Mohawks top Blazers, clinch PGCBL East Division

The Amsterdam Mohawks got another strong effort from their pitching staff and crushed three home runs Friday night as part of a 19 hit performance in their last regular season home game, for a 14-3 win over the Adirondack Trail Blazers at Shuttlewoth Park, and in the process clinched first place in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL) East Division.

“Our coaching staff has really done a good job with this team,” Amsterdam Mohawks manager Keith Griffin said. “We’ve had some injuries to players who have been with us all season. The coaches went out and found guys to help us through the season.”

The Mohawks have suffered through a rash of injuries recently that have taken players TJ Collett, Liam Wilson, and Matt Gorski out of the lineup. The new additions of Dalton Skelton, and Toby Welk have contributed in Amsterdam’s push for the playoffs. Griffin credited assistant coaches Anthony Spataro, Doug O’ Brey, Greg Christodulu, Jon McLain, Shaun Mckenna, and Karl Bithorn for their work with the team. The coaches are in good part responsible for the recent pitching success the Mohawks have had, and that included Friday nights’ starter Morgan McSweeney.

McSeeney, a talented right handed hurler from Wake Forest University took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Trail Blzers and at one point retired 14 batters in a row. McSweeney allowed only a pair of first inning walks to Jordan Torrento and Riley Schaffer before setting down every batter he faced until the top of the sixth when Tyler Bruno and Torrento reached with back to back walks. There were two out when Schaffer cracked an RBI double into the left field corner scoring Bruno with Adirondack’s first run. By that time however the Mohawks had built a 12 run lead. McSweeney finished his night on the hill allowing only the one hit, walked four and struck out eight.

“He was really good,” Griffin said. “His velocity was good, he had a good change up, and really pounded the strike zone.”

McSweeney got plenty of support from the Mohawks offense. Dan Maynard and Dustin Skelton worked a pair of bases-loaded walks scoring Jake Mueller and Dalton Skelton, and Toby Welk added an RBI fielders choice grounder to post Amsterdam to a 3-0 lead after one inning. The lead expanded in the bottom of the third when the Mohawks turned to the long ball to get things done.

Welk was at the plate with one out and one on base in the third facing Adirondack pitcher Jake Vanbeber. The newest addition to the Mohawks lineup wasted no time in making a good impression with the Mohawks fans by launching a moon shot over the center field fence. One batter later, Chris Hamilton stepped in and with a “Ruthian” swing, sent the ball out of the park easily clearing the right field fence. Hamilton had nearly hit one out in is first at bat during the Mohawks half of the second, sending Adirondack right fielder Joe Simone to edge of the warning track before he made the catch. The two home runs highlighted a six run inning for Amsterdam putting them up 9-0.

“That was a big home run by Toby Welk,” Griffin said of the Amsterdam first baseman. Welk however won’t be eligible for the playoffs, yet has provided a much need boost to the Amsterdam offense.

“He won’t be with us when the playoffs start, but he has been a big help for us over the last couple weeks of the season.”

Mueller led off the Mohawks third with a single and scored on Dylan Reynolds double. Dustin Skelton plated Reynolds with an RBI single in front of Welk’s home run. John Valente followed Hamilton with a double, Dalton Skelton smacked an RBI single, and Mueller came through with a single for his second hit of the inning. When it was all done, the Mohawks had sent ten men to the plate and recorded eight hits.

“We got a couple of runs early but not too many hits,” Griffin said. “That third inning we really hit the ball well and then more after that.”

Hamilton still had plenty of power in his next at bat in the Mohawks fifth. The left handed hitter from Stony Brook connected again for a two run shot to right- center as part of a three run inning building the lead to 12-0.

“Chris (Hamilton) struggled a bit last night,” Griffin said. “Tonight he really hit the ball well. He had a couple of good swings at the plate.”

Dalton Skelton’s two run single in the sixth rounded out the scoring for Amsterdam. The Skelton brothers and Jake Mueller each had three hits for Amsterdam. Julian Gallup added a single in the eighth giving the Mohawks at least one hit from each member of the starting lineup. Robbie Spagnola came on as a pinch runner in the fifth and scored a run.

Adirondack scored a pair of runs in the top of the eighth off Mohawks’ reliever Justin Reed. Torrento singled and Simone doubled setting up an RBI ground out by Schaffer and a run scoring single by Zack Zschering. Justin Smith and Chuck Hooker also had hits for Adirondack.

The win clinched first place in the PGCBL East Division for the Mohawks. The opening round of the PGCBL playoffs begins Tuesday with a “win or go home contest”. The Mohawks will play the Saugerties Stallions at Shuttleworth Park with the first pitch slated for 6:35pm.

Amsterdam could clinch overall home field advantage if they win their last two road games on Sunday against Newark, and Monday against Glens Falls, and a loss by the PGCBL West Division’s top team, Jamestown.

Amsterdam Mohawks were entertained by the music of Hitrick and Brooks. The popular local group played selections from the 60’s and 70’s to a good crowd behind the first base dugout. Hitrick and Brooks have played at other venues including Vintage Cafe’s Classic Car Show in Johnstown, NY, and at the 2016 Mohawk’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

The Amsterdam Mohawks honored the family of Nick Auriemma in a pre game ceremony. Auriemma passed away before the start of the 2017 season and was a fan of the Mohawks since the team began play in Amsterdam more than 10 years ago.

It was also fan batting practice night and Galway Night. Players in the Galway Little League were the Mohawks baseball buddies, and participated in the between innings fun. Helping the youngsters was Lucia Liverio, Friday night’s assistant on field activities director. Liverio had her hands full with dozens of young Mohawks fans in games involving sack races and over sized uniforms. Liverio, a three sport athlete entering her senior year at Amsterdam High School had no trouble keeping up with the energetic kids from the Galway and Scotia-Glenville Little Leagues.

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.