It took a little time, but the Amsterdam Mohawks put it all together Wednesday night at Shuttleworth Park in a 9-3 opening game win over the Newark Pilots in the best of three Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL) championship series. An outstanding pitching effort on the mound, and clutch hitting propelled the Mohawks to take the lead and then put the game out of reach.
Zack Brown brought his best to the mound for Amsterdam. The talented righty came on in relief of Ryan Clark and hurled over five innings of scoreless baseball giving Amsterdam a chance at the win.
“He has the best stuff I’ve ever seen a Mohawks pitcher have,” said Mohawks manager Keith Griffin of the freshman from the University of Kentucky who did not allow a hit in five and two thirds innings. The only batters to reach base against Brown were Tom Wagner who walked with two out in the seventh and Derek Reed, who reached on an error in the ninth.
“The first guy I got on a ground ball,” said Brown who allowed only one ball hit out of the infield. “Then once I got going I didn’t stop. And our offense did a great job tonight.”
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning against Newark starter BJ Nobles, the Mohawks offense finally found it’s grove in a big way. Tommy Kain singled to lead off and Alex DeBellis followed with another into left field giving Brendan Tracy a chance to do what few hitters have ever done in the 100 year history of Shuttleworth Park.
“I knew a fast ball was coming,” Tracy said. “It felt great off the bat.”
The ball flew to the deepest part of center field and kept going. It cleared the fence and the flagpole and landed in the Chuctununda Creek. The crowd erupted and Tracy’s teammates met him at home plate. Amsterdam took a 4-3 lead and never looked back.
“DeBellis’ single was big for us,” said Griffin. “Then Brendan hit the best one all year.”
Amsterdam took advantage of another scoring chance in the bottom of the sixth. DeBellis lined a double into the left field corner scoring John Razzino who had walked with one out. That was Nobles’ last hitter as he gave way to Andrew Tidwell, who got out of the inning without any further damage. But, the Mohawks weren’t finished with their bats.
Leading 5-3 in the bottom of the eighth, the first two batters Josh Gardiner and Razzino singled in front of Kain. The Amsterdam third baseman already had two singles on the night, but was looking for something bigger. Something that was a game changer.
“I told the guys in the dugout I was going to swing for it,” said Kain who crushed a three run homer over the left field wall giving Amsterdam an 8-3 lead. “It was a fast ball on the first pitch.”
“Tommy (Kain) really swung the bat well tonight,” said Griffin. “He had a really big, big swing.”
Two batters later Joe Purritano reached on the only Newark error and then stole second putting him in scoring position for Jonathan Pryor who delivered the last run of the game with a two out single. Tidwell left in favor of Andrew Sanders who surrendered Marcus Carson’s single, his third of the contest. Amsterdam’s offense had done it’s job and the rest of the night belonged to Brown with a little help from the Mohawks defense.
Brown struck out Tim Lewis to open the top of the ninth. Reed reached on the only Mohawks error but was erased moments later as the Amsterdam infield ended the night with a “6-4-3” double play. Tracy’s stretch at first on shortstop Joey Aiola’s throw capped the comeback win.
“I told him to relax,” said Kain on Brown’s effort. “He was filthy (good) tonight.”
Brown came in with one out in the the fourth to relieve starter Ryan Clark. The Pilots got to Clark early with Tanner Giesel’s two run homer in the top of the first. Dorian Hairston’s double scored Austin Clock in the top of the fourth putting Newark up 3-0 before Brown entered the game. Carson singled leading off the Mohawks fourth, stole second and scored on Gardiner’s RBI grounder to cut the lead to 3-1.
Carson and Kain had three hits each for Amsterdam. Kain and Razzino scored two runs apiece. DeBellis smacked an RBI double in the sixth. Clock had a pair of singles for Newark.
The win puts Amsterdam just one win away from their fifth PGCBL title in six years. Amsterdam has played in the championship series every year since the league began play.
“Momentum is the next day’s staring pitcher,” said Griffin. “If we play well we have a chance to win.”
Griffin said that Taylor Blatch would get the start for game two which will be played Thursday in Newark. Game Three if necessary is scheduled for Friday night at Shuttleworth Park.
(Photos by Scott Mulford)