Gene Twardzik/For The Recorder Carson Cotugno celebrates after getting the final out of the Juniors Mohawks' 7-5 victory over Cappies in the second and deciding game of the Minors Division best-of-3 championship series Tuesday night at Isabel's Field.
Gene Twardzik/For The Recorder The Junior Mohawks won the Amsterdam Youth Baseball League Minors Division championship at Isabel's Field on Tuesday night. Front row, from left to right, Spencer Cotugno, Sal Conti, Andrew Spagnola, Tyler Rodecker, Anthony Antonelli and Santonio Smuller. Back row, Alex Simon, Yondell Vasquez, head coach Aaron Cotugno, Carson Cotugno, Larry Guisti, Matthew Sawitski, coach Larry Guisti Sr. and coach Steve Conti.
By MICHAEL KELLY
With his club down four runs heading into the sixth inning of Monday's Game 2 of the Amsterdam Youth Baseball League Minors Division championship series, the Junior Mohawks' Spencer Cotugno never lost faith.
"We came back in our last game, so I thought maybe we get could get another rally going and win this one, too," he said.
He was right, as the Mohawks used a four-run sixth inning and two more in the seventh to topple Cappie's, 7-5, and take the best-of-3 championship series, 2-0.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Mohawks head coach Aaron Cotugno said after the game at Isabel's Field.
That's putting it mildly. Cappie's pitchers kept the Mohawks to a lone run through the game's first five innings and compiled a whopping 17 strikeouts in the contest. Along with the pitching and solid defense, Cappie's had put together a 5-1 lead heading into the final inning on the strength of a four-run fourth inning, in which Marco Bianco, Kyle Bottisti and Kai Brennan each had RBIs.
But the Mohawks -- who won Game 1 of the series, 12-11, after falling behind seven runs early in the contest -- refused to go quietly in the sixth inning.
"We talked to the boys about taking a strike, making the pitcher work, because they realized ... it took more than one run at that point," Aaron Cotugno said.
Matthew Sawitzki got the Mohawks started with a leadoff walk, and Andrew Spagnola followed with another walk. Then, Spencer Cotugno singled to load the bases for his big brother. Promptly, Carson Cotugno swatted a double to centerfield, which scored two runs.
After Yandeel Vazquez -- who had an RBI single in the fourth inning -- struck out, Sal Conti stepped to the dish for the Mohawks ready to play the role of hero.
Aaron Cotugno said Conti had struggled a bit in the past couple weeks, but the coach said he knew Conti was ready to give his at-bat his best effort.
"And, he certainly gave it a shot," Cotugno said.
Conti laced an extra-base hit into the outfield, plating two runs to tie up the score. The Mohawks' No. 5 hitter said the pitch was a low one and he attacked it to collect his first hit of the game.
"It was kind of my pitch," Conti said.
The rest of the Mohawks' inning ended without further damage, but the squad's comeback could not be derailed. After a quick trip into the field, the Mohawks got back into their dugout for their game-winning at-bats.
The club's first two batters went down on strikes, leaving things up to Santino Smullen.
"I was kind of confident and nervous at the same time," he said. "I thought I might strike out, but I thought I could get a hit, too."
Instead, Smullen walked, and Sawitzki and Spagnola followed his lead and also earned free passes.
That left things up to Spencer Cotugno, who said he wanted to be patient in the big moment.
"I didn't want to swing at any bad pitches because it could have caused us a strikeout or even the game," he said.
Spencer Cotugno showed strong discipline at the plate and earned a walk, allowing Smullen to head home for what turned out to be the game-winning run. Carson Cotugno also walked a batter later to score Sawitzki for the game's final run.
Carson Cotugno then took to the mound for his second inning of work, and swiftly struck out the side to give the Mohawks the title. Aaron Cotugno said it had been a tough choice to bring Carson Cotugno into a tie game with a potential Game 3 looming Friday, but he breathed a sigh of relief once his club went ahead.
"Once we had the lead, I knew I'd made the right choice," said Aaron Cotugno, whose son struck out five batters in his two innings.
Besides his pitching line, Carson Cotugno was 2-for-3 with a walk, three RBIs and scored two runs to lead the Mohawks. Spencer Cotugno added a hit besides his two walks, while Spagnola also had two walks and pitched three scoreless innings. Tyler Rodecker walked twice for the squad.
Spencer Cotugno pitched one inning and allowed four runs, while Vazquez allowed one run in one inning for the Mohawks.
For Cappie's, Tuesday's loss came in heartbreaking fashion. The club fought hard during the two-day series, but had early leads evaporate late in each contest against the Mohawks, which also finished in first place in the regular season.
Aaron Cotugno said Cappie's had given his bunch all it could handle.
"It's hard to beat the same team several times," he said. "They're obviously a very good team."
Marco Bianco, Nicolino Bianco and CJ Durinick did the pitching for Cappie's, while Durinick went 2-for-3 with a run scored to lead the club's offense. Also chipping in for the squad's offense with hits were Marco Bianco, Kai Brennan and PJ Ferris.
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