The Amsterdam Mohawks have repeated as champions of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League with a 7-3 victory over the Elmira Pioneers in the deciding game of the Best of 3 Championship Series.
A raucous crowd of 1,400 packed Shuttleworth Park to cheer Keith Griffin's fourth league title in five years as manager of the Mohawks.
It was the first time for "Griff" to celebrate a championship on his home turf. The championship is the seventh all-time in Mohawks'
franchise history and their sixth all-time since moving to Amsterdam (from Schenectedy) in 2003.
Handshakes and hugs were shared all around after the big pile-on celebration following Mike Urbanski (Binghamton) inducing a game-ending and championship clinching fly out to left fielder Jordan Ebert (Auburn). And many last pictures in Mohawks jerseys were taken of the new friendships and bonds that developed for the team in the quick two-month season as the players will now head out in their various directions to prepare for their upcoming collegiate year.
Three players on the Amsterdam team get to call themselves repeat champions. Ed Charlton (NJIT), Brian Ruby (Binghamton) and Chris Kalica (St. John's) all posed with the winning trophy last year when Amsterdam finished a championship sweep at Glens Falls and did so again on this night of celebration in Amsterdam.
"They put together a great organization both on the field and off the field," said league President Jeff Kunion to the Shuttleworth Park crowd in a post-game presentation. "And it gives me great pleasure once again to present the PGCBL Championship Trophy to owner Brian Spagnola and head coach Keith Griffin and the Amsterdam Mohawks. Let's hear it!"
"We got off to a rough start," manager Keith Griffin said to reporters after another Gatorade shower reflecting on the season that was. "We didn't play very well...is an understatement. It was very difficult trying to get them to do what we wanted them to do. But we turned the corner and the guys did a nice job. And at the end we're the best team in the league and all the credit goes to our players."
"It's the best thing in the world," Griffin said of winning yet another championship.
Colonie native Matt Snyder (Temple, 2013-14) carried a shutout into the ninth inning scattering six hits in his season swan-song and then handed the ball off to Griff a couple batters into the ninth to a huge ovation from the crowd and many hugs from his teammates.
Brian Ruby (Binghamton) was 3-for-4 with three RBIs. His single with the bases loaded in the fifth inning broke a scoreless tie and was the beginning of a big five-run rally knocking out Elmira starter Parker Curry (Ithaca) who had kept Amsterdam off the board through his first four innings.
Kevin Guthrie (Brown) grounded out to plate another and Kyle Barrett
(Kentucky) later singled to left bringing in two more and making it 4-0. John Nogowski (Florida State) reached on an error allowing another run to score and Amsterdam held a seemingly comfortable 5-0 lead.
But the Mohawks had just held a 5-0 lead on the road at Elmira almost
24 hours earlier in Game 2 and were unable to close out the victory.
This time, just a half-inning after Amsterdam's five-run rally in Game 3, it appeared Elmira yet again entertained ideas of pulling off a similar comeback.
The Pioneers had the bases loaded in the top of the sixth with one out and were just one base-hit away from climbing back into contention in the ball game. Chris Knott (East Strousburg) had singled, Ryan Plantier (Cornell) had doubled and Dave Hoffman (Siena) drew a walk for the big threat. But Brian Bashara (Old Dominion) hit a spinning hopper to the first-base side of the pitchers' mound. Matt Snyder made a lunging effort for it but fell down in the process. While rolling into a sitting position and without much leverage, he barely got a weak one-hop throw to the side of the plate which catcher Kevin Guthrie (Brown) was able to handle for the force-out. Then Snyder induced a threat-killing fly out of Colby Gee (Ithaca) as Elmira left the bases loaded.
After that it was just a matter of time. Brian Ruby collected RBI singles in the sixth and eighth innings to stretch the lead to 7-0. A close play at first on an infield single by Amsterdam's Josh Gardiner
(Radford) drew the rage of Pioneers shortstop Parker Curry (Samford) and their manager Matt Burch with both receiving ejections as they expressed their frustration on the last night of the year.
Mike Urbanski allowed three unearned runs in the ninth inning after replacing Snyder for the 7-3 final. And then it was onto a giant pile-on in front of the pitchers' mound with Keith Griffin racing in when he deemed things a little bit safer so he could similarly flop himself onto the top of the craziness.
It is a tremendous ending to another terrific season of collegiate summer-league ball in the Rug City. A contingent of players mostly unfamiliar with each other coming from all different areas of the country started off the season two months ago with a 2-6 record that would later be later 5-9. But under Griff's guidance, the team gelled, improved, and got together after that. Since June 22, the Mohawks went
30-9 which included a 4-2 run in the post-season.
The Mohawks finished the regular season with the best overall record in the league at 31-16 including a 10-game streak of wins at the end and a 14-1 run to climb from fourth place in the division all the way to the top spot. Amsterdam's overall mark on the year was 35-18 including the six post-season games.
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