Plenty of runners but no runs for Rams in loss to Schuylerville

It could have been a storybook ending. At the bottom of the seventh inning, with two outs and the tying run on base, Amsterdam catcher Michael Rocas launches a high, fly ball into left field. The runners crossed the plate then watched, but as the ball landed in the glove of Schuylerville outfielder Cameron Alber, the Rams varsity, after stranding 12 base runners, found themselves on the short end of a 2-0 score to the Black Horses on Monday afternoon at Shuttleworth Park.

“We get thirteen walks and no runs,” Amsterdam Coach Brian Spagnola said after the last out in a game filled with missed opportunities. “We had seventeen runners and none scored. I’ve not seen these numbers before.”

The Rams put runners on base in every inning, and had a runner in scoring position in all but one inning, but couldn’t come up with the hit to get on the scoreboard. Schuylerville pitchers Carson Dunkel and Jared Gregorek issued 10 walks and hit three batters, but got plenty of support from a stellar Black Horses defense that took away any chance the Rams had of crossing the plate safely.

“We started pressing,” Coach Spagnola said. “We were getting guys on base but couldn’t get a hit to get them in.”

Amsterdam put runners on first and second with one out in the home half of the first inning with free passes issued Robbie Spagnola and Dale Stanavich, but Dunkel retired opposing hurler Brendan McGillin on a fly ball to left and then got Troy Ausfeld to hit a grounder to the bag at third for the force play. The Rams loaded the bases with some patience and walks to Jeffrey Brennan, Rocas, and Max Spagnola, but Dunkel pitched out of trouble getting a little help from outfielder Alber, and third baseman Nathan Preston to keep the game knotted at 0-0. Amsterdam put two runners on in the third, but had that scoring chance erased on a well executed double play from the infield combination of George Olson, Derek Wilson and Stratton Sherman. Dunkel had walked seven and struck out two, but with plenty of help from his fiends kept Amsterdam hit-less through the first three frames.

“The nice thing is we had some good defensive plays,” Schuylerville coach Darrin Renner said. “Our kids are fighters and that’s a good thing. I’m proud of them.”

Early on the game resembled a pitchers duel as Rams starting hurler Brendan McGillin pitched around a couple of errors, walked one and struck out two, allowing only a second inning single to Brady Griffin through the first two innings. Three infield ground balls turned into three straight outs in an easy third as the Rams continued to build momentum, but it would be Schuylerille striking first in the top of the fourth.

Catcher Paul Harshberger led off the fourth with a single for Schuylerville, stole second, and was sacrificed to third by Alber. But, of any baserunner in scoring position on the day, Harsherger probably spent the least amount of time on the bases as a solid single to center from Gregorek brought him home with the first run. A double by Preston moved Gregorek only 90 feet away from becoming the second run, but McGillin settled down and fanned the next two batters to end the threat. Schuylerville tacked on one more in the top of the fifth with Sherman coming around to score on a two-out single by Alber. Sherman, who had walked with one out in the inning scored just head of Dunkel. who was tagged out at home trying to stretch the lead after an impressive throw from Rams center fielder Stanavich to Rocas that ended the inning. Scuylerville led 2-0 after five innings.

“We executed early with our offense,” Coach Renner said. “And we did a lot of good things defensively.”

Owen Devine led off the Amsterdam fourth with an infield single to break up the no hit attempt by Dunkel. Ryan Bradt followed with a grounder that forced Devine at second, and Bradt stole his way to third, but was also denied by the Schuylerville defense when Harshberger fired a throw to third catching Bradt before he could return to the base. The pick off removed yet another scoring attempt for the Rams and preserved the Black Horses lead. Dunkel pitched out of trouble again in the fifth after a one out walk to Stanavich and a single by McGillin again put a runner in scoring position, but the Black Horses right- hander fanned Ausfeld and got a fielders choice grounder by Brennan to keep the visiting team in front.

“We dug down and came together as a team,” said Dunkel, who exited the mound after five innings. “We know we’ve got each others backs out there, and it really showed today.”

Dunkel allowed only two hits while striking out four and walking nine. Amsterdam had had no shortage of chances to score but came up empty. Gregorek took over the pitching duties for Shcuylerville in the sixth, and once again the opportunities were there for the Rams to rally. A bases loaded situation looked to be just what they needed.

Gregorek hit two of the first three batters he faced, and walked the other as Devine, Bradt, and Rocas all were aboard with the tying and go ahead runs, and with the top of the Rams batting order stepping to the plate. Coach Renner called time out, walked to the mound and calmed his team.

“This is a young team and we have some growing pains,” Coach Renner said. “We have to fight to win every day in the Foothills Council. You’re not going to win many games walking this many batters, and we know we have to improve. But, I’m happy with the way we fought back. We had a lot of good defensively plays today.”

And those good plays continued. Gregorek struck out the next batter he faced, and got a one hopper back to the mound off the bat of Robbie Spagnola to force Devine at the plate. Olson flashed his glove skills at second base once again snaring a liner off the bat of Stanavich, and put an end to the rally. But, there was still one last chance for the Rams.

Robbie Spagnola stepped to the hill for the seventh in relief of McGillin and pitched around a leadoff single by Wilson to keep the score 2-0. McGillin stepped to the plate to lead off the bottom of the seventh and promptly drilled a single to right, his second hit of the game, and once again the rally caps were on. One out later, Brennan connected for the only extra base hit for the Rams, a double to the wall in left putting McGillin at third and the tying run in scoring position. Gregorek hit Devine with the next pitch to load the bases giving AHS another strong scoring chance, but the lack of a big hit again haunted the Rams.

The Schuylerville defense executed one last time as Brennan was forced at the plate on a tapper back to the mound, and Rocas’ fly ball twisted in the air, but eventually landed firmly in Albers’ glove ending an afternoon of ‘what could have been’ for the Rams.

“We didn’t get a lot of good swings in RBI situations,” Coach Spagnola said. “We talk about quality at bats, and we didn’t have a lot of those today.”

McGillin led Amsterdam with a pair of singles, and was better on the mound scattering five hits while striking out seven and walking three. Devine, Bradt, and Rocas all reached base three times for Amsterdam (2-1 Foothills, 2-2 overall).

The Rams return to action on Wednesday with a home contest against the Queensbury Spartans. The first pitch at Shuttleworth Park is scheduled for 4:30pm.

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.