AMSTERDAM - The last time the Newark Pilots visited Shuttleworth Park, they swept a doubleheader from the Amsterdam Mohawks to clinch the 2011 Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball championship.
Friday night, the league-leading Mohawks were determined not to let the Pilots leave with another win.
Newark threatened to grab victory away from Amsterdam in the eighth inning as the Pilots loaded the bases with no outs. Chase Williamson came on in relief of Connor Kaden to get out of the bases-loaded jam and closed out the ninth inning to preserve the 4-1 victory.
Mark Leiter Jr. pitches for the Amsterdam Mohawks during Friday’s game against the Newark Pilots at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam.
The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis
With Friday night's win, the Mohawks clinched a playoff spot in the PGCBL postseason and have a magic number of three to clinch the league title.
Amsterdam starting pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. opened Friday's game on a positive note, striking out the Pilots' leadoff batter, Ben Bostick, for his 100th PGCBL strike out.
Leiter and Newark starting pitcher Daniel Thorpe then locked in a pitcher's duel with both throwing shutout ball through the first four innings.
The Mohawks broke through in the bottom of the fifth.
DeMarcus Henderson and Jeff Limbaugh opened with back-to-back singles. With runners on first and third, coach Robbie Hisert, who was filling in for coach Keith Griffin, who was serving a two-game suspension after an ejection in Tuesday night's game against the Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs, called for Matt MacDowell to lay down a bunt with Henderson breaking for home.
His attempt rolled foul.
Hisert again called for MacDowell to bunt with Henderson breaking for home. This time it worked as MacDowell bunted down the third-base line and Henderson scored the game's first run and Limbaugh moved to second.
Hisert said he had no hesitation about running the same play twice.
"I knew I was going back to it," he said. "Last night, I knew we were playing for one run at a time and I did the same tonight. What clinched it was the third baseman and their coach were going back-and-fourth saying I probably wasn't going to do it again, so he took a step back. I absolutely knew then I was going to do it again. Matt MacDowell got it down, did his job and got the run in. Then it sparked us and gave us some room to score some runs."
The Mohawks picked up a second run with two outs when Pilots' center fielder Sean Osterman and second baseman Josh Perez collided while chasing Giuseppe Papaccio's pop fly in short centerfield.
Papaccio ended up on second with an RBI double as Perez left the field with an ankle injury and, after a 20-minute delay, Osterman was taken from the field by ambulance with a head injury.
When play resumed, Zak Colby slapped the ball toward Josh Crowdus, who replaced Perez at second base. Crowdus misplayed the ball allowing Colby to reach base and Papaccio to score the Mohawks' third run of the inning.
The Pilots broke up the shutout in the top of the eighth.
Joe Landi drew a leadoff walk off Kaden and Chris Doyle reached on a deep infield single. Cash Barker drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. Bostick hit a high chopper over a drawn-in Amsterdam infield to score Landi and keep the bases loaded.
Hisert made the move to go to Williamson, and the righthander from Auburn responded by striking out Tariq Staton and Brent Langston before enticing Austin Logan to foul out to Brian Ruby behind third base to get out of the jam.
"We talked about if we wanted to leave Leiter in or what we wanted to do," Hisert said. "We kind of got it in our minds that we were going to go with Mark through seven and then to Kaden and Chase in the ninth. We had Kaden hot to go last night but decided to let Shepherd go one more so we sat Kaden down. We figured we would come back with Kaden tonight; he just didn't have his best. Chase came in and that is a coach's dream to have a guy come in with bases loaded and shut them down. I had no doubt in the ninth that they weren't bouncing back from that."
Amsterdam added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth with Colby drawing a leadoff walk and stealing second. He scored when Jeff Boehm's grounder to the right side took a high hop over Bostick and into right field to open a three-run advantage, 4-1.
Williamson remained in control, allowing a one out single to Crowdus before getting the final two outs for the save.
Leiter picked up the victory to improve to 3-0 on the season, allowing no runs, four hits and striking out four.
"It is just awesome," Hisert said of Leiter achieving the new PGCBL strikeout mark. "Anybody that is here for longer than a year is nice. A kid like Mark is special. The community likes him and he works hard."
Amsterdam will go for its 30th win of the season tonight at Glens Falls before returning home Sunday for a game against the Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs.
Amsterdam 4, Newark 1
Newark000 000 010 - 1 7 3
Amsterdam000 030 01x - 4 5 1
Thorpe and Barker; Leiter, Kaden (8), Williamson (8) and McDowell, Colby (8).