Recorder file photo Amsterdam second baseman Josh Gardiner stretches for a throw as Albany's Danny Hrbek slides under it on a steal attempt during a July 8 game at Shuttleworth Park.
By ADAM SHINDER
About the only thing that's been able to slow Josh Gardiner down in nearly two full summers with the Amsterdam Mohawks has been the force of nature.
It's a situation he lamented while sitting in the home dugout at Shuttleworth Park Wednesday, waiting out yet another storm before a game against the Utica Brewers.
"I hate when it rains," Gardiner said. "It slows the day down, it slows the team down. You can't really do much. In the back of your mind, you're going, 'Are we gonna have a game? If it's not a rainout, will there be a sloppy field?' It's just in the back of your head the entire time, and you're just gonna freak out when your out there playing."
In either of his two years with the Mohawks, staying calm and consistent has been no trouble at all for Gardiner. One of the smaller players in the entire Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League -- he's listed at 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds -- the rising senior from Radford University has been a key cog for the Mohawks in 2013 and 2014.
Last year, he hit .327, drove in 33 runs and scored 40 runs on a team that slugged its way to a fourth league title in five years. This year, as one of three returning Mohawks along with pitchers Kevin Guthrie and Zach Breen, Gardiner's been even better in his encore performance. Entering play Thursday, he leads the league with a .421 batting average -- seven points ahead of Mike Carter of the Adirondack Trail Blazers -- with 21 RBIs and 22 runs scored.
"My whole swing just feels amazing right now," Gardiner said. "I'm seeing the ball real well."
Gardiner came back to Amsterdam after a junior year at Radford that saw him hit .294 for the Highlanders, and said a simpler approach at the plate has helped boost his output to stratospheric levels.
"I'm not trying to do too much, like I did at college," he said. "Now, I'm just trying to play for the team, just get on base."
Gardiner's been so hot, in fact, that with a week to go in the regular season, he's on pace to break the PGCBL's single-season batting average record of .404 set last year by Utica's Michael Pierson.
"Hopefully, I can break it. Hopefully, I can just keep increasing," he said. "I just want to make great, quality ABs."
And, as someone who has played in 79 of a possible 87 regular season games for the Mohawks over the last two seasons, Gardiner's happy to repeat his effort on a day-in, day-out basis.
"Whenever I have an off day, I'm ready to go the next day," he said. "I just want to be out on the field and just have fun. I always have fun when I'm out there. I feel like a kid when I'm out on the field."
Then, about an hour before the scheduled 6:35 p.m. first pitch, the thunder clapped, the rain intensified and Gardiner got a rueful smile on his face.
"Well, guess we won't have a game after all," he said.
Turns out, the rain let up and they did play after all Wednesday. And, for one of the rare times when he's been in the starting lineup this season, Gardiner didn't have a hit. He finished 0-for-3 with a pair of walks, but after reaching on an error in the bottom of the ninth inning, it was Gardiner who sprinted home from second on Blake Logan's single and slid into the plate just ahead of the tag from Utica catcher Crachard Laing to give the Mohawks a 5-4 win.
All part of a day's work.
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