The 2023 PGCBL Playoffs kicked off Sunday evening in a big way, with competitive games across the board and the first upset of the tournament.
Elmira Pioneers 7, Jamestown Tarp Skunks 0
The first game of the evening provided the largest margin of victory, as the West’s #2 seed Elmira took care of business over #3 seed Jamestown.
While Elmira’s offense put up seven runs over 10 hits, the biggest headline was Gardner Meeks (Roanoke College). The right-hander from Virginia Beach got just his third start of the summer, and ended up delivering the performance of the year, throwing a two-hit shutout with just one walk and 10 strikeouts to lead Elmira to the West Division Finals.
His battery mate John Schroeder (Florida Atlantic) backed him up with an early lead, matching his regular season home run total with a solo blast over the left-center field fence in the bottom of the first.
Erik Charnetski (Elmira College) powered his own home run to left in the fourth- his first home run of the summer- a three-run bomb that pushed Elmira’s lead to four.
Chartnetski would extend the lead again in the bottom of the sixth, driving a single into right that allowed Kam Levesque (Northern Essex CC) to score. A misplay would allow Chartnetski and Spencer Aubin (UMass-Lowell) to move up an extra base before a wild pitch gave them each another extra 90 feet, and Joe Muzio (Eckerd College) followed with a sacrifice fly to score Chartnetski to make it 7-0.
All the meanwhile, Meeks was cruising. His lone walk came to the third batter of the game, and he only faced more than four batters in an inning once, which was partially not his fault when one of those Jamestown hitters reached via error. He retired the final 16 batters he faced in the contest.
Levesque, the seven hitter, and Charnetski, the 10 hitter, led the way for Elmira, combining to go 5-for-7 with four runs batted in and four runs scored. They added three of the four walks drawn by the Pioneers offense, one of the two doubles and one of the two homers (with the others belonging to Schroeder).
Auburn DoubleDays 4, Batavia Muckdogs 2
The first upset of the 2023 Playoffs came on the other side of the West Division bracket, as the #4 seed DoubleDays took down the #1 seed MuckDogs.
It was another strong pitching performance that played a big role in the other West Division victory. Sam Hough (Bates College) went a season-long seven innings, allowing two hits, two runs (none earned) and two walks with two strikeouts.
Batavia would be the one that took the first lead, scoring their two runs in the second. Matt DeStefano (Stony Brook) got things started with a double down the right field line that brought in Kyle Hetherington (Lipscomb), before the second DoubleDays error of the inning allowed DeStefano to score from second.
After stranding a runner in innings two through five, Carson Gross (Northern Colorado) delivered the game-tying hit, a two-run double in the sixth.
Bobby Stang (Georgia Southern) delivered the game-winning single in the seventh before Michael Whooley (Villanova) scored on Garrett Prosper’s (University of Pittsburgh-Johnston) bases-loaded walk.
Auburn would toss Batavia a number of life vests with a trio of walks and a pair of hit by pitches in the final three innings, but the Muckdogs were unable to register a hit and therefore cash in. Simon Aluko (Charleston Southern) picked up the six out save, striking out for- all via the swinging variety- in his two innings.
The DoubleDays will travel to Elmira- who they just beat on Friday to get into the postseason and knock down the Pioneers from the #1 seed in the playoffs- for a 6:35 contest with a trip to the PGCBL Championship on the line.
Saugerties Stallions 5, Albany Dutchmen 3
The first contest on the East Division side of the playoff bracket saw the #4 seed Stallions defeat the #5 seed Dutchmen.
After three scoreless innings, Damion Kenealy (Polk State) singled in Corey Dowdell (Georgia Southern) after his leadoff double to give Saugerties the first lead. Andrew Amato (Delaware) would add in the fifth and the sixth, scoring on a wild pitch before driving in two with a single in the sixth to make it 4-0.
But the Dutchmen responded in the seventh, loading the bases with just one out. A Stallions error allowed Tyler Kipp (Fairfield) to score and keep the bases loaded, before a single from Nick Plue (Cortland) and walk from Mario Cubello (St. John Fisher) brought Albany back within one.
Saugerties would get one back in the bottom of the seventh, as a double play with the bases loaded allowed Ethan Conrad (Marist) to score and push the lead back up to two.
The insurance would not be needed, as the only offense the Dutchmen could muster in the final two frames was a JT Vance (Mississippi College) double in the eighth.
Amato would go 2-for-4 with two runs batted in, a run scored, a double, and a walk. Stallions starter Will Robbins (Georgia Southern) would continue the league wide trend with a season-long start of his own, going 6.1 solid with a season-high seven strikeouts en route to picking up his second victory.
Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs 8, Glens Falls Dragons 5
The #3 seed in the East would make sure that unlike their West Division counterparts it would be all chalk on the first night of the PGCBL Playoffs, as fireworks on the final play of the final game of the evening had the DiamondDawgs defeating the #6 seed Dragons.
Mohawk Valley would waste no time getting out to an early lead. Nick Sturino (Fairfield) would score on a wild pitch in the first, and a two-run home run off the bat of Brady Shannon (UCF) and RBI single from Jaden Ross (USF) would make it 4-0 after two.
It would be deja vu for the DiamondDawgs in the fourth, as Ross would pick up another RBI single and Sturino would score on another wild pitch. Justin Hackett (Bryant) would also score on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Sturino, and Mohawk Valley’s lead was 7-0. Mark Darakjy (St. Bonaventure) added on in the seventh with an RBI double.
Glens Falls would make it a game in the ninth however.
Alex Sandell (Holy Cross) led off with a double, and Johan Sandoval (Bryant and Stratton) would follow with a single to bring him in. Adrian Caron (Amherst College) would take a walk and Odilio Cespedes (Bryant and Stratton) hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Jack Griffin (St. Rose) would loft a sacrifice fly to score Sandoval, making it 8-2.
Joe Harwood (Bryant and Stratton) would come up with a pinch-hit RBI single to keep the line moving before Nick Marola (Coker University) also took a hit by pitch to reload the bases. A fielder’s choice off the bat of Michael Pratte (University of Maine) brought Cespedes in and put runners at the corners, making it 8-4. Anthony Macarelli (Ithaca) followed with a double to left to score Harwood, but Pratte was called out on a play at the plate to bring an end to the rally and the ballgame.
The 6-9 in the DiamondDawgs order of Darakjy, Shannon, Hackett, and Ross, would combine to go 6-for-14 with five (of six) runs driven in and four (of eight) runs scored. They would also combine for all three of Mohawk Valley’s doubles, the home run, and a walk.
Not to be overshadowed, Mohawk Valley starter Colton Trisch (George Washington) also had a season-long outing. The lefty from Bangor, Maine, went seven shutout innings, allowing two hits and four walks to go with his five strikeouts. Bryan Camaj (Bryant and Stratton) was strong out of the bullpen for Glens Falls, allowing just one hit, one walk, and one run in his three innings where he struck out five.
Results from night one on the East Division side set up the Divisional Semis Monday night: the 4-seeded Stallions will travel to Amsterdam to face the #1 Mohawks (6:35) and the 3-seeded DiamondDawgs to Utica to challenge the #2 Blue Sox (6:45).