After lightning and torrential rain ripped through Shuttleworth Park Monday, creating a 25-minute delay in the top of the sixth inning, two of the light towers in left and left-center field failed to light up again. Officials almost called off the game because of safety issues, but decided there was just enough light to continue play.
That’s sort of the way the Amsterdam Mohawks felt after their Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League divisional playoff series ended. Although the three-time defending league champions had another brilliant statistical season, shining plenty of light throughout the summer, they left Shuttleworth Park feeling unfulfilled and in the dark.
The Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs beat the Mohawks 5-1 in the third and deciding game of the best-of-three divisional series. The DiamondDawgs, who lost the series opener 15-4, but then blanked the Mohawks 5-0 in Game 2, take on the Victor RailRiders for the overall PGCBL championship.
This is the first time in seven years that the Mohawks won’t be in the championship series. It’s become a given every summer that the premier team in this elite developmental league would at least be in the finals.
“Everybody on this team got better through the summer. We did our jobs in that regard,” Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin said. “But this is the first time that I’ve been coach that we’re not in the championship series. They [the DiamondDawgs] outplayed us. We didn’t play that well in all three games.”
Griffin warned his players to be careful on their way back to their hometowns or to their college campuses, and he thanked them all for putting together another dominating team.
“We never had to have this conversation this early before,” he said. “If this is my last game here, I’ve had a great time. Who knows whether [GM] Brian Spagnola or I will be back again next year. We haven’t had that conversation yet. But we’ve had a great organization behind us for the last seven years. This is a great summer baseball place, and they treat everybody so well.”
While most of his players hung their heads on the way back to collect their equipment in the dugout, Griffin was asked how the loss should be viewed in terms of his team’s goals as a developmental program.
“Our focus was to win the championship, and we didn’t get it done,” he said. “It was a tough loss. We thought we had enough pitching to win this thing. But they [the DiamondDawgs] deserved to win. They beat us over nine innings.”
Mohawks infielder Justin Yurchak, a former Shenendehowa High School star who transferred from Wake Forest and will play for Binghamton next season, said it was a difficult end to an enjoyable season.
“We just couldn’t get to their pitchers over the last two games. Sometimes, that happens,” he said. “But this is not the way we wanted to end our season. We played 50 games this summer, and we were all looking for a championship. This whole organization does things the right way, and it was a pleasure to play for this team. I will miss all my teammates. We had a lot of fun this summer.”
Spagnola addressed the team in a huddle before the players dispersed.
“I hope you enjoyed it here,” he said. “We appreciated everything you did for this team. You don’t know how much you mean to me and the rest of this organization.”
Although Amsterdam (40-11) dominated offensively and defensively, batting .286 and compiling a 3.13 staff earned run average, the Mohawks couldn’t get anything going against the 33-18 DiamondDawgs. Mohawk Valley right fielder Troy Scocca homered, doubled and drove in three of his team’s five runs, while pitchers Ryan O’Connor and Anthony Herrara kept the Mohawks off the scoreboard until Craig Dedelow blooped a double to right and scored on a Gage West single off first baseman Ryan Stekl’s glove in the ninth inning.
Yurchak singled and doubled to lead the Mohawks.
Mohawk Valley 002 100 200 — 5 10 0
Amsterdam 000 000 001 — 1 8 1
O’Connor, A. Herrara (5) and Rave; Guerrero, T. Smith (6), K. Smith (8), Mielak (9) and Manea.