The State College Spikes honored their biggest fan in the best way possible Saturday night.
The team erupted for seven runs in the second inning and cruised to a 10-3 victory over the Auburn Doubledays at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Carson Cross (2-2) pitched six strong innings for the win. Cross struck out four, walked two and gave up five hits.
The Spikes pounded out 14 hits, eight of them for extra bases, to improve to 16-6 on the season, earn their 14th win in the last 17 games, and improve the best record in the New York-Penn League.
Ryan McCarvel paced the offensive explosion with a 3 for 5 day, belting a solo home run and knocking in a pair of runs. Tommy Edman doubled and tripled, and Mick Fennell doubled twice.
The scoring onslaught made the day extra sweet as they celebrated Josiah Viera Day, honoring the 12-year-old suffering from Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome and a huge Spikes fan.
“A lot of emotions running high,” McCarvel said. “This is Josiah’s day. You want to do the most for him.”
It was a tough balancing act; doing something special while also playing to win.
“You try not to think about it too much,” McCarvel said. “It’s always in the back of your mind, though. We knew it was special as soon as we showed up to the clubhouse today.”
“Being his night, it was really, you wanted to come out and get a win for him, do what we can,” Fennell said. “Happy that our team was able to do that tonight.”
Manager Johnny Rodriguez hopes players and fans see a bigger picture with Viera’s struggles.
“He’s encouraging, he’s courageous,” Rodriguez said. “So why are we complaining about anything. Just enjoy the moment that we have to be healthy and do what we love to do.”
Yonathan Ramirez was chased before even finishing the second inning and took the loss for the Doubledays (12-10).
Lots of scoring
Spikes: A seven-run second inning essentially decided the game. The frame was highlighted by an RBI double for Josh Swirchak, an RBI single for Danny Hudzina, a run-scoring wild pitch, a two-run triple for Edman, an RBI double for Dylan Tice and an RBI single from McCarvel.
“Getting out that big, that early,” Fennell said, “is always a good feeling.”
Edman doubled and scored on a Vince Jackson ground out in the fourth, Swirchak singled and scored on a Fennell RBI double in the fifth and McCarvel crushed his homer to near-dead-center in the sixth to cap the scoring.
“Got a fastball outside which is what I was looking for,” McCarvel said. “Put a good swing on it.”
Doubledays: The team got one run back on a Tres Barrera double, scoring on a Jack Sundberg sacrifice fly, in the sixth, and added two more in the seventh with an RBI double from Nick Banks, with Banks scoring on a Andres Martinez sacrifice fly.
Odds and ends
Back on the mound: Robby Rowland pitched an inning of relief. It was the first outing of the season for the right-hander, in his sixth year in the minors. He’s on a rehab assignment from the Class AA Springfield Cardinals.
Rowland gave up two runs, two hits and a walk in the seventh.
Hello old friend: Cross saw a familiar face in the batter’s box. Sundberg was a teammate of Cross at the University of Connecticut. The left fielder was a 24th round draft pick of the Washington Nationals this year, while Cross was picked in the 14th round by the Cardinals last year.
Sundberg was 0 for 2 with the sacrifice fly against his former Husky teammate.
Feeling better: Fennell played his second game since returning from a pulled hamstring, missing a couple weeks. His first game back was Wednesday at Tri-City.
“The past week or so leading up (was anxious to return) just because each day it’s step-by-step that you’ve got to pass to be able to end up getting out on the field,” said the Butler native, who had family in the stands. “Each day was just going in, checking if I would finally be on the lineup card or not.”
Doubledays: The final game of the three-game series starts at 6:05 p.m. Right-handed pitcher Weston Davis (2-1) will take to the hill with his 1.20 ERA over 15 innings of work, walking one and striking out eight.
Spikes: Right-hander Steven Farinaro (2-0) will make his fifth start of the season with his 5.56 ERA, with eight strikeouts and seven walks to his credit.