Amsterdam Mohawks top Utica to win fourth PGCBL title

Among the many elements to the game of baseball, pitching, hitting, and defense are most important to any team’s success. Sunday night, the Amsterdam Mohawks put all three of those elements together to defeat the Utica Blue Sox 13-2 in the second and deciding game of a best of three Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL) championship series at Shuttleworth Park.

“Our pitching staff is outstanding, we swung the bats well, and our defense was magnificent,” Amsterdam Mohawks coach Doug O’Brey said. “When you put all three of those things together that’s how you win by that margin, and that’s why you win championships.”

Amsterdam had won game one of the series 9-2 Saturday night in Utica despite the Blue Sox taking an early 1-0 lead in the first inning. Sunday night looked like a repeat from the night before when an RBI single by Joe Spitaleri off Mohawks starter Paul Milto scored Franklin Jennings for a 1-0 lead. However, unlike the night before, Amsterdam wasted no time in responding.

Andruw Gazzola led off the home half of the first with a double to right field off Utica starter Craig Prince. Mohawks second baseman Chris Givin quickly followed with an RBI single to tie the score, and gave Amsterdam the lead when he hustled home on Joe Genord’s first double of the game. Utica got the run back on an RBI single by Jennings, but Milto settled in so did the Amsterdam offense.

Tyler Frank walked to start the Mohawks third inning. Genord’s second double moved Frank to third and gave Tristen Carranza a chance to drive him in with a sacrifice fly to the fence in center field. At the crack of the bat it appeared Carranza’s drive might clear the fence, but Utica center fielder Mike Warren had just enough room to make the catch. Moments later, Nick Patten’s drive into the night left no doubt, and when it cleared the big fence in left-center field, Amsterdam had a 5-2 lead. Amsterdam’s ninth place batter in the order, Marcus Still, kept the momentum going with a single and a run in a three-run sixth inning for the Mohawks, and then added to the power surge with a solo home run in the seventh.

“We swung the bats well two nights in a row,” Coach O’Brey said. “We did it at important times and had a little punch at the bottom of the lineup. We were solid one through nine.”

The timing of the Amsterdam offense’s resurgence coincided with another dominant performance by the Mohawks pitching staff starting with three shutout innings from starter Paul Milto, and continued by relievers John Malatesta, and Ben Collincini. After the two runs in the first two innings, Milto gave up only a lead off single to Hunter Losekamp in the third. But that was erased on the first of two double plays from the Mohawks infield with shortstop Tyler Frank tossing to second baseman Chris Givin on a ground ball by Robbie Young, and then relaying to first baseman Nick Patten to stop a Blue Sox scoring threat. Malatesta surrendered only a pair of back-to-back singles by Losekamp and Robbie Young in the seventh, but a line drive off the bat of Anthony Young was snared by Frank who fired to Patten to double off the runner. Malatesta retired the side in order in the eighth and Collincini struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth to complete the victory.

“Our pitchers were magnificent,” Coach O’Brey said. “Our middle innings guys came on and shut the door for us.”

Amsterdam tacked on four runs in the bottom of the eighth as the Mohawks fans got one more chance to see a pair of local players in their final game. Former Amsterdam High School and current Marist College standout Andrew Rouse, and SUNY Brockport junior and Albany native Eric Downey both scored in the Mohawks last at bat that featured singles by Givin and Frank, with Givin’s hit being his third of the game.

“It’s very humbling,” said Rouse on being part of a championship team. “I’m used to playing on this field every day. It’s great to win, especially here. I love being home.”

The title was the fourth for the Mohawks as part of the PGCBL. Amsterdam won the league championship in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and won it’s ninth overall having won five titles as a member of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. Although someone was missing from the celebration that occurred following the game: manager Keith Griffin, who was home in Florida having had to return to his home state to begin work before the conclusion of the Mohawks post season. Doug O’ Brey left no question as to who deserved the credit for the team’s success.

“This is Keith Griffin’s team,” Coach O’BRey said. “He’s a quality guy and I’m fortunate to work with him.”

O’Brey went on to say that the team won this one for Griffin and talked about the team and why they accomplished their goal.

“This is a group with great character,” O’Bey said. “And with young men like this, you win championships.”

Prior to the game a moment of silence was held for Sean Craig, a local teen who died while boating on the Great Sacandaga Lake. A memorial fund is being created in Craig’s name to help efforts in funding search and rescue teams in Fulton and Montgomery Counties. Lauren Simmonds sang the national anthem before Sunday’s game and dedicated her performance to Craig.

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.