AMSTERDAM - The Amsterdam Mohawks are one win away from their third-straight Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League championship.
Powered by home run blasts from Brendan Tracy and Tommy Kain and a lights-out performance on the mound from Zack Brown, the Mohawks rallied from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Newark 9-3 Wednesday night at Shuttleworth Park.
"I am not smiling," Amsterdam coach Keith Griffin said. "I have been in this situation before and we have more work to do. If we go take care of business tomorrow we will be all right."
Amsterdam’s Brendan Tracy is greeeted at home plate by Alex DeBellis, Tommy Kain (25) and Zack Brown (33) after hitting a three-run home run over the center field fence during Game 1 of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League championship game against the Newark Pilots on Wednesday at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
The Mohawks will travel to Newark's Colburn Park today for Game 2 of the best-of-three championship series with a chance to wrap up the title. A win by the West Division champion Pilots would send the series back to Shuttleworth Park for the deciding game Friday at 6:35 p.m.
"Momentum is as good as your next day's starting pitcher," Griffin said. "If we go up there, get a good start and we go out there ready to play, we will be in great shape. If we play well, we will have a chance to win; if not, we will be back here on Friday."
Griffin indicated that Taylor Blatch, who threw a no-hitter this season against the Utica Brewers, would get the ball today with Connor Johnstone ready for relief duty.
Coming off a 5-3 series-clinching win over the Elmira Pioneers on Tuesday, the Pilots were pumped up in the early innings.
Lead-off hitter tommy Wagner opened the game with a single off Amsterdam starter Ryan Clark. Two batters and two outs later Tanner Giesel homered over the left field fence, staking the Pilots to a 2-0 lead.
Newark's starting pitcher B.J. Nobles held the Mohawks hitless through the first three innings, while his temmates put another run on the board in the top of the fourth for a 3-0 edge.
Austin Clock opened the top of the fourth with a single and was bunted over to second by Tim Lewis. Derek Reed followed with a single before Clock scored on Dorian Hairston's double for the 3-0 lead.
Clark was lifted for Brown with one out and the right-hander from Kentucky responded by striking out the first batter he faced and got a ground out to get out of the jam.
"The first out, I was trying to get myself," Brown said. "Then I just kept chipping away. Once I got going, they were not slowing me down or stopping me tonight."
The Mohawks' bats came alive the second time through the lineup.
Marcus Carson broke up Nobles' no-hit bid with a single down the right field line and came around to score on Josh Gardiner's groundout to cut the lead to 3-1.
Brown allowed only two Pilots to reach base over the course of the next five innings, one on a walk and the second on a throwing error.
Meanwhile, the Mohawks began producing runs to back up Brown's performance.
Kain and Alex DeBellis opened the bottom of the fifth with back-to-back singles and cruised home on Tracy's blast over the center field wall to take a 4-3 lead.
"I knew a fast ball was coming because he [Nobles] was starting to struggle," Tracy said. "I knew it was gone right off the bat; that is why I just kind of jogged the bases watching it."
Brown got the side out in order in the top of the sixth, allowing his teammates to get quickly back to the plate.
John Razzino worked his way on with a one-out walk before Kain singled and DeBellis doubled to drive in Razzino and chase Nobles from the game with the Pilots trailing 5-3.
Brown stayed in control on the mound and the Mohawks tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Josh Gardiner and Razzino opened the at-bat with back-to-back singles before Kain lifted a drive over the left-field fence for a three-run homer and an 8-3 lead.
"Before my at-bat I told the guys in the dugout I was going to swing through it," Kain said. "I got up there with a good situation with a guy on third and first. I just needed to get a fly ball in the air. I got a good fastball on the first pitch and put it out"
Joe Purritano kept the inning going when Pilots' third baseman Zach Wall could not handle his high fly ball on the infield. Jack Czeszewski came in to run for Purritano, stole second and scored on Jonathan Pryor's RBI single to build a 9-3 score.
The Pilots got their second base runner off Brown with one out in the top of the ninth when a throw from shortstop Joey Aiola drew Tracy off the first base bag. the threat was quickly ended as Gardiner started a 4-6-3 double play on Wyatt Padgett's grounder to end the game.
Brown finished the game with seven strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings, allowing no hits and walking one. Clark had two strikeouts in his 3 1/3 innings on the mound.
"I thought that was the best stuff I have seen a Mohawks pitcher throw since I got here," Griffin said of Brown. "That stuff, his fastball and breaking ball where phenomenal. I just knew there was no way they were coming back. I was just hoping to get the lead for him. With three days off it took us a little while to get started then when we did a great job."
Amsterdam 9, Newark 3
Newark Pilots200 100 000 - 3 7 1
Amsterdam Mohawks000 131 04x - 9 12 1
Nobles, Tidwell (6), Sanders (8) and Boyher; Clark, Brown (4) and DeBellis.