Amsterdam’s Robbie Spagnola pitches during Tuesday’s game against Johnstown at Shuttleworth Park. Spagnola threw three innings of perfect relief to help preserve the Rams’ 6-1 win. (Adam Shinder/Recorder staff)
By ADAM SHINDER
Amsterdam senior Robbie Spagnola moved from second base to the pitcher’s mound with two runners on, nobody out and a two-run lead to protect in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s Foothills Council baseball game against Johnstown against Shuttleworth Park.
The senior righthander with the funky drop-down delivery flummoxed the Sir Bills, striking out three straight batters to escape the jam and following that up with two more perfect innings to complete a nine-out save and preserve a vital 6-1 win that got the Rams back on the right track in league play after Monday’s disheartening loss to Johnstown.
“This was a big win, especially after yesterday when we lost 12-3,” Spagnola said. “That was one of the worst baseball games I’ve ever been a part of. Just getting our confidence back against these guys will help.”
Spagnola struck out four and needed just 30 pitches to buzz through the Johnstown lineup in combining on a two-hitter with Dale Stanavich, who racked up nine strikeouts in four-plus innings before exiting after a pair of walks to start the top of the fifth.
Spagnola took over on the mound with the Nos. 3 through 5 hitters for the Sir Bills — Ben Wager, Mike Brown and Ben Russo — due up, but put them all away.
The inning wasn’t without controversy, as an overturned call on a pitch to Brown that was initially called a swing and miss before being changed to a foul tip after several minutes of debate resulted in the ejection of Brian Spagnola for arguing the call.
Robbie Spagnola wasn’t fazed, settling back down and finishing the strikeout of Brown for real two pitches later, then setting down Russo to retire the side.
“I knew what I had to do,” Robbie Spagnola said. “I threw strikes and got three strikeouts, luckily. It was a little funky, but our guys held their composure.”
The Rams, who took the lead with a three-run surge in the third inning, added three runs in the bottom of the fifth courtesy of an RBI single through a drawn-in infield by Trey Ausfeld, Michael Rocas being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Max Spagnola walking with the bases loaded.
Johnstown starting pitcher Ben Wager allowed six runs — two earned — in 4 1/3 innings, but a rising pitch count ended his outing in the fifth and control issues from the Johnstown bullpen aided Amsterdam’s three-run inning.
“That seems to be our M.O. with that, we just can’t seem to (get a pitcher through the fifth inning),” Johnstown coach Aaron Mraz said. “It was a funny game both ways. The kids were frustrated with what was going on with the plate, which was not consistent. It was both ways. It was just a tough game to play, a lot of kids losing their focus.”
Amsterdam used some small-ball to take a 3-0 lead in the third. Ryan Bradt worked a 10-pitch walk to start the inning, advanced to second on a Rocas sacrifice bunt and took third on a passed ball. Max Spagnola laid down a squeeze bunt that brought home Bradt, and an errant throw allowed him to reach second base. After a wild pitch moved him to third, he came in to score on Robbie Spagnola’s bunt single.
“We were just trying to make some things happen,” Brian Spagnola said. “We just needed to score a run, and that’s kind of what we do. It worked perfectly, because with Max and Robbie up there, you’ve got guys who can handle the bat and you’re pretty confident they’re gonna get it done.”
Stanavich smashed an RBI double to deep centerfield to complete the inning.
Johnstown got a run back on Trevor Porter’s RBI single in the fourth, but Alex Van Deusen was caught in a rundown between third and home while trying to score on an errant throw and was called out while trying to dance around the tag from Rocas.
Amsterdam still had one more game to play Tuesday, falling 5-1 in a non-league contest to Adirondack of Section III. West Virginia University-bound Connor Hamilton of Adirondack ripped a pair of triples, and the Wildcats scored four runs in the fifth inning to grab the win.
Brendan McGillin and Jeffrey Brennan had two singles apiece for Amsterdam, with McGillin singling home Brennan for the Rams’ lone run in the third inning. Amsterdam pitchers Owen Devine and Andrew Bracchi combined to scatter six hits.
Amsterdam will be back in action Friday at noon when they visit Scotia-Glenville for the first of a home-and-home series that concludes Monday at Shuttleworth.
Contact ADAM SHINDER at [email protected]