Rams shut out CBA, win home opener on new turf

The Amsterdam Rams varsity baseball team has waited patiently for its chance to take the field at Shuttleworth Park this year. A recent string of rainy days postponed several games and delayed the installation of a new artificial turf infield. Tuesday afternoon the wait was over as a determined group of volunteers that included parents of Rams players put the finishing touches on the new turf less than an hour before game time. The Rams showed determination of their own and were rewarded in a 3-0 win over Big 10 rival CBA.

“Every time we play CBA everyone gets up,” AHS starting pitcher Julian Gallup said. “This was our first home game. You can’t find a team more pumped.”

The Rams were up for challenge from the start as Gallup and a steady Rams defense took away CBA scoring chances throughout the game beginning in the first inning when Gallup picked off Brothers’ second baseman Brady Fallon who had singled with one out. CBA’s Jordan Mitchell had reached base on the only Rams miscue in the third and was sacrificed to second, but Gallup fielded a come-backer and threw him out trying to take third. The Rams lefty ended each of thee first three innings with a strikeout keeping CBA off the scoreboard.

“They like to pull the ball,” AHS head coach Brian Spagnola said of the CBA hitters. “The game plan was for Julian to keep everything away. He used his breaking ball and hit his spots. They turned it over and hit ground balls.”

With Gallup getting CBA to hit the ball on the new turf, the AHS defense did its job. CBA put a pair of runners on with one out in the fourth as back to back singles by Zack De Thomasis and CBA hurler Justin Decker represented the Brothers’ best scoring chance. AHS third baseman Bret Flint quickly eliminated that chance with a “step and throw” double play forcing De Thomasis at third and getting Alex Koshgarin by a step at first.

“You won’t find a better infield than what we have here,” Gallup said. “They put the ball in play and we got them out.” The steady AHS defense would swing the momentum in their favor and their offense would take advantage.

Amsterdam right fielder Jonardy Anil smashed a double into center field for the Rams first hit of the game. Decker settled in and got the next two hitters on strikes before Bret Flint stepped to the plate and delivered the games’ first run. Flint’s grounder to third looked like a routine out but a throw in the dirt and hustle by both Flint and Anil gave the Rams a 1-0 lead. The error was CBA’s third of the game and proved costly.

The Rams continued to execute behind Gallup. CBA put a pair of runners on in the fifth, but AHS first baseman Eric Robertshaw went to his knees to field a tough hop grounder to halt the rally. Fallon singled leading off the CBA sixth but was erased by a double play started by shortstop Andew Rouse. Decker was aboard with a two out single, but pinch runner Evan Plant was picked off by Gallup ending CBA’s last scoring threat. Amsterdam would get its big hit in the bottom of the sixth.

Gallup helped the offense with a walk leading off the inning. One out later, Kolbie Gilonna hit a towering drive to left field that just kept going. The ball landed over the wall giving the Rams some much-needed insurance runs.

“That was huge for us,” Spagnola said. “One to nothing going to three to nothing is like getting ten runs. I felt good at 1-0, because Julian was on. I felt great at 3-0. I told Kolbie to shorten up on his swing.”

Gilonna had struck out in his previous at bat against Decker, but Spagnola’s coaching advice was just what the senior needed to connect for his first varsity home run.

“It was a fastball,” Gilonna said. “Coach told me to make an adjustment. I turned my foot in and it worked. Finally my time came in my senior year. I liked playing on turf today. Julian threw great for us and we came to make a statement.”

Gallup put the finishing touches on the win by striking out the side in the seventh. The senior lefty scattered six hits while striking out seven and walking only one.

“I was just excited to get on the mound,” Gallup said. “Tony Noce caught a great game. I felt refreshed being back at home on the new field.”

Noce had the only other hit for AHS, a fifth inning single. Decker collected six strikeouts and walked one for CBA. Christian Ward singled and made a diving catch in right field for the Brothers. The AHS win moved them to 6-4 in the Big 10, 8-4 overall. Amsterdam will be in action Thursday at Catholic Central.

“We knew CBA had a little swagger,” Spagnola said. “I told them you have to come out from practice and show them you mean business. This is a confident group and we need to keep that going.”

The game was played thanks to the work of many volunteers including parents of AHS players. According to Spagnola the field was ready by 3:45pm. Just in time for the game.

“The volunteers did a great job getting the field ready,” said Spagnola. “Mark Robertshaw, Rich Gilonna and all the volunteers did a great job.”

(Photos by Scott Mulford)

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.