Amsterdam Mohawks win league championship

AMSTERDAM – Having won the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League title in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the Amsterdam Mohawks fell short of the championship series for the first time in league history last season.

The Mohawks made the most of their return to the finals, completing a two-game sweep of the Utica Blue Sox with a 13-2 win on Sunday at Shuttleworth Park.

It marks the fourth time in the six-year history of the PGCBL that Amsterdam has won the league title. The Mohawks also reached the inaugural championship series in 2011, losing to Newark.

Last year, the Mohawks lost to eventual champion Mohawk Valley in the East Division finals, marking the first time in league history that Amsterdam did not play for the title.

Amsterdam also won the last two New York Collegiate Baseball League championships in 2009 and 2010 before the PGCBL was formed in 2011.

“We were a little disappointed after last season, we wanted to get back to the finals this year,” said Amsterdam Mohawks interim coach Doug O’Brey, who took over the team after Keith Griffin had to return to Florida due to work commitments. “This is a quality group of kids. They work hard and we never had to tell them to do things twice. It’s been fun to coach this group.”

After rolling to a 9-2 win in Game 1 of the championship series Saturday in Utica, the Mohawks returned home looking to wrap up the title Sunday.

The Blue Sox got on the board first, with an RBI single by Joe Spitaleri that scored Franklin Jennings to make it 1-0 after the top of the first inning

Amsterdam answered with a pair of runs in its half of the first inning. Andruw Gazzola led off the inning by legging out a double before scoring on a single to center field by Chris Givin.

I just got a good pitch to hit,” Gazzola said. “I saw the outfielder was going after it pretty slow, so I just thought I’d leg it to second and try to get us some momentum. It was pretty big, because they scored in the first inning and we had to get on the board.”

Givin gave the Mohawks the lead, scoring on an RBI double to left by Joe Genord to make it 2-1 after one inning.

Utica evened the score at 2-2 in the top of the second, getting three straight two-out singles from Anthony Young, Jared Baldinello and Jennings.

The game remained tied at 2-2 heading into the bottom of the third, when Nick Patten gave the Mohawks some breathing room, belting a two-run home run to left center field. Patten’s homer scored Genord, who had reached on a single down the left field line. Tristen Carranza added an RBI sacrifice fly in the third to help the Mohawks to a 5-2 lead.

After giving up five hits in the first two innings, Amsterdam starting pitcher Paul Milto, allowed just one hit over the next three innings.

While Utica’s offense went silent, the Mohawks broke the game wide open with three runs in the sixth, one in the seven and fourth in the eighth.

In the sixth, Amsterdam scored all three of its runs on a pair of errors by the Blue Sox, while Marcus Still had a solo home run over the left-field wall in the seventh.

The Mohawks added four more runs in the eighth, getting RBI singles from Givin and Tyler Frank, while Still drew a bases-loaded walk to plate another run. Gazzola, who went 6-for-10 over the two-game series, added an RBI fielder’s choice for Amsterdam to make the final score, 13-2.

Gazzola went 2-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored.

“There’s nothing better than this,” Gazzola said. “This is the second summer I’ve played summer ball, and I really don’t think anything can top this. Probably one of the best experiences playing baseball of my life.”

Givin finished the game 4-for-6 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

“I’d like to thank the city of Amsterdam,” Givin said. “I know it means a lot to the city to get this championship, and I’m really happy that this group of guys could do it.”

Genord and Still each had two hits for the Mohawks, who finished the game with 13 hits.

“We swung the bats well all night long,” O’Brey said. “We were really solid one through nine today.”

In the two-game championship series, the Mohawks pounded out 31 hits and outscored the Blue Sox 22-4.

Milto earned the win on the mound, allowing six hits, striking out four and walking one in five innings of work. Johnny Malatesta pitched three innings of scoreless relief, allowing two hits. Ben Collincini pitched a scoreless ninth for the Mohawks, striking out two of the three batters he faced.

“Our pitching staff has been outstanding,” O’Brey said. “The pitching was magnificent as they have been all season long, they threw up goose eggs down the stretch.”

Jennings and Hunter Losekamp each had two hits for Utica.

“We knew it was going to be tough. [The Mohawks] always have a good team,” Utica coach Mark Moriarty said. “In summer ball, the first goal is to get better and the second goal is to win games. I think we did a good job with both this season.”

Through the Mohawks were without longtime coach Griffin in the postseason, his efforts were at the forefront of this year’s title run.

“We were playing our best baseball at the end of the year,” Amsterdam Mohawks President and General Manager Brian Spagnola said. “Even though he wasn’t able to be here, this shows how hard Keith [Griffin] works all year. He said he though we would win it. He had them on auto pilot.”

O’Brey agreed with Spagnola’s assessment.

“It’s Keith Griffin’s team,” he said. “He built the house, I helped put the roof up. I’m fortunate to work with a guy like him. I’ve learned a lot from him.”

Amsterdam 13, Utica 2

Utica110 000 000 – 2 8 2

Amsterdam203 003 14x – 13 13 1

Prince, Navadel (6), Burrows (7), Lovin (8), Romero (8) and Losekamp, Goertzen (8); Milto, Malatesta (6), Collincini (9) and Genord.