Dave Wojeski/For The Recorder Amsterdam Mohawks second baseman Josh Gardiner dives safely back to first base before the tag of Watertown's Duston Exford during Thursday's game at Shuttleworth Park.
Dave Wojesk/For The Recorder Amsterdam Mohawks third baseman Thomas Kain dives for a line drive during Thursday's game against the Watertown Rams at Shuttleworth Park.
Dave Wojeski/For The Recorder Amsterdam Mohawks outfielder John Razzino (20) is greeted by teammate Andy Ward after scoring in the bottom of the third inning against Watertown on Thursday night at Shuttleworth Park.
By MICHAEL KELLY
In a meeting of first-place teams, Thursday night's PGCBL contest at Shuttleworth Park was decided quickly and decisively.
The East Division-leading Amsterdam Mohawks were better in every facet of the game, as the squad picked up its ninth win in a row with a convincing 10-0 victory against the West Division-leading Watertown Rams.
"When a team is going like that, it's hard to stop them," said Watertown head coach Paul Alteri. "Obviously, they're on a big roll right now and they're the best team around."
Nine different Mohawks (21-7) recorded hits, while starting pitcher Connor Johnstone made most of his club's offensive output superfluous in nature. The right-hander picked up his second win of the season, tossing six innings of shutout ball, while striking out seven against two hits and no walks.
"That was a great pitched game," said Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin, wearing his 2012 championship ring on his left hand. "Johnstone was incredible."
While Johnstone never labored in the matchup with Watertown (17-12), the righty did take a few innings to find command of his changeup.
"But I found it, got my tempo going and found a groove," Johnstone said.
Helping Johnstone -- and Mohawks relievers Thomas Hackimer and Brandon Whitmore -- out in a big way was shortstop Joey Aiola. The infielder recorded 11 assists on the evening, handling one attempt after another with ease.
"When you know that if a ball gets over to him and he's going to make the play regardless, it's huge because then you can throw any pitch you want," Johnstone said.
"He's a very, very sure-handed infielder," said Griffin. "We play him at short and second, and he does it all very well."
At some points, it was comical how many of Watertown's batted balls were finding their way to Aiola. The shortstop had four innings in which he recorded two assists, and only two frames in which he did not see a play.
"It was unbelievable," he said. "Guys were making jokes all night long because it felt like if it wasn't a strikeout, it was coming to me."
The Mohawks got things started quickly on offense, as the squad scored six runs between its first three frames of work. First baseman Joe Purritano delivered the big blow with an RBI double in the third inning, while three Watertown errors contributed in a major way toward the Mohawks' first couple runs.
Watertown starter Sean Rackoski took the loss for the Rams, allowing seven runs (four earned) in seven innings of work. The lanky righty struck out four and walked one on a night where the Mohawks collected 13 hits.
"I thought he threw well," said Alteri. "But [the Mohawks batters] were better."
Amsterdam added its seventh run of the game in the seventh inning, and the squad added three more in the eighth. Collecting two hits apiece for the Mohawks were center fielder Marcus Carson, right fielder Jonathan Pryor, left fielder John Razzino, Purritano and Aiola.
The Mohawks' shortstop had an RBI double in the eighth inning, a liner to right-centerfield. After struggling at the plate to start his season, Aiola said the run-scoring hit was a welcome one for his confidence.
"He (Watertown pitcher Kyle Simmons) left a fastball middle-in and I put a good swing on it," he said. "I tried not to get too big with it."
Aiola did not need to, as the Mohawks offense was rolling all night. He and Pryor each had two RBIs, while five players each added one.
"We're one of the most complete lineups I've seen," said Purritano, who was 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. "We've got something special in our one through nine."
That is showing. In the Mohawks' nine-game winning streak, the squad has outscored its opponents, 68-15.
"We're just trying to stay where we're at now, because we're really confident," Purritano said.
Of course, the team's taskmaster wants even more from his squad, which has already won four league titles under his stewardship.
"What we need to do is stay focused and continue to try to make improvements," said Griffin. "If we do that, this team will have a chance to be really good at the end."
NOTES: Outfielder Jack Czeszewski had an interesting evening for the Mohawks. Inserted into the lineup in the seventh inning, Czeszewski garnered two plate appearances and was plunked each time. Besides his two HBPs, Czeszewski scored a run and collected an RBI. ... In relief, Whitmore pitched two scoreless innings and Hackimer had one such frame for the Mohawks. Whitmore struck out two and allowed a hit, while each walked a batter. ... The Mohawks return to the field tonight at Albany for a quasi-doubleheader, which begins at 5:05 p.m. The club will resume a game from earlier this week and also play a full nine-inning contest. Griffin said pitcher Zack Brown will start the continuation game, while Ryan Clark will start the fresh game. ... E.J. Ashworth will start for the Mohawks Saturday at Glens Falls, while Taylor Blatch will take Sunday's home game against Mohawk Valley. ... Thursday's shutout was the Mohawks' fifth of the season. ... The Mohawks are 3-0 this season against Watertown.
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