Mohawks clinch division title

AMSTERDAM – The Amsterdam Mohawks’ stretch drive has been as wild as the pitch that sent Ed Charlton scrambling home for the division-clinching run Monday night at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam.

An early pitchers’ duel gave way to a back-and-forth battle that ended with Amsterdam (30-16) edging out a 4-3 walk-off victory over the Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs (24-18). The Mohawks have gone on an astonishing run to close out the season that has seen the Mohawks win 14 of their last 15 games, including 10 straight to surge up the standings and clinch the number one seed in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League’s East division.

Chris Kalica, the Mohawks reliever who has appeared in the most games, got the start Monday and was outstanding. Kalica set the Diamond Dawgs down in order in four of the six innings he pitched. Jordan Friend doubled down the left-field line in the second and Willie Shaw singled to right in the fourth, but those were the only base runners Kalica would allow all night.

“Chris Kalica was awesome,” head coach Keith Griffin said. “I thought he could do that. I really thought he had that game in him.”

Keegan Long, the ace of the Mohawk Valley pitching staff, was equally as impressive. Long walked Kyle Barrett in the fourth but didn’t allow a hit until the sixth inning. After Shane Zimmer reached on an error, John Sansone sent the Mohawks’ first hit of the night high over the left-field wall into the trees beyond Shuttleworth Park, giving Amsterdam a 2-0 lead.

With Kalica out of the game and Taylor Butler in to pitch for the Mohawks, Mohawk Valley finally got on the board. Dalton Herrington blooped a single into center field that scooted past Charlton and rolled to the wall. Herrington advanced to third on the error and scored later in the inning on a sacrifice fly by Casey Rodrigue.

The Mohawks added a run in the home half of the inning. John Nogowski led off with a double off Long. Nogowski stole third base and Josh Gardiner walked before Jordan Ebert skied a ball that dropped in shallow center field. Gardiner, who had been holding up to see if the ball was caught, was forced out at second as Nogowski ran home and gave Amsterdam a 3-1 lead.

Christian Bartholomew struggled on the mound for Amsterdam in the eighth. He allowed the first four base runners to reach, yielding one run before Mike Urbanski was brought in to get Amsterdam out of the bases-loaded jam. With one out, Landon Thibodeaux laid down a suicide squeeze with Sam Dexter racing home. The play was successful, tying the game 3-3 before Urbanski got a strikeout to end the inning.

“They squeezed a guy in because they didn’t think they could get a hit off Mike and I didn’t think they could have either,” Griffin said.

Long shut down Amsterdam again in the eighth and Urbanski got some help from Zimmer and Sansone to get out of the ninth inning with the game still tied.

Urbanski walked Jordan Friend to lead off the inning. Dave Peretti doubled down the left field line and Friend motored around third. Zimmer fired in to Sansone who turned and threw to Keith Skinner to tag Friend out at home plate by a healthy margin.

With a roaring Mohawks crowd hungry for a division-clinching walk-off win, Charlton got the bottom of the ninth started with a leadoff single. Nogowski walked and Brian Ruby bunted both men over. Long finally exited the ball game after 8 1/3 solid innings of four hit baseball. Tyler Bray came in and plunked Josh Gardiner to load the bases. Bray then uncorked a wild pitch to Jordan Ebert that allowed Charlton to score the winning run, sending Shuttleworth Park into a frenzy.

“I just told our guy, ‘be ready he may throw a wild pitch’,” said Griffin. “Even though they brought in their best defensive catcher, and that guy’s really good, he just threw it by everybody and we beat it to the plate and that’s the difference in the game.”

The Mohawks managed just four hits Monday, the fewest they’ve had in a winning effort all season. Keith Griffin tipped his cap to the DiamondDawgs pitching after the win was secured.

“Their guy [Long] was really good. Their guy was one of the best pitchers in the league and Bray’s one of the outstanding closers in the whole league,” said Griffin. We’re just lucky to come out with a win, that’s what it boils down to. It was a great win for us.”

With the division wrapped up, the Mohawks coaching staff may trot out some unusual lineups in the final two games of the season.

“We’re going to do some different moves and make moves and rest guys the next two or three days so we can be ready for Friday,” Griffin said.

Trey Wingenter will start for Amsterdam tonight against the Adirondack Trailblazers at Shuttleworth Park with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

Amsterdam 4, Mohawk Valley 3

Mohawk Valley000 000 120 – 3 6 1

Amsterdam000 002 101 – 4 4 2

Long, Bray (9) and Peretti; Kalica, Butler (7), Bartholomew (8), Urbanski (8) and Skinner