State College Spikes Set For Season Opener

photo: Medlar Field at Lubrano Park (Cooper Deck/The Cardinal Nation)

Only five players from last year’s St. Louis Cardinals short-season Class-A affiliate State College Spikes roster are returning for the 2018 season, but that did not stop manager Joe Kruzel from being optimistic about what this team has on its horizon.

“It’s almost like you feel like Betty Crocker sometimes,” Kruzel said. “You can start from scratch.”

This year’s Spikes team has been together for extended spring training in Jupiter, FL and since they returned to State College on Saturday, but it seemed like they have been teammates for much longer. There was a certain eagerness and camaraderie as the team gathered for media day at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

As the Spikes took their team photo, the new faces mixed in with the old ones, canvasing a very young State College Spikes team.

The tentative roster of 32 players includes 10 2018 draftees: RHP Edgar Gonzalez (6), RHP Chris Holba (11), RHP Michael Baird (23), LHP Eli Kraus (24), RHP Troy Montemayor (25), C Matt Duce (9), 2B Nick Dunn (5), OF Brendan Donovan (7), OF Lars Nootbaar (8), OF Justin Toerner (28).

The five returnees are catchers Joe Gomez and Alexis Wilson, infielders Imeldo Diaz, Stanley Espinal and Edwin Figuera.

Kruzel, who is heading into his second season as the Spikes manager, said that State College is a perfect venue for a team of this blueprint.

“I really believe this is a great place for a lot of our young players and our new players to begin their career,” Kruzel said. “[Our fans] really treat us real well, so I think it’s exciting for everybody around.”

Headlining this Spikes roster is former first-round pick and shortstop Delvin Perez, who has spent the majority of the 2016 and 2017 season with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals. Perez also had a brief stint with the rookie-level Johnson City Cardinals at the beginning of the 2017 season until returning to the Gulf Coast League. Over the past two years, he has accumulated a .272 batting average on 62 hits and 23 RBI.

Catcher Joe Gomez, as noted above is one of the returners from last year’s roster, said that he is focusing on facilitating the field from behind the plate and being a leader for this year’s team.

“We’re coming out here to be champions, that’s all we want to do,” Gomez said. “If we’re winning, that means everyone is playing well. That’s the way I look at it.”

While many of the new players on this year’s roster had to travel to State College from all around the country, the same did not hold true for fifth-round pick and former Maryland Terrapin infielder Nick Dunn. Dunn, who led the Terrapins in nearly every offensive category last season, grew up just over an hour drive east of State College in Sunbury, PA.

“It means a lot to have my family and friends this close, [and] for them to be able to come out and watch games,” Dunn said. “It’s pretty special for me.”

Dunn accumulated a .330 batting average on 70 hits and 39 RBIs en route to being selected as an All-American and first-team All-Big Ten in his last season at Maryland.

The Spikes have one more scheduled team work out Thursday morning at 9 a.m. before they travel to take on the Williamsport Crosscutters for their season opener Friday night.

For more

Members of The Cardinal Nation can follow the exploits of the 2018 State College Spikes in Cooper Deck’s weekly team notebooks, posted each Saturday morning all season long.

The State College roster is current here at The Cardinal Nation and the Roster Matrix is also up to date, including all confirmed signings and assignments. See the left menu bar in red under ROSTERS/PLAYERS/MOVES to access them all.

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