Gene Twardzik/For The Recorder The Junior Mohawks' Spencer Cotugno fires a pitch during Monday's Game 1 of the Amsterdam Youth Baseball League Minors Division championship series at Isabel's Field.
Gene Twardzik/For The Recorder The Junior Mohawks' Carson Cotugno, right, celebrates with teammate Andrew Spagnola (9) following Monday's Game 1 of the Amsterdam Youth Baseball League Minors Division championship series at Isabel's Field. Spagnola scored the game's winning run on a steal of home plate.
By MICHAEL KELLY
Cappie's was able to keep the Junior Mohawks' best player from delivering in the biggest spot of Game 1 of the Amsterdam Youth Baseball League Minors Division championship series, but there was nothing the squad could do Monday night about the speed of Andrew Spagnola.
With the bases loaded after Cappie's offered a semi-intentional walk to the Mohawks' Carson Cotugno in the bottom of the sixth inning in a tie game, Spagnola took advantage of a wild pitch to steal home -- and the Mohawks stole Game 1, 12-11, at Isabel's Field.
Mohawks head coach Aaron Cotugno said the team's coaches had reminded Spagnola to look for the chance to dart home for a game-ending run, but that reminder was just out of habit.
"Andrew is a very instinctive baseball player," said Aaron Cotugno. "He knows immediately if he can make it."
Spagnola, who went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks atop the Mohawks' lineup, was not as sure of himself. He knew he had a chance to take home on the pitch that went to the backstop, but he admitted his heart was pounding a bit as he approached home plate with two outs.
"I was real nervous," he said.
Moments later, though, the home plate umpire signaled that Spagnola was safe and the Mohawks got to celebrate a comeback victory around their leadoff hitter.
"I was so excited that I won it for the team," Spagnola said.
He had help, too. Besides his sixth-inning walk, Carson Cotugno went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and three RBIs, while Spencer Cotugno went 3-for-3 with a double. Also, Alex Simon and Yandeel Vazquez added hits for the Mohawks.
Game 1's winning club trailed 10-3 after the top of the second inning, but the Mohawks roared back with six runs in their half of the second, and one more run in each of the third, fourth and sixth innings.
"There were some clutch hits in there," Aaron Cotugno said.
Early, though, the contest belonged to Cappie's. The visiting squad collected five runs in each of the first two innings, as Marco Bianco blasted a two-RBI triple, and Kai Brennan and CJ Durinick each had RBI doubles.
But the Mohawks answered with their six-run second inning, which revolved around Carson Cotugno's two-RBI double.
After 19 runs between the teams in the first two innings, pitching and defense took over for both. With the game tied at 11 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Spagnola reached with a one-out single and advanced to third base on Spencer Cotugno's double.
Then, with Carson Cotugno at the plate, Durinick, Cappie's pitcher, emerged from a conference on the mound to throw four wide ones to put the Mohawks' No. 3 hitter on first base.
"It was a little surprising; you don't often see that in [youth baseball]," said Aaron Cotugno. "But I don't think it was the wrong move."
Durinick got the Mohawks' next batter, Vazquez, out courtesy of shortstop Nicolino Bianco's running catch, but Spagnola made his winning dash to the plate during Sal Conti's ensuing at-bat.
While the steal of home plate was the game's deciding play, Aaron Cotugno said Spagnola's scoreless two innings on the mound in the third and fourth were what turned the game for the Mohawks.
"Andrew holding them gave our offense a chance," Aaron Cotugno said.
Carson Cotugno closed the game for the Mohawks, tossing the final two innings.
"I was just trying to strike people out. That's what my dad always tells me to do," said Carson Cotugno, who recorded four of his six outs via strikeout.
Now, the two clubs will return to Isabel's Field today for Game 2 of the three-game series. With one win in their pocket and their pitching lined up for today's game, the Mohawks are a confident bunch.
"I can pitch four more innings and Andrew can pitch four, so we've got all our pitching lined up," said Carson Cotugno. "We're feeling pretty good."
Follow MICHAEL KELLY on Twitter at twitter.com/RecorderMK