With no games or obligations in the last few days, Jason Dambach took some time to reflect on the State College Spikes’ season.
The team’s general manager said he’s been smiling a lot since State College won the New York-Penn League championship Tuesday night.
“For those of us who have been around a while, it was extra special,” Dambach said. “Because there were many years where we weren’t even a .500 franchise and we talked openly about how what happened between the white lines didn’t match all the other excitement and everything else we tried to do to make it a first-class experience for our fans.
“So to have a season where it all kind of came together and to have that culminate with the New York-Penn League championship, it was really the capper to a dream season.”
On the field, Spikes manager Oliver Marmol and his staff led the players to a tie for the best record in the league and the championship. Off the field, Dambach said the players embraced the Spikes’ efforts in the community.
“This was the perfect season,” Dambach said.
Dambach said the championship trophy will be at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park for a year. The team has plans to keep it in a permanent display. The Spikes have also met with companies that produce championship rings.
There were plenty of memorable achievements for the Spikes, most notably their run to the championship.
The top 5 Spikes highlights for the summer of 2014:
1. State College wins first title
When the State College players arrived in June, they said winning the league championship was their goal.
The Spikes cruised to the Pinckney Division title to earn a postseason spot. They won the final two games of their best-of-three semifinal series against Hudson Valley to set up a showdown with top-seeded Tri-City for the championship.
After taking Game 1 at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, Kyle Grana mentioned that team goal again.
The Spikes needed one win to complete their “mission.”
And they did in Game 3, earning an 11-2 win behind a six-run first inning at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.
State College did it with pitching in the postseason, allowing just five earned runs in 52 innings for an ERA of 0.87.
It was State College’s first championship in franchise history. The Spikes fell short in the championship against Tri-City in 2013.
2. Wick makes history
Rowan Wick stole the show early in the season with an unprecedented 35-game run for the Spikes.
Wick crushed homers nearly every other night in the opening weeks and set the State College single-season record with 14 homers. That mark stood alone atop the New York-Penn League until Aug. 29, when Williamsport’s Jiandido Tromp hit his 14th homer.
It took Tromp 66 games and 246 at-bats to tie Wick.
At the time of his promotion to Single-A Peoria in July, Wick was hitting .378 with 14 homers and 38 RBIs in 119 at-bats. He also had a record 26-game on-base streak intact.
His promotion ended his shot at the New York-Penn League Triple Crown and the league’s single-season home run record (23).
But Wick was still awarded the New York-Penn League slugging percentage crown nearly six weeks after his promotion. Even if he had recorded an out in every plate appearance to reach the minimum required, he would have led the league.
Wick slugged .815 for the season.
3. Spikes win marathon
The Spikes’ historic season included the franchise’s longest game, too.
State College’s 12-11 win over Batavia on Aug. 30 lasted 15 innings and five hours. State College outfielder Kenny Peoples-Walls earned the pitcing win after the Spikes scored three runs in the bottom of the 15th.
The Spikes also set a record for attendance with a crowd of 6,066 at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park that night.
Collin Radack drove in the game-winning run on a single to right field.
Jake Stone, who was the designated hitter that night, started the top of the 15th on the mound before leaving with an injury. Peoples-Walls replaced him and got the final out.
Peoples-Walls, introduced as the pitcher, singled and scored as part of State College’s three-run rally for the win.
4. Records set at plate, on mound
Rowan Wick wasn’t the only State College player to etch his name in the record books.
Will Anderson recorded a franchise-record 10 strikeouts in a 5-0 win over Williamsport on June 29. The standout performance was part of an All-Star campaign for Anderson, who was honored as the team’s Pitcher of the Year.
Anderson finished the regular season 6-2 with a 2.43 ERA, and he threw 7 1/3 shutout innings in a win over Hudson Valley in Game 2 of the semifinals.
Fernando Baez followed Anderson’s gem in the playoffs with a 10-strikeout night against Hudson Valley in Game 3. Baez went 5 1/3 innings that night, overpowering the Renegades with his fastball to keep the Spikes close in a 2-1 win.
In August, Danny Diekroeger recorded a 21-game hitting streak to break the mark of 18 games set by Brian Friday in 2007.
Diekroeger finished the year hitting .286 and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player.
5. Spikes, Cardinals extend affiliation
In August, the Spikes agreed to a two-year extension of their Player Development Contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, continuing their affiliation through the 2016 season.
Dambach said the championship season justified the Spikes’ decision to change affiliations two years ago, leading to their partnership with the Cardinals.
State College was affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2007-12. The Spikes’ best season as a Pittsburgh affiliate came in 2009, when they went 38-38.
Dambach said the Spikes knew the Cardinals gave them an opportunity to field competitive teams.
In the last two seasons with St. Louis, State College won back-to-back division titles and reached consecutive championships.
The 2015 season will mark the 10th year in Spikes’ history.