The Amsterdam Mohawks are now one victory away from back-to-back titles in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League and Keith Griffin is on the verge of four championships in the last five years.
Amsterdam won 6-3 over the Elmira Pioneers in the opener of the Best of 3 PGCBL Championship Series at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam on Tuesday night.
The Mohawks will try to clinch the title on Wednesday night at Dunn Field in Elmira. If the Pioneers win on Wednesday to force a Game 3 then the two teams will return to Shuttleworth Park on Thursday night for the finale. Amsterdam is in the league championship series for the fifth consecutive season as they try to make it 4-for-5.
Dylan Dwyer (Kentucky) struck out a Mohawks season-high 11 batters in his six innings of work while John Sansone (Florida State) and Keith Skinner (Raritan Valley C.C.) both delivered two-run knocks in the come-from-behind effort. Skinner finished the night 3-for-4 with a two-run double.
Dwyer was having some difficulty with his control but another visit to the mound by head coach Keith Griffin helped get him on track.
"He told me I needed to start getting ahead which is true and I just couldn't find it out of the wind-up," Dwyer said. "So I started going out of the stretch. Some of those times you just can't find it but you really just have to get ahead in the count. When I was ahead I just kept pounding off-speed because they just weren't hitting it. And when it was 0-0 or 0-1 it was like working backwards which is what really got them off-balance."
"We pitched well. I thought Dwyer was good and our bullpen was good,"
Keith Griffin said. "It was a good win for us."
Elmira held a 2-0 lead into the sixth inning thanks to a strong performance from starter Victor Diaz (Old Dominion) who had retired 10 in a row before Amsterdam put together a two-out rally in the sixth with a couple of little breaks along the way. Two different times, great efforts by Elmira infielders almost got them out of the inning with the lead preserved. But they fell just short of recording the final out as Amsterdam rallied for three runs in the pivotal frame.
Sansone's two-run hit to give Amsterdam the lead was almost caught on a tremendous leaping try by second baseman Brian Bashara (Old Dominion).
Diaz finished with 5.2 innings allowing seven hits and three earned runs while striking out five in the no decision.
Chris Knott (East Stroudsburg) socked a solo home run in the fourth inning for the Pioneers and went 2-for-4. Chris Kalousdian (Manhattan) had a double and a run scored.
Knott's homer in the fourth staked the visiting Pioneers to the initial 1-0 lead. And Taylor Hillson (Mansfield) would reach on a fielder's choice in the fifth, steal second base, and then score on a single by Parker Curry (Samford) pushing Elmira's advantage to 2-0.
The Mohawks finally got to Victor Diaz in the sixth. With two outs and Diaz having retired the last 10 straight, John Nogowski (Florida
State) hit a sharp grounder that kicked off the glove of third baseman Hillson for an infield single. Then pinch hitter Devin Wenzel
(Cincinnati) blooped a single to shallow right which set up Josh Gardiner (Radford) beating out an infield hit on a sharp grounder to the hole at short that was almost turned into the final out on a fine effort by Parker Curry.
But Gardiner was safe on the single allowing Nogowski to score the first Mohawks' run and a wild throw on the play advanced the runners to second and third.
After Ed Charlton (NJIT) drew a walk it was John Sansone's turn. His line drive was almost caught by second baseman Brian Bashara who timed his leap perfectly and got a glove on the screamer. But Sansone's knock had too much on it for him to handle to record the final out as the ball glanced off his and went into the outfield for a two-run single.
Elmira came back to the score at 3-3 in the top of the seventh inning beginning with a two-out double by Chris Kalousdian who would score on a single to left by Parker Curry. Chris Kalica (St. John's) replaced Zach Breen (Schenectedy County C.C.) to strike out Ryan Plantier
(Cornell) for the final out of the Elmira seventh as the Pioneers left two more potential go-ahead runners on base.
The Mohawks broke the tie in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI single by John Nogowski playing Kyle Barrett (Kentucky) who had reached on a fielder's choice and stolen second.
Amsterdam gave themselves a little breathing room in the eighth after walks by Ed Charlton and Brian Ruby set up Keith Skinner's two-run double to the left-field corner that plated both runners. After Charlton had stolen second base, Elmira skipper Matt Burch opted to intentionally walk Ruby to set up a lefty-vs-lefty matchup with his pitcher Zach Bican (Ithaca) against Skinner. But Skinner wasn't bothered in the least and delivered the big hit to give the Mohawks a lead larger than one for the first time all night.
"I've always been pretty good at hitting lefties, Skinner said. "My Dad is a lefty so I've been seeing lefty batting practice my entire life. It's not that much different than righties."
"I wasn't really that big of an offensive part of the team the first half of the season," Skinner said. "I was joking around in the last at bat with my coach. I said 'if he throws me a fastball I'm gonna put it over the fence.' I didn't put it over the fence but I'll take what happened."
Hard-throwing righty Mike Urbanski (Binghamton) put away the Pioneers in order including back-to-back strike outs at the end to earn the save.
The Mohawks look to complete the championship series sweep on Wednesday night at Dunn Field in Elmira. Chris Kalica (St. John's) has been announced as the starter. Normally a reliever, Kalica has appeared in all four of the Mohawks' post-season games so far.
Amsterdam swept a two-game championship series over Elmira on August 6 and August 7 of 2010. The Mohawks won Game 1 at Shuttleworth Park 17-0 that year and then clinched at Dunn Field 4-0. The Mohawks will try to clinch at Dunn Field again exactly three years later.
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