State College Spikes

Spikes honor Josiah Viera, start season strong despite rain

In the moments before the State College Spikes took to the diamond in front of a crowd of more than 5,000 Saturday night at Medlar Field, not much of the focus was on the players themselves.

The Spikes’ first home game of the season was Josiah Viera night, and the team took time to remember their former honorary bench coach, who died in December.

The pregame festivities were all centered on the memory of Josiah.

There was a moment of silence before the game, and grandfather Dave Bohner and sister Daisha Viera threw out first pitches.

Then the Spikes unveiled a jersey display of Josiah’s now-retired No. 10 on the right-field wall, and new memorial patches on the players’ right sleeves with a baseball diamond drawn by Josiah, with his initials in the middle.

“Just having his presence there this year will be felt not only by the players, but I think all the fans in the ballpark as well,” general manager Scott Walker previously told the Centre Daily Times. “We want to do everything we can this season, starting with opening night, to honor him and remember him the best we can.”

Once the festivities ended, the attention turned back to baseball.

Despite giving up runs in the first and third innings, the Spikes shot out in front in the bottom of the third, scoring four runs before surrendering a single out, forcing Williamsport pitcher Carlos Francisco to exit the game after only two-plus innings.

This would be the only offense the Spikes could put together in the game, and after giving up a run in the eighth and two in the ninth, State College fell to Williamsport 5-4.

The loss, however, has proven to be the only speed bump on what has been a strong start to the season.

The Spikes would go on to win the next three games on the road, which were highlighted by 7-0 and 11-9 wins against the Auburn Doubledays in a Monday doubleheader.

In the first week of play, two Spikes players have headlined the roster.

Andrew Warner had a tough end to his season in rookie-level Johnson City last year hitting only .214 in 21 games, but the left fielder from Missouri has emerged as the Spikes’ best hitter to start the season.

Warner hit .294 through his first five games, as well as two home runs in back-to-back games in Monday’s doubleheader.

Through Wednesday, his 1.133 OPS is fourth in the New York Penn League, and his 10 RBIs lead the league.

On the mound, Jacob Schlesener has yet to give up an earned run this season. His most notable performance was his five scoreless innings in Tuesday’s 4-2 extra-innings win against Williamsport.

Rain spoiled the Spikes’ second home game of the season, on Wednesday evening against the Crosscutters. The game was rescheduled as part of a doubleheader Thursday — Bark in the Park night — consisting of two seven-inning games.

This year, the Spikes are adding a new feature to Bark in the Park night. Fans were previously asked to submit photos of their four-legged friends, which were made into a collage for special Bark in the Park night uniforms that players plan to wear during the dog-friendly games. Bark in the Park nights are also scheduled for July 7, Aug. 16 and Sept. 1.

Looking ahead to the weekend, the Spikes will travel to West Virginia for a three-game series against the Black Bears, a Pirates affiliate, before returning to Medlar Field on Tuesday.

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