State College Spikes fans watch Tri-City celebrate championship, look to next year

Eliza Shaw sat in the top row of bleachers and watched the Tri-City ValleyCats celebrate on the infield Thursday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

Despite a dramatic Mason Katz home run and a typical State College Spikes ninth-inning rally, Tri-City held on to win 4-3 and claim the New York-Penn League championship series two games to one.

Most State College fans headed past them toward the exits, but Eliza and husband Brandon Shaw kept watching as the ValleyCats players and coaches accepted the Alice Nader Cup and posed for photographs.

“It’s hard in your stadium,” she said.

In the next section, Dan and Bo Yorks watched, too. The Mifflin County brothers are season-ticket holders.

Bo said he saw the Spikes come from behind to win seven times this summer. They couldn’t do it in a 5-4 loss on Wednesday. And Katz’s two-run homer wasn’t enough Thursday.

“It almost happened tonight,” he said.

The 2013 Spikes were the first team in franchise history to reach the playoffs, and then the first to play in the championship series.

Team senior account executive Steve “Braskey” Kassimer was excited, especially in the ninth inning.

Dressed in a red Spikes team polo shirt, Kassimer led the crowd in cheers — “Here we go Spi-ikes, here we go!” — and needed a cold drink after Katz crushed a home run to left field with no outs.

“It’s a great atmosphere,” Kassimer said after the final out of the season.

“To see people from all over the Centre Region, all over the community, come out here to support these guys was special.”

After Katz made it 4-3, Luis Perez singled to put the tying run on base and push the crowd of almost 2,000 to a frenzy.

“We sell tickets and sponsorships, things like that,” Kassimer said. “It’s business. But you always get emotional at this time of year.”

Jimmy Bosco’s sacrifice bunt moved Perez to second, elevating the energy in the ballpark.

But Tri-City reliever Gonzalo Sanudo came through for the second straight night, striking out Spikes Steven Ramos and Cesar Valera to quiet the home fans and start the celebration in the visiting dugout.

“Congratulations to Tri-City. They have a heck of a baseball club, too,” Kassimer said.

He added: “Hopefully we can turn this town into a baseball town now.”

The Yorks brothers are already hooked, even if they were disappointed in the outcome.

Wearing a hat and jacket supporting the Spikes’ parent team, the St. Louis Cardinals, Dan Yorks complained about the umpires but praised the Spikes for getting so close to the trophy.

“It’s a tough season, but a good season, though,” he said. “These (Spikes) guys have nothing to be ashamed of.

“And next season, look out.”