Mohawks look to defend PGCBL title

AMSTERDAM – In the four-year history of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, the Amsterdam Mohawks have reached the championship series in all four years.

The Mohawks have won the title in all but one of those years – 2011.

In 2011, the Mohawks won the first game of the best-of-three championship series before losing the final two games of the series to Newark.

The teams meet again this year, as the Mohawks will host Newark tonight in the first game at Shuttleworth Park at 6:35 p.m.

Since losing the inaugural PGCBL title to Newark, the Mohawks have won the last two crowns.

Newark advanced to the title series with a 5-3 win over Elmira in the West Division Final on Tuesday, winning the series 2-1.

Amsterdam has been off since Friday, after completing a two-game sweep of Mohawk Valley to win the East Division crown.

Both teams topped their divisions during the regular season. The Mohawks set a PGCBL record with 36 wins, while Newark set a club record with 27 wins.

Amsterdam led the league in both batting average and ERA and Newark finished third in the league in both categories. At Shuttleworth Park this year, the Mohawks went 18-5. Newark was just 11-10 on the road, but did win a win-or-go-home game in Elmira to force a decisive third game in the West Division Finals. Amsterdam is 2-0 this postseason and Newark is 2-1.

The second game of the series is slated for Thursday at Newark, while the third game, if necessary, will be played at Shuttleworth Park on Friday.

All-league team

Amsterdam had six players named to the PGCBL all-league team.

Pitchers Taylor Blatch and E.J. Ashworth, second baseman Josh Gardiner, outfielders John Razzino and Marcus Carson, and relief pitcher Thomas Hackimer were all named first-team all-league for Amsterdam, which had a league-high six selections.

Gardiner, who also was named PGCBL Player of the Year, led the PGCBL with a .543 on-base percentage and finished second in the league with a .415 batting average. Gardiner’s .543 on-base percentage set a new league record, topping the .497 marks of 2013 PGCBL Player of the Year John Nogowski of Amsterdam and the 2012 PGCBL Player of the Year Ross Kivett of Glens Falls.

Razzino hit .370 for the Mohawks. The .370 batting average was the third highest in the PCGBL, and Razzino’s five home runs were tied for the second most in the league. An overall OPS of .960 was the second highest on the 36-11 Amsterdam team. Razzino drove in 34 runs, second most in the league, and led the league with 23 stolen bases in 26 attempts. During scout day activities at the 2014 PGCBL All-Star Game, Razzino ran the fastest 60-yard dash time (6.4 seconds).

Carson hit .346 this season for Amsterdam.

The .346 mark was the fourth highest in the PGCBL, and his 38 runs scored were tied for the second most in the league. Carson stole 14 bases in 18 attempts and had 57 total bases. As the leadoff man, Carson reached base in 32 of 67 opportunities, good for a .478 mark.

Blatch is 5-1 on the season for the Mohawks, posting a 1.80 earned run average in seven starts and holding opposing hitters to a .163 batting average. The right-hander struck out 37 batters in 40 innings pitched. On July 27, Blatch became the second pitcher in PGCBL history to throw a no-hitter. He did so against the Utica Brewers in game one of a doubleheader.

Ashworth is 5-0 on the season for Amsterdam, with an ERA of 2.02, which was the third lowest in the PGCBL among qualified pitchers. The right-hander started nine games and led the Mohawks with 49 innings pitched. He struck out 45 batters in those 49 innings, second most in the league. Opponents hit just .194 off Ashworth.

Hackimer registered a 0.98 ERA for the Amsterdam Mohawks, appearing in 17 games, earning six saves and going 3-0 for the Mohawks. In 27 2/3 innings, he struck out 44 batters, good for a 14.31-strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio. Opponents hit just .138 off Hackimer and right-handed batters went just 7-for-63 (.111).

Hackimer only gave up two extra base hits all season.

Also named to the first team were Watertown’s Matt Diorio (catcher) and Jon Escobar (relief pitcher); Elmira’s Christian Santisteban (first base), T.J. Dixon (outfielder), Zac Bellinger (utility/designated hitter) and Bryson Hough (pitcher); Newark’s Tanner Giesel (shortstop) and Jayson Yano (pitcher); Mohawk Valley’s Zach Collett (third base); and Adirondack’s Mike Carter (outfield). Santisteban was the only unanimous selection.

In addition to its six first-team selections, the Mohawks also had two players named to the second team.

Third baseman Thomas Kain and relief pitcher Zack Breen earned second-team honors for the Mohawks.

Coach of the Year

Newark coach Mike Armstrong was named PGCBL Coach of the Year.

Armstrong guided the Pilots to a franchise PGCBL record 27 wins. Newark had previously won 26 games in both 2012 and 2011, respectively. Newark won the West Division with a 27-19 record, a game and a half better than the Elmira Pioneers. The 27-19 mark was the second best in the PGCBL, trailing only the Amsterdam Mohawks.

Newark played in nine one-run games, going 6-3 in those games. When the Pilots scored in the first inning, they went 12-4. The Armstrong-led squad was particularly tough at home, going 16-9 at Colburn Park.

In 46 games, Newark hit .271 as a team, the third highest batting average in the PGCBL. On the mound, the Pilots had the third lowest ERA in the league at 3.93.

On defense, Newark had a .964 fielding percentage, the second highest in the league.

This season was Armstrong’s second with the Pilots.

In 2013, he led Newark to a 22-25 record, good for second place in the West Division. Armstrong joined the Pilots as an assistant coach in 2012. He worked under head coach Chris Ebright, who guided the Pilots to the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League championship in 2011. Armstrong is an assistant baseball coach at Amherst (Mass.) College.

2014 PGCBL All-League Team

First Team

C: Matt Diorio (Watertown)

1B: Christian Santisteban (Elmira)

2B: Josh Gardiner (Amsterdam)

SS: Tanner Giesel (Newark)

3B: Zach Collett (Mohawk Valley)

OF: Mike Carter (Adirondack)

OF: T.J. Dixon (Elmira)

OF: John Razzino (Amsterdam)

OF: Marcus Carson (Amsterdam)

UT/DH: Zac Bellinger (Elmira)

SP: Taylor Blatch (Amsterdam)

SP: Bryson Hough (Elmira)

SP: Jayson Yano (Newark)

SP: E.J. Ashworth (Amsterdam)

RP: Jon Escobar (Watertown)

RP: Thomas Hackimer (Amsterdam)

Second Team

C: Samm Wiggins (Newark)

1B: Brennan Price (Glens Falls)

2B: Jack Gerstenmaier (Newark)

SS: Colin Hawk (Mohawk Valley)

3B: Thomas Kain (Amsterdam)

OF: Jayson Sullivan (Mohawk Valley)

OF: Sean Aspinall (Albany)

OF: Chris Kalousidian (Elmira)

OF: Cody Burton (Utica)

UT/DH: Tommy Wagner (Newark)

SP: Mitch Sewald (Watertown)

SP: Ed Lewicki (Mohawk Valley)

SP: Kevin Cowan (Glens Falls)

RP: Tyler Ehlers (Glens Falls)

RP: Travis Laitar (Newark)

RP: Zack Breen (Amsterdam)