The State College Spikes defeated the Batavia Muckdogs 1-0 in 10 innings on Sunday night, the first time in Spikes history that a scoreless game was carried into extra innings. The Spikes were led by another strong start from heralded prospect Luis Heredia, and relievers Josh Smith, Kyle Haynes, and Jordan Cooper backed Heredia up with 5 scoreless innings of relief. Chris Diaz delivered a walk-off single with no outs in the 10th and runners on first and third, plating Rodarrick Jones, who singled to start the inning. In all, the Spikes had only seven hits and struck out eight times, kept off-balance by a Muckdogs staff specializing in off-speed pitches. Key to the game was a stellar defensive effort, including several nice plays by second baseman D.J. Crumlich and right fielder Rodarrick Jones.
Heredia threw five innings, giving up three hits and no walks to go along with three strikeouts. He threw 72 pitches (48 for strikes) and lowered his season ERA to 0.64. As expected, Heredia worked off his fastball which sat at 92-94 throughout the outing, touching 95 once. He induced a number of swings-and-misses, occasionally throwing the fastball high out of the strike zone, which led some batters to chase the pitch, but yielded several deep counts. Nonetheless, his downward plane yielded a healthy 8:3 ground ball/fly ball rate, and he worked well on the outside part of the plate.
Heredia did mix in five change-ups and five curve balls with some effectiveness, and the change-up has been an area of focus for the 17-year old right hander.
“I’ve been working the change-up and I’m feeling more comfortable with it,” said Heredia after the game.
He fooled one of the Muckdogs’ best hitters, David Washington, with a great change in the 4th (perhaps his best single pitch of the night), before getting the power bat to fly out to center. Turgeon sees the strength of the pitch to be Heredia’s ability to repeat the motion of his plus-fastball.
“With the down-angle fastball, which is his number one pitch and always will be, a change-up out of the same slot, down-angle, with depth at the end of it—they’re swinging over it,” Turgeon said. “He really sells it well.”
The curveball offered a nice change of pace and didn’t hurt Heredia, even though he didn’t locate it as a strike. Turgeon believes the curve can bolster Heredia’s offerings.
“It’s got a chance to be an above-average pitch,” Turgeon said. “It’s average right now. Right now I’d call it a well-placed pitch over a plus pitch. The down angle fastball allows [the curve] to play a little bit better than it is.”
The only trouble Heredia ran into was in the 5th, when he dropped a pop-up to the mound with two outs, placing runners at 1st and 3rd. Despite the miscue, he kept his composure and got Gary Apelian to pop-out on an 0-2 fastball.
Overall, it was another good outing from the young righty. He was not particularly efficient, but he induced many groundball outs and flashes of a developing change-up and curve ball.
As good as Heredia was, the bullpen was just as impressive, registering five scoreless innings and five strikeouts, with only four hits and one walk.
2012 25th round draft pick Josh Smith threw two scoreless with two strikeouts. The lefty featured two pitches: an 86-88 MPH fastball and a good high 70s slider with nice movement. He effectively ran the slider in on the hands of the Muckdogs’ all-righty line-up, showing it as an out-pitch.
“It was an out-pitch for me in college, and now I’m just focusing on keeping it down in the zone,” Smith said. “You can’t leave that pitch up in this league.”
If Smith can continue to keep the ball down in the zone and fool hitters with his slider, he might grow into a left-handed bullpen specialist.
2012 20th round draft pick Kyle Haynes also threw two scoreless innings including a strikeout and a walk. Haynes mixed his curveball (80-81 MPH) with a high 80s, low 90s fastball (touching 94 once in his first inning of work) to keep the Muckdogs at bay. He ran into some trouble in the ninth, as he caught too much of the plate, eventually loading the bases. Turgeon was happy with the outing, particularly Haynes’ ability to pitch out of the 9th inning jam, getting an inning ending fly out from DH David Bergin.
“Outstanding job once again by Haynes competing,” Turgeon said. “We’ve seen him in big situations before, and once again tonight with the bases loaded, and gets a guy to a hit a fly ball. Competing, that’s the bottom line.”
Jordan Cooper got the win after pitching a perfect tenth inning. After struggling to start the year in West Virginia, Cooper has now thrown two scoreless innings for the Spikes.
**Second baseman D.J. Crumlich was a spark plug for the Spikes on Sunday night. He made two impressive plays at second, including a diving stop in the 3rd inning. He also had a line drive single, moving his season batting average to .375, and he stole his first base of the year. After the game, Turgeon raved of Crumlich’s defense and believes he can play any of the infield positions.
Crumlich was not the only defensive star for the Spikes on the night. Right fielder Rodarrick Jones made two sliding catches, including a long run on a 5th inning foul ball by the tarp along the first base line. Jones also singled to start the 10th and scored the winning run.
2012 2nd round pick Barrett Barnes was hitless on the night, but he had several good at-bats. He saw 20 pitches in his four plate appearances, had several good hacks that went foul, and was able to lay off the off-speed pitches just out of the zone.