The #3 ranked Amsterdam Mohawks officially clinched a spot in the playoffs and pulled closer to a regular season title in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League with a 4-1 victory over the Newark Pilots on Friday night at Shuttleworth Park.
Improving to 29-8 with their third straight win and eighth in their last 11, Amsterdam has a 10 games lead over the fourth-place Newark Pilots with just 10 games remaining. Newark only has nine games left on their schedule.
The greater focus is on the regular-season crown for Amsterdam. Amsterdam leads second-place Mohawk Valley by 7.5 games with 10 games to go and their Magic Number for locking down the league title now stands at three. Amsterdam can clinch the league crown on Sunday if they get back-to-back wins this weekend.
Assistant Coach Bobby Hisert served as the Mohawks' manager for the second game in a row while Keith Griffin watched from the stands as he served the second game of his suspension stemming from a Tuesday night altercation with an umpire.
Hisert improved to 2-0 as the Mohawks got more great pitching. Mark Leiter, Jr. (NJIT) improved to 3-0 as he lasted six seven tremendous innings of shutout ball allowing just four hits while striking out four.
Leiter became the first pitcher in league history to record 100 career strikeouts when he began the game getting Ben Bostick looking.
Daniel Thorpe (St. Joseph's, Pa.) was also impressive for Newark despite taking his first loss of the year to fall to 5-1. The crafty sidearmer fired a complete-game performance going eight innings and giving up four runs, three earned while limiting the high-power Mohawks' offense to only five hits.
Ed Charlton (NJIT) extended his league-record hitting streak to 21 games with a single in the bottom of the first. Charlton's streak dates back to June 16. He missed 10 days with an injury between July 2-13.
A scary incident took place in the fifth inning while the Mohawks were in the process of a three-run rally that would ultimately be the deciding factor in the game. Giuseppe Papaccio (Seton Hall) for the Mohawks hit a high-fly in no man's land in shallow centerfield. Newark second baseman Josh Perez (Mississippi College) and centerfielder Sean Osterman (St. John Fisher) had a hard collision as both were going for the diving catch.
The game was delayed for 20 minutes while Perez was eventually helped off with his leg injury and was unable to put any weight on his foot. Osterman's situation appeared more serious as he took direct contact to his head. The Pilots' twitter feed reported that he had a broken nose. He was methodically placed on a stretcher and taken off in an ambulance to St. Mary's Health Care. No further update on his condition was available.
When play resumed, the Mohawks rally continued. Amsterdam eventually scored three runs in the frame that began with back-to-back singles by Demarcus Henderson (Mississippi State) and Jeff Limbaugh (Parkland CC). Henderson scored on a gutsy squeeze-bunt by Matt MacDowell (Dartmouth) to make the score 1-0.
The high-pop double by Papaccio that led to the two Newark injuries plated Limbaugh to make it 2-0 and then after play resumed, Zak Colby (Faulkner) reached safely on an error that allowed Papaccio to score.
In the meanwhile, Leiter was just cruising right along mowing down the Pilots batters. He gave up a couple of singles in the top of the fifth when the game was still 0-0 but induced back-to-back outs to end the threat.
Amsterdam's Connor Kaden (Wake Forest) was touched for a run in relief in the eighth inning. Ben Bostick (St. John Fisher) bounced a high-hopping single to right to drive in Joe Landi (Rhode Island) who started the inning with a walk.
Chase Williamson (Auburn) inherited a nasty jam to try to protect the 3-1 lead. The Pilots had the bases-loaded with no outs and were just a hit away from tying or taking the lead. But Williamson thrived in the pressure on his way to his league-leading seventh save. He got back-to-back strikeouts from Tariq Staton (Southern Utah) and Brent Langston (Delta State) and that got a pop-up from Austin Logan (UC Davis) to an uproarious ovation from the Amsterdam fans.
The Mohawks built on their lead in the bottom of the eighth as Thorpe for Newark was finishing off his complete game. Zak Colby drew his second walk of the game, stole second, and then scored on a bad-hop single by Jeff Boehm (Kentucky) that bounced high over Ben Bostick's head at second base.
The Mohawks have won three straight and eight out of 11.
The Newark Pilots have lost three in a row and are clinging to the fourth place position and last playoff spot by just a half-game over fifth place Oneonta and by 1.5 games over sixth-place Albany, both of whom also lost.
Amsterdam travel to Glens Falls Saturday night to take on a Golden Eagles team against whom they are a frustrating 1-4 on the 2012 season. Matt Pirro (Wake Forest) is the scheduled starter for the Mohawks. Amsterdam returns home Sunday at 7:00 to the play Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs in what could be a potential league-title clincher on Bark in the Park Night presented by Country Feed in which fans can bring their dogs to the game.
Newark returns home Saturday night to host Mohawk Valley.
If Amsterdam wins back-to-back games this weekend they will clinch the league crown. On Saturday their magic number would stand at either two or one going into Sunday's showdown against Mohawk Valley. With the league title would also come home-field advantage for both rounds of the PGCBL playoffs. The first-round series against the fourth-place team would be best of three and the championship series well will also be best of three.