League champion Mohawks now ranked second in nation

Photo courtesy Amsterdam Mohawks/[email protected]
Just five days ago, the Amsterdam Mohawks captured the 2012 Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League championship. It marked the third summer baseball championship for the Mohawks in four years. Monday, the latest “Summer Top 30” poll was released by Perfect Game and the Amsterdam Mohawks have moved up to number two in the country. The number two ranking is the highest in franchise history for the Mohawks and the highest for any team in the PGCBL. The Newport Gulls, champions of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, are ranked first in the nation.

According to the Perfect Game poll press release, teams are ranked on won-loss record, league dominance, depth and quality of professional-level talent and the overall strength of the league. All of the teams ranked in the top 30 and those under consideration have at least a .500 winning percentage.

To see the press released and the full rankings, compiled by PG’s Allan Simpson, click here.

The Mohawks wrapped up their first PGCBL title last Wednesday with a sweep of the Glens Falls Golden Eagles in the PGCBL Championship Series. Overall, the Mohawks finished the summer with a 39-13 (.750) record. Head coach Keith Griffin’s team set franchise records for overall wins, regular season wins (35) and modern-era winning percentage (post-2003). Among teams that are ranked in the current top 10, Amsterdam is second in winning percentage and fourth in victories.

Most impressively, Amsterdam has been ranked no lower than 15 in each of the nine polls that have been released this summer by Perfect Game. Amsterdam debuted at number 15 in the rankings in the initial poll released on June 20. The Mohawks moved up to number 11 the following week and then broke into the top 10 on July 2. Amsterdam has remained in the top 10 ever since, a run of seven-straight weeks. The Mohawks have also been ranked in the top five in five of nine overall polls. The Mohawks have been outside of the top five just once since July 9.

Since the Mohawks moved to Shuttleworth Park from Schenectady in 2003, the franchise has won five summer league championships (2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2012).  Current head coach Keith Griffin has led the Mohawks to three league titles and over 140 victories over the last four seasons.

The 2012 Mohawks boasted the best pitching staff in the PGCBL. Amsterdam led the league with a 3.34 earned run average and 420 strikeouts. Additionally, the Mohawks paced all pitching staffs with a league record five shutout victories and nine hurlers had an ERA under 3.00.

Chandler Shepherd (Kentucky), a 41st round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2011, led the PGCBL in opponents’ batting average (.154) and tied for the league lead in victories (seven) and earned run average (1.31). Shepherd added two victories in the league playoffs and completed his summer with a 9-0 record, 1.73 earned run average and 64 strikeouts in 67.2 innings pitched.

The starting staff was bolstered by 2011 Minnesota Twins’ draft pick Rocky McCord (Auburn) and Mark Leiter Jr. (NJIT). McCord, a 39th-round selection, went 4-0 with a 1.71 earned run average and 50 strikeouts in 47.1 innings. He tied with Chandler Shepherd for the team lead in strikeouts. Leiter, in his second season with the Mohawks, was 3-0 with a 1.55 earned run average in five starts. A mid-season signing, Leiter fanned 32 and walked 13 in 29.0 innings. In two seasons with Amsterdam, the son of former Major League pitcher Mark Leiter won nine games overall and struck out over 100 batters. In his final start for the Mohawks, Leiter pitched a complete game two-hitter and struck out 13 in a 4-2 victory over the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs in Game 3 of Amsterdam’s opening-round playoff series.

The Amsterdam offense during the regular season finished second among all league teams with 311 runs. In five playoff games, the Mohawks added 36 scores for an average of over seven per postseason contest. Amsterdam reeled off 20 runs in the Championship Series against Glens Falls and plated a league playoff high 13 tallies in Game 2. Outfielder Evan Stephens (Wake Forest) missed nearly half the season due to injury and still led the Mohawks with a .440 batting average in just 25 games. He compiled 37 hits, scored 29 runs and swiped 15 bases. Utility player Zak Colby (Faulkner) finished second in the race for the league batting title. He posted a .375 batting average and socked 57 hits in 43 games. Colby tied for the team lead in walks (24) and logged an impressive .456 on-base percentage.

Slugging center fielder Ed Charlton (NJIT) led the team in home runs (seven) and runs batted in (30). The Amsterdam lead-off man set a team and league record with a 26-game hitting streak that lasted well over a month. Charlton topped all PGCBL swingers with a .590 slugging percentage. The rising sophomore from NJIT belted his eighth home run of the summer during the league playoffs.

As a team, Amsterdam batted .291. Nine Mohawks hit at least .300 and 14 swingers overall boasted a batting average of .250 or higher. Local product Josh Nethaway (UAlbany) was second on the team with 27 RBI during the regular season. He added seven RBI in the playoffs including four in a single game against Mohawk Valley.

Additionally, 11 Mohawks were selected to play in the 2012 PGCBL All-Star Game for Team Griffin, led by Amsterdam head coach Keith Griffin. Team Griffin won the All-Star Game over Team Ebright, 4-0. Giuseppe Papaccio (Seton Hall) of the Mohawks was named the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, Zak Colby played the entire game and of the three Amsterdam pitchers to throw – Chandler Shepherd, Rocky McCord and Mark Leiter Jr. – all three tossed one scoreless inning.

The final Summer Top 30 rankings of 2012 will be released next week.

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