Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin, center, talks to his team prior to Game 1 of the PGCBL Championship Series against the Newark Pilots Wednesday at Shuttleworth Park. At back right is Mohawks outfielder Jack Czeszewski.
Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mohawks shortstop Javon Shelby, right, takes a swing in front of Newark Pilots catcher Logan Boyher during Game 1 of the PGCBL Championship Series Wednesday at Shuttleworth Park.
Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mohawks pitcher Ryan Clark warms up for Game 1 of the PGCBL Championship Series against the Newark Pilots Wednesday at Shuttleworth Park.
Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mohawks first baseman Brendan Tracy, right, is congratulated by teammate Alex DeBellis (12) as Tracy crosses the plate after hitting a 3-run home run Wednesday during Game 1 of the PGCBL Championship Series against the Newark Pilots at Shuttleworth Park. Also pictured, center, is Mohawks batboy Cooper Priamo.
By ADAM SHINDER
After three days off, it took the Amsterdam Mohawks offense three innings and a trip through the lineup Wednesday night against Newark Pilots starting pitcher B.J. Nobles to shake off the cobwebs.
When they did, Brendan Tracy turned the momentum around and Tommy Kain provided the exclamation point.
After falling into an early three-run hole, Tracy and Kain each hit three-run home runs -- Tracy's to give the Mohawks the lead in the fifth inning, Kain's to blow the game wide open in the eighth -- to back up 5 2/3 innings of no-hit relief in a 9-3 win over Newark in Game 1 of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series in front of 1,140 fans at Shuttleworth Park.
"It was tough the first time around," Kain said. "We haven't seen these guys since one of my first games around here. It's been, like, 25 games. We didn't know what to expect. With all the days off, it took us one time around to get loose and then we got it going after that."
Having sat around since sweeping the East Division Finals Saturday in Little Falls, the Mohawks went down quietly in the first three innings against Nobles and his biting slider. After Marcus Carson's leadoff walk in the first inning, Javon Shelby grounded into a double play and Nobles faced the minimum nine batters through the first three innings.
Straight out of the theme song of 90s sitcom "Step By Step," the Mohawks made it better the second time around.
"Their kid they started had a tremendous slider. He threw the slider about 83 mph, it was really good, and he was throwing his fastball about 90," Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin said. "With the three days off, it just looked like it took us some time to get started. Once we got started, I thought we did a great job."
Carson started the fourth inning with Amsterdam's first hit and came around to score on Josh Gardiner's RBI groundout to cut the deficit to 3-1. In the fifth, the momentum swung for good when back-to-back singles by Kain and Alex DeBellis put runners at the corners with nobody out.
When Newark head coach Mike Armstrong went out to the mound to try and settle Nobles down, Tracy locked in on what was coming to him.
"I knew a fastball was coming," Tracy said. "Usually after a meeting like that, they'll come with a fastball because he's struggling."
Tracy got his first-pitch fastball, and he launched it well over the wall in straightaway centerfield to give the Mohawks a 4-3 lead.
"It felt good off the bat," he said. "I kind of jogged around the bases, because I knew it was out."
DeBellis added an RBI double in the sixth inning to make it 5-3, then Kain snuffed out any chance of a Newark comeback with a three-run blast of his own off reliever Andrew Tidwell in the bottom of the eighth.
Kain's homer came after a number of close calls over the last two games that saw him fly out on hard-hit balls to the deepest parts of Shuttleworth and Little Falls' Veteran's Memorial Park.
"After the first at-bat, I went back to the dugout and was like, 'Geez, not this again,'" Kain said. "But, I got one at the end of the night."
Meanwhile, Brown relieved starter Ryan Clark after 3 1/3 difficult innings and completely blew away the Pilots. With a fastball that topped out at 96 mph on the Shuttleworth Park radar gun, Brown struck out seven and allowed just two batters to reach base in moving the Mohawks within a game of a third straight PGCBL title.
"I spoke to him a little bit before the game, and he told me he would be coming out of the 'pen," Kain said. "I just told him to relax. He was on tonight. He was filthy."
Game 2 and the Mohawks' first chance to clinch comes tonight at 7:05 at Colburn Park in Newark. Griffin said that Taylor Blatch, who threw a no-hitter in his final start of the regular season July 27 against the Utica Brewers, will likely get the ball as the Mohawks attempt to close out the series and exorcise the lone demon of Griffin's tenure in Amsterdam -- the team's 2011 championship series loss to Newark.
"Momentum's your next day's pitcher. That's what it boils down to is your next day's starting pitcher," Griffin said. "You go out there and get a good start, you should be in good shape. ... I'm not smiling. I've been in this situation before. We've got work to do. If we go out there and take care of business tomorrow, we'll be in great shape."
NOTES: Kain and Carson each went 3-for-4, while DeBellis went 2-for-4 at the plate. ... The Mohawks stole five bases off Newark catcher Logan Boyher, with four of those eventually resulting in runs. Tanner Giesel got Newark on the board with a two-run homer in the first inning. ... In addition to Blatch, Griffin said Connor Johnstone would be available out of the bullpen tonight. That would likely make EJ Ashworth the probable starter should there be a deciding Game 3 Friday in Amsterdam.
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