AMSTERDAM – The Elmira Pioneers were not the only ones who benefitted from sloppy play by the Amsterdam Mohawks in Game 2 of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball championship series.
The Pioneers won the game 9-7 to tie the series and send it back to Shuttleworth Park for the third and deciding game. The Elmira victory also gave the Amsterdam fans the opportunity for the first time to watch their team clinch the championship on their home turf.
And they did it.
Before a crowd of 1,400 fans, the Mohawks got an outstanding pitching performance from Matt Snyder and backed it up with timely hitting to secure their second-straight PGCBL title with a 7-3 victory.
“It’s the best thing in the world,” said Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin after receiving the traditional dousing with a bucket of ice water. “We didn’t play very well [at the start of the season]. It was very difficult to get [the players] to do what we wanted them to do. But we turned the corner and the guys did a nice job. At the end, we are the best team in the league and all the credit goes to the players.”
The Mohawks’ rise from the cellar to the penthouse started in mid-June after opening the season with a 5-9 record. The team turned the season around with a 10-game win streak in a 14-1 run to climb out of the cellar into the lead in the PGCBL East and finish the regular season with a 31-16 record. The run continued through the postseason where Amsterdam posted a 4-2 record and claimed its fourth championship in five seasons under the leadership of Griffin.
Snyder and Elmira starter Jasper Adams waged a pitching duel early in Thursday’s deciding game. Adams allowed only two hits through the first four innings and was helped out by a double play in the top of the second.
Snyder, who will pitch next season at Temple after throwing for Fulton-Montgomery Community College this past season, scattered three hits through his first five innings.
Amsterdam broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth.
Josh Gardiner led off the inning with a single and Jordan Ebert reached on an error. John Sansone walked, loading the bases for Brian Ruby, and the second-year Mohawk responded with an RBI single.
Ebert crossed the plate on Kevin Guthrie’s ground out to up the score to 2-0.
The Mohawks weren’t done. Kyle Barrett drove a single through the right side, scoring Sansone and Ruby.
Barrett advanced to second on a throw to the plate before stealing third and scoring when John Nogowski’s grounder to third was bobbled, forcing a hurried throw across the diamond.
The Pioneers fought back in the top of the sixth.
With one out, Chris Knott singled and Ryan Plantier followed with a double before Dave Hoffman drew a walk to load the bases.
The Pioneers could not capitalize on the situation, as Snyder sprawled to gather in a grounder up the middle by Brian Bashara. Snyder scrambled and flipped the ball to Guthrie, who made a back-handed scoop to force Knott at the plate.
Snyder got out of the jam by getting Colby Gee to pop out to second to keep the shutout going.
Amsterdam stretched its lead in the top of the sixth when Gardiner led off with a single, stole second and third before racing home on Ruby’s single to build the lead to 6-0.
Gardiner also scored the Mohawks’ seventh run in the bottom of the eighth after legging out a close play on a grounder to short. The safe call was argued by shortstop Parker Curry and Pioneers manager Dave Hoffman, who was ejected from the game.
Elmira prevented the shut out in the top of the ninth as it took advantage of two Amsterdam errors in the inning to put three runs on the board before Ebert closed the glove on Jim Tunison’s fly ball to left field for the final out of the series and setting off a celebration on the pitcher’s mound by the champion Mohawks.
The players followed their celebration with a trip around Shuttleworth Park, giving high fives to all the fans lining the fence before Griffin and Mohawks owner and President Brian Spagnola stepped to home plate to receive the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League championship trophy from league President Jeff Kunion.
PGCBL Championship Series (Game 3)
Amsterdam 7, Elmira 3
Elmira000 000 003 – 3 8 3
Amsterdam000 051 01x – 7 11 2
Adams, Diorio (5), Roma (7), Ciango (8) and Hoffman; Snyder, Urbanski (9) and Guthrie, Skinner (9).