By ADAM SHINDER
The Amsterdam Mohawks spent the last five innings of Saturday night's game against the Elmira Pioneers walking on a tightrope. Closer Joe Randall was simply the one who went past the tipping point.
For four innings, three different Amsterdam pitchers had wriggled their way out of threats to the Mohawks' lead, and when the ninth inning came around, head coach Keith Griffin gave the ball to Randall to try and seal the one-run win.
But, Randall never settled in as walks to the first two hitters he faced started a downward spiral into a three-run Pioneers rally, and the Mohawks failed to complete a comeback of their own in the bottom half of the ninth as they dropped a 5-4 decision – the team's fifth one-run loss in eight games this season.
“Tonight, we just gave it away in the bullpen,” Griffin said. “Our starter [Ryan Clark] was tremendous, we played bad defense and they scored two runs on stuff we didn't do right, then we went to our closer and he didn't get it done.”
Nursing a 3-2 lead, Randall started the ninth inning with walks to Christian Santisteban and Zac Bellinger before a double steal while the Mohawks had their corner infielders in position for a bunt put runners at second and third. Randall uncorked a wild pitch to allow the tying run to score, then Taylor Hillson singled through a drawn-in infield to put the Pioneers on top.
Elmira added another run in the inning when an errant throw from Amsterdam catcher Blake Logan allowed Hillson to score on an attempted steal of third base.
“We turned it over to Randall, and Randall just didn't get it done,” Griffin said.
Amsterdam clawed a run back against Elmira closer Tucker Rekucki in the bottom of the ninth on a JaVon Shelby RBI groundout, then the Mohawks loaded the bases with two outs, but Rekucki struck out Jonathan Pryor on a high fastball to send the Mohawks to their third straight loss – this time, after leaving a dozen runners on base.
“We can't hit. I wish we could,” Griffin said. “I wish I had a better story, but I don't have a better story. We don't swing the bat very well, and as a result of that, we play a lot of tough, tight games. There's a lot of things we need to do better that we don't do well.”
The Mohawks managed just four hits against four Elmira pitchers, with their only runs through the first eight innings coming in the third when Jack Czeszewski launched a Logan Salow offering over the rightfield fence and into the Chuctanunda Creek for a three-run home run – the team's first of the season – but a pair of Logan infield singles were the only hits Amsterdam could muster after that point.
“Jack ran into one, but other than that, nobody knocks in a run,” Griffin said. “We have a hard time scoring a run, regardless of how well we pitch.”
Ryan Clark got his first start of the season for the Mohawks and was perfect through his first four innings before the Pioneers loaded the bases with nobody out in the fifth, but a pop-up and a double play got him through unscathed.
Elmira scored twice against reliever John McCarren on a pair of RBI groundouts in the seventh, but siderarmer Thomas Hackimer came out of the bullpen to get through 1 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the Mohawks on top through eight innings.
The Mohawks return to action today with a 5:05 p.m. road game against the Watertown Rams before a doubleheader Monday in Little Falls against the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs.
Follow ADAM SHINDER on Twitter at twitter.com/RecorderShinder