Amsterdam Mohawks outfielder Dylan Reynolds hits during Friday’s game against the Adirondack Trail Blazers at Shuttleworth Park. (Adam Shinder/Recorder staff)
By ADAM SHINDER
Even with a lineup being held together by chewing gum and twine, the Amsterdam Mohawks seem to have stepped out of their recent doldrums — and just in the nick of time.
The Mohawks clinched the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League East Division title Friday night with a 14-3 win over the Adirondack Trail Blazers at Shuttleworth Park, the team’s fourth straight win after a stretch of four losses in six games had the Mohawks reeling heading into the final week of the regular season.
Now, there’s a little more room for comfort with a pair of regular season games remaining Sunday and Monday before the postseason starts with a one-game playoff Tuesday at Shuttleworth against the No. 4 team in the East Division — likely the Saugerties Stallions.
Despite Amsterdam’s 34-12 record, coach Keith Griffin has often lamented his team’s Jekyll-and-Hyde nature this season, so a little momentum at this point in the season is nothing to be trifled with.
“Every day with this team is a totally different day,” Griffin said prior to Friday’s game.
The team’s often schizophrenic nature nearly came back to sting the Mohawks on Thursday night against Glens Falls, when they cruised to a 7-2 lead through seven innings before having to hold on late for a 7-5 win.
That victory included a cornucopia of oddities, such as another addition to the team’s recent injury woes when Anthony Gonnella exited after being hit by a pitch — Gonnella was using crutches at the ballpark Friday — and an uneven night from starting pitcher Thomas Lane with seven strikeouts and five walks in 3 2/3 innings.
“We didn’t play well last night, but we won,” Griffin said. “We overcame a lot of things. Some bad starting pitching, some questionable calls — didn’t like what I saw there — some injuries, some crazy stuff happened. It was a crazy night, but we overcame it and found a way to win. Should’ve beat them easier, but we didn’t — but, we won.”
For the two nights before, the Mohawks rode a pair of brilliant pitching performances — back-to-back two-hit shutouts — in home wins over Glens Falls and Saugerties.
The common thread? On both nights, the Mohawks used cat litter in lieu of traditional speedy dry to prepare the pitcher’s mound — though Griffin tended to put more stock in the performance of his hurlers, rather than the power of pet products.
“Those guys were really good. It’s always the Indian, never the arrow,” he said.
Those pitching performances came at an opportune time considering the mad scrambling Griffin’s done recently to cobble a lineup together. Gonnella’s injury Thursday put him on the shelf alongside Eric Rivera and Will Holland. The wait for those three to return, along with the previous losses of Matt Gorski, Liam Wilson and T.J. Collett has left Griffin with very few options.
“We’re challenged offensively, big time,” Griffin said. “We’re really, really struggling offensively. We’ll see what happens here, because Rivera won’t play tonight, three guys are out. We’ve got to have some guys step up, like Julian Gallup and Chris Hamilton, our new guy (Toby) Welk. We need some guys to play well.”
The Mohawks’ recovery has given Griffin the chance to set his pitching up for when the playoffs begin.
“We’ll have it all lined up,” Griffin said. “Of course, everything’s dependent on Tuesday, and you don’t know who you’re gonna play Tuesday until (winning the division) is official.”
THE SWING OF THINGS
The Mohawks’ pregame warmups Friday contained one of the rare joys of baseball: PBP, or pitchers’ batting practice. Griffin gave the Mohawks’ pitching staff 15 minutes to get their hacks in, with assistant coach Anthony Spataro handling the pitching.
All of the Mohawks’ pitchers, save for Holden White and Elliot Anderson, took part as Holland captured their at-bats on his phone for posterity. Some, like Justin Reed and Joe LaSorsa, displayed a knack for roping line drives. Others, like Mathieu Gauthier — who told his teammates he’d never hit in a competitive situation before — took a while to get their hitting technique down, with Gauthier even opting for a little experimental switch-hitting.
It was the burly, 6-foot-5 Thomas Lane who was the first pitching to knock one out of the park, drawing cheers as he stepped away from the plate.
In the final round of swings, it came down to a competition between four pitchers to see who could get off the best hit on just one swing. After solid efforts from Lane, LaSorsa and Reed, it came down to Nick Chiseri, who blasted his pitch over the wall in right field and flipped his bat for celebratory good measure.