The Mohawk’s third consecutive run to the brink of another league title has become quite the enigma. The 2011 edition of the Amsterdam baseball club has been stripped of many of its top players throughout the second half of the summer – headed into the championship series their roster features a mere 18 names. So when the Mohawks fell behind 2-0 in Game One of the PGCBL title series in Newark, the deficit felt like a mole hill. Behind five and two thirds innings from Mark Leiter (NJIT) and a lock-down performance from its bullpen, the Mohawks carried a 5-2 victory back to Amsterdam.
After a first round sweep of the Golden Eagles over the weekend, the Mohawks pitching staff was aligned for the best-of-three series with the West Division Champion Pilots. Leiter, the league’s strikeout king, took the ball and helped produce a game one victory for the visitors. While the righty was not at his sharpest on Wednesday night, he was able to overcome two walks and a season-high five hit batters to pick up the victory.
After the Hawks defense allowed two unearned runs in the second inning, Amsterdam’s offense, in the top of the third, capitalized on one of the Pilot’s four Game One errors. Zach Shank (Marist) rolled a slow grounder toward third baseman Jacob Starnes who could not handle the opportunity and Shank was aboard. Two batters later, Luke Maile (Kentucky) raked a monster home run over the dead-away centerfield fence and the game was knotted at two.
The Mohawks continued to find ways to score when in the fifth inning Andrew Green (East Tennessee State) was hit by a pitch – one of seven combined hit batters in the game – to start the frame. After Mike Saunders walked a couple of hitters to load the bases, Green made an aggressive dash for home when a pitch squirted past catcher Adam Grace to provide the Mohawks with their first lead of the game, 3-2.
Leiter ran into more trouble in the sixth when he hit the first two batters of the inning. The sophomore out of New Jersey Institute of Technology followed with a couple of quick outs to turn the lineup back over to left handed hitting Luke Swenson. With the lefty coming to the plate, Mohawks coach Keith Griffin called on southpaw Will Kendall (Aubrun), the rising sophomore who closed the regular season with 17 consecutive innings pitched without allowing an earned run. The move quickly paid off when Kendall froze Swenson with an outside fastball for a called third strike to suffocate a major threat.
The Mohawks extended their one-run lead in the top of the eighth inning after Brad Picha (Paris J.C.) doubled, Matt Mack (Radford) was hit by a pitch, and Josh Alexander (Utah) cleaned the bases with a triple into the left-centerfield gap – Alexander has recorded two hits in each of the Hawks first three postseason games.
The lead was more than enough for the Mohawks debilitating bullpen. Derrick Brewer (Radford) has owned Mohawk eighth innings all season and Wednesday was no different. The righty retired the side in order including a strikeout of Starnes as he breezed through the eighth.
A late Mohawks lead would not be complete without an Abram Williams (Radford) appearance. The Hawks ninth inning hero trotted in from the bullpen in Game One and swerved clear of a two-out double from Swenson to lock down another victory and give the Hawks a commanding 1-0 series advantage.
The Mohawks will host Game Two at Shuttleworth Park on Thursday evening. The first pitch will be at 5:30, if the Pilots win the game the teams will play the second half of a double-header approximately 20 minutes after the final pitch of game one.
You can hear the game on amsterdammohawks.com by clicking on the blue and white TEAMLINE link on the right side of the homepage.