Junior Mohawks take game one of AYBL series

Cappies hurler CJ Durinick. Photo by Scott Mulford.

Monday night’s first game of the Amsterdam Youth Baseball League (AYBL) Minors championship series proved that the Amsterdam Mohawks are not the only Mohawks team capable of a dramatic comeback victory. Andrew Spagnola stole home scoring the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs leading the Junior Mohawks to a 12-11 win over Cappie’s in the opening contest of the best of three series at Isabel’s Field. Spagnola’s courageous charge down the third base line completed a comeback after the Junior Mohawks had trailed 10-3 early.

“He went home before I told him to go,” Junior Mohawks third base coach Steve Conti said of Spagnolas’ effort. “He really knows the game.”

The game was tied at 11-11 and Cappie’s pitcher CJ Durinick had struck out three of the first four hitters he had faced since taking the mound in the fifth inning. Spagnola singled with one out in the sixth and reached third after Spencer Cotugno doubled. Carson Cotugno walked loading the bases before Yandel Vazquez hit a pop up near the third base line that was caught by shortstop Nicolino Bianco for a fine defensive play. Sal Conti stepped to the plate setting the stage for Spagnolas’ run when he headed home on a passed ball.

“The ball rolled away slowly almost to the screen,” said coach Conti. “He was gone before I told him to go. He knows what to do.” Spagnolas’ effort was well executed right down to the slide as he made it in under the tag of Durinick who alertly covered home on the play. Spagnola scored three runs for the game to lead the Junior Mohawks who as a team had only seven hits, but needed every one of them after falling behind early in he game.

Cappie’s broke out the bats early as both Nicolino and Marco Bianco singled and scored the first two runs in the opening inning. Durinicks’ fly ball to center plated one run and later scored. Dennis Collazos’ single scored Kyle Bottisti who reached on a walk. Collazo later scored for a 5-0 Cappie’s lead. Marco Biancos’ two run triple, Kai Brennans’ RBI double, and Bottistis’ two run single capped another five run frame and Cappie’s lead 10-3 headed to the bottom of the second inning. Durinick and Isaac Davila would also score for Cappie’s. The Junior Mohawks would chip into the lead in the bottom half of the frame.

Patience was the key for the Junior Mohawks hitters as the first four batters – Santino Smullen, Matt Sawitzki, Spagnola, and Spencer Cotugno – all walked. One run was in when Carson Cotugno cleared the bases with a single cutting the lead to 10-7. Both he and Vazquez would later score leaving Cappie’s with a one run advantage at 10-9.While offense had dominated the beginning of the game, defense and pitching would take over and Andrew Spagnola would once again be at the center of it.

Spagnola took the mound in the top of the third for the first of two innings he would pitch. Spagnola only allowed only one base runner in each of those innings. Davila reached on a walk and Marco Bianco on an infield error but neither would get past second base. Spagnola struck out two and didn’t allow a hit, giving his team a chance to complete the comeback win.

“Andrew pitching those two shutout innings was big for us,” Junior Mohawks coach Aaron Cotugno said. “Having Carson on the mound in the end helped give them confidence.”

The Junior Mohawks tied the game in the bottom of the third when Larry Guisti, Anthony Antonelli and Sawitzki all walked to load the bases. With two out, Spencer Cotugnos’ single drove in Guisti but Antonelli was out at home on a fine play by Cappie’s shortstop Marco Biianco and catcher CJ Durinick. The fourth inning featured more solid defense from Cappie’s pitcher Dennis Collazo and catcher Kyle Bottisti to stop another run at the plate. However, Sal Conti broke through and scored on a wild pitch for an 11-10 Junior Mohawks lead. Carson Cotugno took the mound next, but Bottisti led off the fifth with a walk and score on a wild pitch knotting the game once again. Cotugno struck out the side and allowed only a walk to Davila in the sixth leading to Spagnolas’ heroic charge home..

“All year long they’ve been in close games,” coach Aaron Cotugno said. “They just rise to the occasion.”

Carson Cotugno and Spencer Cotugnno each had three hits for the Junior Mohawks. Marco Bianco had two hits and drove in three runs to lead Cappie’s. Game 2 of the Minors division series is scheduled for Tuesday evening at Isabel’s Field following the AYBL Majors Division game.

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.