I was in attendance this evening as the State College Spikes fell to the Auburn Doubledays by a score of 1-0. The Spikes bats went silent as the team only managed two hits in the game. Here are a few of my observations from the park.
Zac Fuesser made the start and pitched well. His fastball sat around 86-88 MPH on the stadium gun, touching 91 once. The logic behind the Pirates’ fastball-heavy philosophy at the lower levels was evident tonight. Fuesser threw some decent secondary stuff, with occasional struggles commanding it, and the Auburn hitters could do little against his curveball/change repertoire. It was easy to see how a young pitcher could fall into a pattern of repeatedly flicking off-speed stuff up there and watching inexperienced hitters flail. Fuesser’s most impressive display tonight came with the glove. On two or three occasions, he darted off the mound to retire hitters on slow rollers. He looked very athletic out there.
Mitch Fienemann relieved Fuesser and threw two clean innings. His fastball sat around 85-88 MPH and touched 90. He has that tall, projectable body that makes you think he may add some velocity as he ages. Fienemann also made a nice defensive play, fielding a roller to his left and hustling to the first base bag when he realized that no one was covering.
Drew Maggi struggled with off-speed stuff all night. I counted three off-balance swings against breaking balls, one of which resulted in a strikeout. He didn’t see much action in the field. In the first, he leaped to snag a soft liner. It was one of those balls that appeared harder hit off the bat than it actually was, the kind that often leads to a mistimed jump. Maggi got a good read and was able to time his jump perfectly. I believe he only had one other opportunity in the field, on a routine ground ball. He looked smooth getting the out, for what it’s worth.
Gift Ngoepe was unimpressive at the plate. He simply doesn’t have the swing of a professional hitter, and he was overmatched on this night. That being said, he clearly has very good defensive tools. He effortlessly fielded a few routine grounders, before making a tremendous diving play on a sharply hit ball in the eighth inning. It was an MLB-caliber play that shows me that Ngoepe has a future if he can somehow figure things out on the offensive side.
Mel Rojas Jr. has a very athletic frame, with that natural ballplayer look that is evident as soon as he steps onto the field. From the few at-bats I saw, he seemed to have good bat speed and solid pitch recognition skills. I did not get much of a look at him in the field. He took a bit of a goofy route on one fly ball, but adjusted to make the catch easily. He walked in his second plate appearance, but was picked off first by the Auburn catcher. There was a runner on when he came up again, and Rojas squared to bunt on three consecutive pitches. He fouled two back to the screen before missing completely on his third attempt for the out. He was visibly disgusted as he returned to the dugout, and was removed from the game shortly after. Not a great evening for the Pirates’ third round pick in 2010.
As a whole, it was a pretty uninteresting game to watch. The Spikes did very little at the plate, outside of seven walks. Kelson Brown paced the offense with two walks and the only well struck single of the night.
A few other notes.