Amsterdam is advancing to the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League Championships for the fourth straight season under manager Keith Griffin.
Mark Leiter, Jr. (NJIT) dominated the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs batters with 13 strikeouts in a complete game two-hitter as Amsterdam won the deciding game three of their playoff series 4-2. Leiter retired the last 11 straight from the sixth through the ninth to finish off the game which included strikeouts of seven out of nine batters in a particularly impressive stretch.
Leiter fired 131 pitches in the gem as he allowed zero earned runs. The son and nephew of former major league pitcher Mark Leiter and Al Leiter clearly got stronger as the game progressed and seemed to feed off the energy of the Shuttleworth Park crowd which roared increasingly louder with each strikeout as he blew the ball past one frustrated Dawgs' hitter after another.
The clinching out came on a ground-ball to Zak Colby (Faulkner, Ala.) who threw out Joe Carcone (Bryant) to officially spark the celebration. The #1 seed Amsterdam Mohawks prevailed and are back in the finals to try to win their third championship in the last four years.
Amsterdam will host game one of the best-of-three championship series Tuesday night at 7:05 against the Glens Falls Golden Eagles. Game two will be Wednesday at Glens Falls and then game three, if necessary, will be back at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam on Thursday.
The Mohawks lost the opening game of the season on Friday night in heartbreaking fashion when the DiamondDawgs rallied from behind to steal a 5-3 victory in 11 innings. But Amsterdam throttled the D-Dawgs on Saturday night 10-1 to even the series setting up the clinching victory for Leiter on Monday back in Amsterdam.
The Mohawks scored three runs in the first inning and looked like they were going to bust the game wide open right from the start.
Jeff Limbaugh (Parkland) hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to score the first tally. Then D.J. Hoagboon (U. Albany) and Brian Ruby (Binghamton) whacked back-to-back rbi singles to advance the score to 3-0.
Scott Heath (Maine) almost extended the lead further with a bases-loaded drive to the right-field corner that fell just short and foul of being a grand-slam or a multi-run double off the fence. Chris Cruz (Cornell) made the nice back-hand catch on the ball over the foul fence. After that DiamondDawgs starting pitcher Jesse Burratt (Baton Rouge C.C.) settled down to throw a great game and keep his team within striking distance.
After three walks and three singles allowed by Burratt in the first, he settled down and relied on some great defense behind him to keep the Mohawks off the board, and also mostly off the bases, for the rest of his stint.
Trailing 3-0, Mohawk Valley made some tremendous plays in the field to prevent Amsterdam from building on their lead.
Mark Stuckey (Marist) made two fine catches in center in the third. Tyler Heck (Union) made a fantastic diving stop at third-base of a Josh Nethaway (U. Albany) smash in the fourth. And more impressive plays were turned in by Chris Cruz (Cornell) in rightfield on a nice running catch in the fifth and by Tom Valichka (Young Harris) on a hot grounder in the sixth.
In the meanwhile, Leiter was showing very little indication of the end-game dominance that was to come. Even though he had not allowed a hit, he appeared to be struggling with his control. He had walked four batters and also hit-by-pitch on two others through his first five innings.
Joe Carcone (Bryant) worked a walk out of Leiter after being given a second-life on a dropped foul pop. With two outs, Chris Cruz (Cornell) hit a mile-high fly just a little way from Ed Charlton (NJIT). But the ball went high over the lights and the Mohawks centerfielder was unable to find it. The ball fell just a few feet away and what appeared to be an inning-ending out in the making turned into an RBI double for Cruz and the first run of the game for the DiamondDawgs.
Jack Morrow (Young Harris) followed with a smash off the fence in left-center for another RBI double and what would end up as the only legitimate base-hit of the entire game for Mohawk Valley.
Amsterdam was able to get a valuable insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning with more typical heads-up baseball by Zak Colby (Faulkner, Ala.). He worked a walk out of relief pitcher Nathan Harrell (Hinds C.C.) and was bunted up to second. Colby was on his toes and ready when a Harrell pitch bounced in front of catcher Jonathon Scott. Colby took off when he saw the pitch was going awry and even though Scott blocked the pitch up the third-base line, Colby was able to slide in safely without a throw. If the runner had frozen to make sure the ball had gone free, he almost certainly would not have even been able to attempt to advance.
Colby then scored easily on another wild pitch and Amsterdam lead 4-2.
With a high pitch-count of 120, Griffin pointed to Leiter again to finish off the game. And the second-year Mohawk who was the first pitcher in league history to strikeout 100 in a PGCBL career, racked up two more whiffs of Scott and Valichka before inducing the opening-round clinching groundout of Joe Carcone to end the series. The DiamondDawgs had rallied from a two-run deficit in the ninth inning for a heartbreaking Amsterdam loss in game one on Friday. But Leiter was ready to make sure there would be no repeat of the late dramatics.
The Mohawks have won five championships in franchise history; 1988, 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010. Last year they lost on their bid for a three-peat on the last day of the championships when they dropped a doubleheader to the eventual champion Newark Pilots.
Now comes a big showdown with perhaps their biggest rival, the Glens Falls Golden Eagles. John Mayotte's team finished in second-place in the PGCBL witha record of 27-20 while Amsterdam was first in the league at 35-12. Glens Falls was the only team to post a winning record against Amsterdam this year as the Golden Eagles won the 2012 season-series 5-3.
Taylor Martin (Kentucky) will be Amsterdam's starting pitcher in game one. Martin went 3-2, 3.7 in the regular season. Martin's last start on Monday, July 30 was his best of the year. In a great pitcher duel, Martin led the Mohawks to a 1-0 win over the Albany Dutchmen by firing seven innings of three-hit shutout ball.
It should be a fantastic championship series. It begins Tuesday night at Shuttleworth Park with game one of the best-of-three finals between Amsterdam and Glens Falls.