All year long, the Amsterdam Mohawks fought against their demons to reach the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League finals. Unfortunately for them, those demons became their undoing in the final best-of-three PGCBL Championship Series Wednesday, August 8, at Shuttleworth Park as the Jamestown Jammers overcame a 5-0 deficit to defeat the Mohawks 8-6. Chase Keng belted a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Jammers a 7-6 lead, and Ryan Boyer pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless relief to give Jamestown its first league title.
“Our nemesis this year was we struck out too much and [our pitchers] walked too much,” said Amsterdam head coach Keith Griffin.
Amsterdam took control early with a three-run second inning, fueled by back-to-back home runs by Joe Genord (South Florida) and Justin Foscue (Mississippi State). Michael Ludowig smacked a two-run homer in the top of the third inning to increase the Mohawks’ lead to 5-0.
Everything began to unravel for Amsterdam in the bottom of the third inning, though. A walk and a single led to a three-run blast by Jamestown’s Sterling Hayes to trim the deficit to 5-3. Amsterdam got a run back in the fourth inning on Elvis Peralta’s RBI single, but the Mohawks failed to plate another runner after that.
“We had a good offensive team [this year],” said Griffin. “Unfortunately, some of our guys went a bit cold in the playoffs.”
Amsterdam starting pitcher Trip Lockhart (Kentucky) allowed another run in the bottom of the fourth inning, but he pitched through the fifth with the lead. Lockhart scattered five hits, struck out six batters and walked only one in his five innings of work. Reliever and Amsterdam native Dale Stanavich (Marshall) pitched well in the sixth inning, but he got into trouble by walking the first two Jamestown batters in the bottom of the seventh and he was pulled.
Tyler Staffinger (NJIT) came in and got the next two Jamestown batters out, but Keng took Staffinger’s 0-1 offering over the fence for the go-ahead home run.
“The thing about this team all season was we had to keep adding on to our leads,” said Griffin. “You never knew what you would get out of our bullpen.”
Amsterdam got the lead-off hitter on base in both the eighth and ninth innings, but Boyer didn’t allow a runner to advance beyond first base. He retired the Mohawks on a fly out, a strikeout and a ground out in the eighth inning, and he struck out the final three batters he faced to pick up the win and give Jamestown the title.
The loss capped another strong year for Amsterdam. The Mohawks won the PGCBL East Division for the sixth consecutive year and reached the league finals for the fifth time since the league formed in 2011. They fell one win shy of their 10th consecutive 30-win regular season under Griffin, but not for a lack of effort. The Mohawks won nine straight games down the stretch before losing their last two games.
“I’ve just been lucky to be the head coach,” said Griffin. “We’ve had a lot of people who have helped make this team successful over the last 10 years.”
Griffin said he doesn’t know if he will return for his 11th season in Amsterdam, though.
“It’s been a fun 10 years here. I’ve loved working with [General Manager] Brian [Spagnola], and I’ve loved coaching here, but it’s been 10 years in a row of coming up here,” said Griffin. “I don’t know if I’ll be back for my 11th year, but I know Brian will put together another great team here, and I know I will do whatever I can to help him.”