AMSTERDAM - With half the season gone and a commanding lead in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, the Amsterdam Mohawks are showing signs of mortality.
Two nights after the Mohawks suffered a crushing extra-inning defeat, negating their own six-run rally, the Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs rapped out 15 hits in an 11-7 win on Thursday night at Shuttleworth Park.
"We played very well, said Diamond Dawgs assistant coach Matt Erzar, filling in for coach Roberto Vaz who missed the game for personal reasons. "We came out and hit the ball, and continued to hit the ball. We've had opportunities here and there where we've hit for the first couple innings and then stopped, or we didn't start off the game."
The Amsterdam Mohawks’ Evan Stephens dives safely into first base on a pickoff throw as Little Falls Diamond Dawgs first baseman Jack Morrow applies the tag during Thursday's game at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam.
The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo
Of course, the Mohawks haven't been just battling their opponents. They've also been fighting to stay healthy. Giuseppe Papaccio is currently out with a concussion, and leadoff hitter Ed Charlton could miss about two weeks with a torn labrum. The Mohawks also were playing without Josh Nethaway, who was ineligible due to an ejection during Tuesday night's game.
"I told them regarding our injuries, 50 percent of the people don't care, and the other 50 percent of the people are glad you got them," Mohawks coach Keith Griffin said. "We have to play through that. We're not going to win because Ed Charlton don't play? We're not going to win because Nathan Gomez don't play? You've got to find a way to win."
For their next game, Griffin is hoping to find a way to fill out a complete lineup card. DeMarcus Henderson left the game with the chills, and league-leading hitter Evan Stephens reported a pop in his elbow during a swing.
"I generally make the lineup at home before I get here, but we've got so many guys injured ... that I won't be able to make it until tomorrow," Griffin said.
The Mohawks have gotten some reinforcement, from their pitching staff, of all places. Closer Chase Williamson hit a grand slam in Tuesday night's game to cap the Mohawks' six-run rally in the bottom of the ninth against the Cooperstown Hawkeyes. He also homered again in the ninth inning Thursday night. Pitcher Dan Zlotnick also took over for Henderson in center field and singled in the ninth inning. Williamson saw three innings at third base Thursday.
"Dan played well, and so did Chase," Griffin said. "They'll play hard, but over a period of time, their shortcomings will be found out, but for pick-me-up stuff, they played very well."
Griffin, however, wasn't accepting injuries as a reason for Thursday night's loss. Starting pitcher Taylor Martin lasted only three innings, surrendering four runs on seven hits in three innings. Six of those hits went for extra bases.
The Diamond Dawgs started the game with back-to-back two-out doubles by David DelGrande and Jack Morrow in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. After the Mohawks got two runs back when Zak Colby reached on an error in the bottom of the first, Martin was pounded for three extra-base hits in the third inning, giving Mohawk Valley a 4-2 lead.
"It was a bad dugout," Griffin said. "It was a bad effort. It was one of the worst efforts I think we've had in the four years I've been here."
The Mohawks got one of the runs back in the bottom of the inning when Stephens singled and scored on Chase Green's infield hit. They tied the game in the fifth inning when new addition Brian Ruby, drove in his first run of the season with an RBI double to the wall in center field.
Gage shut Mohawk Valley down for his first three innings, striking out six in his first three innings, to add to his league-leading strikeout total, but a leadoff walk to Tyler Heck in the seventh proved to be his undoing. Chris Cruz bunted the ball, back to Gage, but the pitcher threw the ball into right field, bringing Heck around to score and sending Cruz to third base.
"Again, we walked the leadoff batter in a crucial part of the game, then they bunted it right back to us and we played catch with the right fielder," Griffin said. "We didn't play good tonight."
That's when it fell apart as the Diamond Dawgs (10-13) scored seven runs in the last three innings to take command.
"When something happens, it becomes a bigger snowball, and it became bigger and bigger and bigger," Griffin said. "Then he's trying to throw it harder, it straightened out, and they hit it harder. After that, we made a couple mistakes."
The Mohawks scored once in the seventh when Mohawk Valley pitcher Raymond Morton gave up a double to Chase Green and balked twice to bring him in. Williamson's home run and Zak Colby's RBI double gave Amsterdam two runs in the ninth.
"If they beat us 3-2/4-3 and everyone plays good, I can deal with it," Griffin said. "I didn't think we were going to go undefeated. But I thought we'd play better, and that's what we've got to do."
They're going to have to do it fast as the second-place Glens Falls Golden Eagles come to town tonight. Glens Falls (15-10) has won six of its last seven and trails the Mohawks by five games. The Golden Eagles have a two-game lead over the third-place Newark Pilots. Chandler Shepherd will take the mound for Amsterdam at 7:05 p.m.
Mohawk Valley 11, Amsterdam 7
Mohawk Valley103 000 331 - 11 16 5
Amsterdam201 010 102 - 7 10 2
Burratt, Morton (7) and Nethaway; Martin, Gage (4), Gallup (8) and MacDowell