Adam Shinder/Recorder staff The Amsterdam Mohawks huddle in celebration after winning the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League championship Thursday night in Newark.
Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Athletic trainer Carla Pasquarelli stretches Amsterdam Mohawks first baseman Brendan Tracy Thursday prior to Game 2 of the PGCBL Championship Series in Newark.
Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mohawks rightfielder Jonathan Pryor follows through on a swing Thursday against the Newark Pilots during Game 2 of the PGCBL Championship Series in Newark.
By ADAM SHINDER
Still dripping from his celebratory postgame drenching Thursday night at Newark's Colburn Park, Amsterdam Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin didn't waste any time making his assessment of his 2014 team's place in franchise and Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League history.
"Best team ever," Griffin said.
And, honestly, it's hard to argue.
The Mohawks have put together an astonishing run of success with Griffin at the helm, with 2014's title sweep of the Newark Pilots bringing the championship total to five in six seasons. In those six years, Griffin's had teams loaded with future Major League Baseball draft prospects, but it will be hard for any team to match the run of dominance displayed by this year's club -- after a 2-6 start, the Mohawks were nearly unbeatable the rest of the season, winning 38 of their final 43 games, including four straight in the postseason.
"This is a team that will be measured against for the history of Perfect Game collegiate baseball," Griffin said.
And they did it in every way possible.
Dominant pitching? Check. The Mohawks worked to an incredible 2.49 staff earned run average during the regular season, and the year ended with two of the most dominant postseason performances in PGCBL history -- Zack Brown's 5 2/3 no-hit innings of relief Wednesday in Game 1, and Taylor Blatch's series-clinching complete game Thursday in Game 2.
"We had great arms everywhere," Griffin said.
Explosive offense? Check. After scraping around the .200 mark during their early-season struggles, the Mohawks finished the year with a league-best .283 batting average.
In the postseason, it got even better, as Amsterdam put up 36 runs on 53 hits in four games.
"They accepted the challenge in the playoffs to swing the bat right," Griffin said.
And it was all overseen by Griffin and a coaching staff of Doug O'Brey, Doug Semerad and Heath Storey that the head coach credited with helping set the team into its unstoppable rhythm.
"Probably the best-coached team we've had," he said. "I thought our assistant coaches did a great job."
Of course, with a team that followed a 2-6 start with a 38-5 finish, there's one question that does tend to stick out.
What exactly happened in Game 9 to flip the switch for the rest of the season?
"We got everyone, and Coach started coaching like he always does, just preaching baseball," said second baseman and PGCBL Player of the Year Josh Gardiner. "It just clicked in our brains and we started off."
Certainly, the midseason arrivals of outfielder John Razzino, third baseman Tommy Kain and catcher Alex DeBellis -- who combined to provide some of the power the Mohawks missed early in the year with 13 home runs and 70 runs batted in between them -- provided a spark.
Meanwhile, Gardiner hit a torrid .415 for the summer, leadoff man Marcus Carson hit .346 and scored a team-high 38 runs and the likes of Brendan Tracy, Blake Logan, JaVon Shelby and Jonathan Pryor all rebounded from early-season slumps to fuel the stretch run.
And with the absurd wealth of pitching at the Mohawks' disposal, it was more than enough to turn the rest of the PGCBL into the butter that Amsterdam's hot knife sizzled through.
"When I got here, they were on a winning streak, but they'd had a tough start," Kain said. "I came in with John and Alex, we clicked and pretty soon we were off."
What was remarkable was not just the ease in which the Mohawks dominated their opponents on the field -- they more than doubled up their opponents in runs during the regular season, 288-135, and outscored Mohawk Valley and Newark 36-12 in the playoffs -- but their ease off the field. Winning certainly breeds a chipper atmosphere, but all the way through the final out of Thursday's 12-1 title-clinching win, the mood was so loose it often defied logic.
"It's an amazing feeling to win a championship with this great of a team," Gardiner said. "It's unreal. Our chemistry, hitting, pitching, it's been phenomenal throughout the year."
In the pregame huddle before both games of the championship series, Griffin didn't mince his words. He told the Mohawks, bar none, that if they won the championship, they'd be considered his best team ever.
"I love being a part of that." Blatch said. "I wouldn't have it with any other guys. These are great guys."
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