Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mohawks center fielder Marcus Carson follows through on a swing in front of Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs catcher Eric Strano during Saturday's playoff game in Little Falls.
Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mohawks pitcher Connor Johnstone delivers while warming up for Saturday's playoff game against the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs in Little Falls.
Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin, center, goes over signals with his team prior to Saturday's playoff game against the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs in Little Falls. Looking on at back right is pitcher John McCarren.
By ADAM SHINDER
LITTLE FALLS -- With the enviable depth of the Amsterdam Mohawks starting pitching rotation, Connor Johnstone almost certainly won't start again this summer after his seven-inning gem Saturday night against the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs.
But, Johnstone was more than happy to be the one who delivered his teammates a little extra rest before the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series begins later this week at Shuttleworth Park.
"It'll be a nice rest, and we'll come back ready," Johnstone said Saturday.
Johnstone allowed a run on four hits over seven frames Saturday night, while Jonathan Pryor and Alex DeBellis drove in two runs apiece in the Mohawks' 7-1 win that finished off a two-game sweep of the best-of-three PGCBL East Division Finals.
The win gave the Mohawks a sixth straight league championship series berth under head coach Keith Griffin -- two in the New York Collegiate Baseball League, the last four in the PGCBL -- and plenty of rest before playing either the Newark Pilots or Elmira Pioneers for the league title.
Newark and Elmira are scheduled to play Game 2 of their rain-delayed series tonight in Elmira, meaning the start of the championship series could be pushed to Wednesday night.
"We'll try to do something Monday, figure out what we're gonna do, but we'll see how it goes," Griffin said after Saturday's win.
"Hopefully, we'll take this time to get healthy, take advantage of it and work on some stuff," added second baseman Josh Gardiner, who was named the PGCBL Player of the Year Sunday.
After finishing off Mohawk Valley, Griffin said that righthander Ryan Clark, who was 3-0 with a 2.31 earned run average during the regular season, will start Game 1 of the championship series Tuesday night. Fellow starters Taylor Blatch (5-1, 1.80 ERA) and Zack Brown (3-2, 3.75) will be on full rest for the series, while EJ Ashworth (5-0, 2.02) would likely be available as well after throwing seven innings Friday night against the DiamondDawgs.
Amsterdam will also have a fresh bullpen, as with Johnstone and Ashworth each lasting seven innings against Mohawk Valley, the Mohawks needed just four innings between four relievers -- Kevin Guthrie, Zach Breen, Daniel Castro and John McCarren -- in the East Division Finals.
"That helps a lot," Mohawks outfielder Marcus Carson said. "The whole bullpen will be rested for two days, so that's good. When our pitching and batting are both locked in, we're a tough team to handle."
Offensively, the Mohawks picked up 15 runs on 25 hits in their two-game series against Mohawk Valley, but they stranded 21 runners on base, leaving Griffin feeling the team still has room to improve with just one series left to play.
"We had some bad strikeouts with runners in scoring position," Griffin said. "We didn't do that very well, the situational hitting, but I thought we hit the ball really hard all night long."
As far as who that opponent is, after Saturday night -- when Elmira beat Newak in Game 1 of the rain-delayed West Division Finals -- the Mohawks weren't going to play favorites, despite going a combined 1-5 against the two West Division foes during the regular season, though four of those losses came during Amsterdam's 2-6 start when the likes of John Razzino, Tommy Kain and DeBellis had yet to join the team.
Since that start, the Mohawks are a staggering 36-5, leaving Gardiner plenty confident heading into Tuesday night.
"(We'll play) whoever wins it," Gardiner said.
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