Rodriguez (1-0, 0.90 ERA) will be on the mound for the Spikes, while Stephan Meyer will get the start for the Black Bears. … Rodriguez said Ronnierd Garcia will be out for an uncertain amount of time after suffering an injury Tuesday night.