Dave Wojeski / For The Recorder 6/5/2014 Amsterdam Assignment Mohawks second baseman Josh Gardiner forces out Newark baserunner Logan Boyher during their opening day game at Shuttleworth Park on Thursday night.
Dave Wojeski / For The Recorder 6/5/2014 Amsterdam Assignment Mohawks pitcher E.J. Ashworth delivers a pitch to a Newark batter during their opening day game at Shuttleworth Park on Thursday night.
Dave Wojeski / For The Recorder 6/5/2014 Amsterdam Assignment Mohawks batter, Brendan Tracy reacts after swinging at a pitch during their opening day game against the Newark Pilots at Shuttleworth Park on Thursday night.
Dave Wojeski / For The Recorder 6/5/2014 Amsterdam Assignment Fonda native Luke Nethaway fields a ground ball during their opening day game against the Newark Pilots at Shuttleworth Park on Thursday night.
By ADAM SHINDER
For all their success at the end of the season, opening night in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League hasn't been very kind to the Amsterdam Mohawks.
Since the league was formed for the 2011 season, the Mohawks haven't won a season opener -- in 2012 and 2013, the games weren't even finished on opening day due to suspensions before the Mohawks lost them at later dates -- and that streak continued Thursday night with a 3-2 loss to the Newark Pilots before 1,860 fans at Shuttleworth Park.
The Mohawks struggled offensively for most of the night, scattering seven hits but leaving 10 runners on base -- and stranding eight of those in scoring position, including the potential tying and winning runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Though some of it was frustrating to Amsterdam coach Keith Griffin, he was confident that Thursday's struggles will be washed over as the team progresses throughout the summer.
"We didn't swing the bat very well, but that's the first night," Griffin said. "We got beat by so many fastballs. Our effort was good, I thought we played hard, I thought it was a pretty clean game, I thought we pitched well enough, I thought we did a lot of things well. We just didn't get the hit."
"I thought everything went fine tonight," he added. "The only that happened tonight was we didn't win."
Jack Czeszewski led the way for Amsterdam out of the ninth spot in the lineup, collecting three singles and a walk in four plate appearances. Kevin Guthrie had the team's lone RBI hit on a double in the third inning, but the Mohawks were silenced after that point until Joey Aiola scored on a passed ball to make it a one-run game in the bottom of the ninth.
Aiola scored with two outs and the bases loaded after a phenomenal at-bat by Guthrie to keep the game going. After a 14-pitch battle that included nine consecutive foul balls, Guthrie worked a walk off Newark reliever B.J. Nobles to load the bases for Jake Salpietro.
"He kept on elevating it a little bit on my -- elevated strikes -- but, I told myself, especially when I took the ball four, 'Let the ball up go,'" Guthrie said.
With Salpietro at the plate, a passed ball allowed Aiola to score and advanced Czeszewski to third and Guthrie to second and the potential tying and winning runs, but a lazy flyball to right field ended the game and sent the Mohawks to their fourth straight season-opening loss.
Andy Ward took the loss for the Mohawks, allowing two runs over two innings in relief of starter E.J. Ashworth. Ward allowed a long solo home run to Newark's Louis Silverio that gave the Pilots a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning, then ran into some unfortunate luck when Braxton Wilks' dribbling grounder kicked off the pitching rubber and slowed down enough to provide an RBI infield single in the sixth.
"Just tough luck on that play," Griffin said.
Ashworth allowed a run on two hits before reaching his Griffin-imposed five-inning limit. The righthander struck out three and walked one. Sidearmer Thomas Hackimer replaced Ward in the eighth inning and threw two scoreless innings of relief.
Michael Springer allowed a run on three hits over six innings to pick up the win for Newark, with four relievers combining to finish off the game.
"The first night's always tough, because timing's tough," Guthrie said. "The pitchers are on point for the most part, and hitters have to work for about a week. I'm not worried about it and I'm not worried about us."
Neither is Griffin, though he's hoping to see improvement tonight when the Mohawks hit the road for a 7 p.m. game against the Elmira Pioneers at Dunn Field.
"I didn't think we swung the bat particularly well, but it's opening night and they're learning how to do some things," Griffin said. "As long as we see some progress tomorrow night, we'll be OK."
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