AMSTERDAM - The Amsterdam Mohawks' drive for a third-straight Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League championship continued Thursday night at Shuttleworth Park.
The East Division-leading Mohawks supported a solid performance from starter Connor Johnstone with nine hits and cruised to its fifth-straight win over the Albany Dutchmen, 8-2.
"Connor was outstanding; he has been the last two times out for us," Amsterdam coach Keith Griffin said. "He is making big moves on our staff trying to get his playoff throwing in."
Amsterdam’s Jonathan Pryor (11) upends Albany catcher Jake Hanson in a close play at the plate during the fourth inning of Thursday’s Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League game at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Johnstone went seven innings and scattered five hits, while striking out one. He shut out the Dutchmen until the top of the seventh before giving up a two-run home run to Demetrius Webb. He quickly recovered to get the final out of the inning before turning the ball over to Kevin Guthrie and Zach Breen to close out the game.
"He left one pitch up, a change-up with two strikes and two outs, that the guy ran into, but other than that, he was outstanding," Griffin said of Johnstone's performance.
Amsterdam (26-8) struck early, putting three runs on the board in the bottom of the second.
Brendan Tracy drew a lead-off walk and Alex DeBellis followed with a ground-rule double before Jack Czeszewski walked to load the bases. Marcus Carson put the ball in play on the infield and the Dutchmen got the force at the plate.
The Mohawks put their first run up when Jonathan Pryor grounded out but got DeBellis across the plate for a 1-0 advantage. Josh Gardiner followed with a two RBI single to score Carson and Czeszewski for a 3-0 advantage.
The Dutchmen looked to answer the scoring in the top of the third when Webb opened with a single to left, but the Mohawks turned a double play behind Johnstone to help get back to the plate quickly.
Thomas Kain and Blake Logan opened the at-bat with back-to-back singles and advanced on Tracy's sacrifice bunt. Kain later scored on DeBellis' ground out to the right side to build a 4-0 advantage.
Patience at the plate paid off for Amsterdam in the bottom of the fifth.
Kain, Logan and Tracy all walked to give the Mohawks bases-loaded with no outs. DeBellis delivered Kain and Logan to the plate with a single to take the lead to 6-0. Carson worked his way on with a one-out walk to again load the bases and Gardiner picked up an RBI with his single to open a 7-0 advantage.
Albany got two of the runs back in the top of the seventh when Jake Hanson led off with a single and came around to score on Webb's two-out, two-run home run over the left field fence to trim the lead to 7-2.
The Mohawks responded by getting a run back in the bottom of the seventh.
Carson walked, advanced to second on Pryor's sacrifice bunt before reaching third on a wild pitch. Gardiner walked and Jake Salpietro was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Carson came home on a fielder's choice off Kain's bat to put the game at 8-2.
The Mohawks' bullpen did its job, as Guthrie and Breen came on and combined to strike out five of the eight batters they faced to secure the victory.
"We played solid baseball tonight," Griffin said. "We have some things to clean up defensively, but we need to have our best players playing their best."
DeBellis finished the night with a double, single and three RBIs, while Gardiner collected three RBIs on a pair of singles. Carson added a double and two runs scored and Pryor doubled.
Webb led the Dutchmen with a home run, single and two RBIs, while Sean Aspinall had a double and a single and Hanson singled to account for Albany's hits.
The Mohawks are off tonight but return to action Saturday at Shuttleworth Park with a double-header against the second-place Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs, who are six games behind Amsterdam in PGCBL East standings.
"We are in a lot better spot than they are right now," Griffin said. "We have two very good guys going [on the mound], and we have rested arms."
The first game is slated to get under way at 5:30 p.m. and fireworks are on tap at the conclusion of the evening's ball games.
Amsterdam 8, Albany 2
Albany000 000 200 - 2 5 0
Amsterdam031 030 100 - 8 9 2
Hernandez, Young (3), Ferry (5), Ghiardi (7) and Hanson; Johnstone, Guthrie (8), Breen (9) and DeBellis.