AMSTERDAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Amsterdam Mohawks… they like to make things interesting.
On the heels of a wild, back-and-forth East Division semi-final game with Saugerties Monday night, the ‘Hawks followed up with an equally thrilling Divisional final against the Utica Blue Sox Tuesday night at Shuttleworth Park. It took 10 innings to get the job done, but thanks to an Alex Irizarry walk-off squeeze play, Amsterdam is headed to a fifth straight Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League Championship.
Slow starts have plagued Keith Griffin’s squad in their last two outings. They had to overcome a two-run deficit against the Glens Falls Dragons Friday, and climb out of a three-run hole against the Stallions. Well, that was not the case Tuesday night.
Amsterdam snatched two early runs in the second inning. After a leadoff walk to designated hitter Cam Gurney, center fielder Jalen DeBose followed up with a double down the left-field line to set the Mohawks up with runners on third and second base with nobody out.
Two batters later, shortstop Marek Houston scored Gurney on a sacrifice fly to right field. That gave way to right fielder Zach Eldred, who legged out an infield single to first, allowing DeBose to cross, and the ‘Hawks had a 2-0 lead after two innings.
The star of the night, though, was Amsterdam starting pitcher Brandon Peterson, who mowed through a lineup that ranked second in the league in runs per game and team batting average. The rising NJIT sophomore tossed seven innings of two-hit, shutout ball, while striking out seven.
But once the Blue Sox got to the Mohawks’ bullpen, they found some life. They scored one run in the eighth inning to cut the deficit in half. Then, down to their final out in the ninth, they strung together three straight hits – the third an RBI single from Pablo Santos which plated Norris McClure, tying the game at two.
Amsterdam came up empty in the bottom half of the frame, sending the game into extra innings. Mohawks relief pitcher Ryan Taffe, a Delmar native and Bethlehem Central grad, managed to work a scoreless top of the 10th with help from his catcher, Jaxson West. Utica extra hitter Kyuss Gargett singled to start the inning, but was promptly gunned down by West trying to steal second.
That set up the Mohawks for potential fireworks in the bottom of the 10th, and they disappoint. The all-important leadoff man – Houston – got on to start the inning by scorching a single up the middle. He stole second base, and then Coach Griffin employed some small ball. Eldred sacrificed Houston over to third, and after Jared Johnson was hit by a pitch, Irizarry, who came on for Maximus Martin in the eighth inning, stepped to the plate with the winning run 90 feet away.
For the second straight game, Griffin called for a safety squeeze in a potential go-ahead, or winning situation. Irizarry bunted the ball about halfway between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. Utica’s relief pitcher, Avery Cook, made a brilliant, barehanded snag, and flipped the ball to his catcher in time to get Houston at home. As Houston slide in, the ball trickled out of the glove of Alejandro Rodriguez – game over.
Houston was ruled safe, and the Mohawks stormed out of the dugout to douse Irizarry with a Gatorade bath, as the team celebrated its’ 3-2 victory, and a fifth straight appearance in the PGCBL championship.
While this is their fifth straight trip, Amsterdam hasn’t repeated as champions since their three-peat from 2012-2014.
The Mohawks now open up a best-of-three series with the West Division champion: the Elmira Pioneers. Game one will be held Wednesday night at Shuttleworth. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m.