When the State College Spikes arrived last week, manager Johnny Rodriguez was still thinking about the defining play of the team’s 2015 season.
A walk-off win turned into a loss to West Virginia in August after Jose Godoy failed to touch second base on the apparent game-winning hit.
Rodriguez finished his first campaign with the Spikes thinking about the play after the team’s final game at Williamsport, knowing it kept State College out of the New York-Penn League playoffs. It was on his mind often during the offseason, and he constantly talked about it with Godoy during spring training.
Godoy is currently on the Single-A Peoria Chiefs roster.
But his mistake can serve as a teaching point for this year’s Spikes.
“If we learned something for the younger guys, even at the big league level, even Triple-A or Double-A, where I’ve been, it’s important to pay attention to detail,” Rodriguez said. “Focus and anticipate the next play before it happens.”
State College will open the season with right-handed pitcher Dailyn Martinez on the mound at 7:05 p.m. Friday at Williamsport.
The Spikes roster includes 10 players who contributed to last year’s 41-35 season. State College finished one game behind West Virginia in the wild card race, and the Black Bears went on to win the league title.
Rodriguez spent time at extended spring training focused on the details.
His players are ready for any situation.
“He doesn’t want to give anything away to the other team,” pitcher Carson Cross said. “So we do a lot of drills where we focus on little things that we can control during the game to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Cross, a 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher, is set to start the team’s home opener Saturday at 7:05 p.m. against the Crosscutters.
He went 3-2 with a 2.70 ERA for the Spikes last season. Cross appeared in 10 games and made nine starts.
He had to adjust to the daily routine during his first professional season.
Cross, a University of Connecticut product, joined the Spikes a year ago after being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 14th round of the MLB Draft.
Rodriguez likes what he’s seen on video of this year’s draft class.
“We got better, competitive players, I think, than we did last year at least for this group in the draft,” Rodriguez said.
California (Pa.) University product Mick Fennell is among the Spikes players drafted last week.
Fennell, an outfielder, watched and waited for more than two hours on the third day of the draft.
“I was just sitting there in silence, listening name to name get drafted one after another,” Fennell said.
Then, his phone rang.
It was a St. Louis Cardinals scout.
About five picks later, he heard his name called.
The Cardinals selected him in the 22nd round with the 676th pick.
The Butler native arrived in State College on Monday and signed his contract Wednesday morning.
He’s expecting family to make the trip for the home opener Saturday.
“All of my friends and family have been kind of telling me on the way that they’ll be making games this year,” Fennell said.