Players to watch as Amsterdam Mohawks gear up for PGCBL’s return

Amsterdam Mohawks infielder Jake Reinisch takes batting practice Thursday at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam. Reinisch is a former standout at Shenendehowa High School who plays at the collegiate level for Wake Forest.
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Amsterdam Mohawks infielder Jake Reinisch takes batting practice Thursday at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam. Reinisch is a former standout at Shenendehowa High School who plays at the collegiate level for Wake Forest.

The Amsterdam Mohawks were around in 2020, but not in the form area baseball fans have been accustomed to for nearly two decades.

With restrictions brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic forcing the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League to cancel its 2020 season, the Mohawks still managed to take the field, joining two other PGCBL franchises — Albany and Glens Falls — along with the Albany Twilight League’s Albany Athletics as part of the Independent Collegiate Baseball League, which focused on locally-based players playing in front of crowds limited to family members and a few outdoor dining patrons.

This summer, the PGCBL is back, and the Mohawks — who open their season Thursday on the road against the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs before playing their home opener Friday against the Albany Dutchmen — will bring a much more familiar product back to Shuttleworth Park.

Head coach Keith Griffin, who has led the team to seven league championships since beginning his tenure in Amsterdam in 2009, is back in the dugout this summer after pandemic-related travel restrictions forced him to stay at home in Florida last year. With Griffin comes a collection of talented players from a number of power conference collegiate programs who will aim to one day join the ranks of the dozens of former Mohawks to be drafted by Major League Baseball clubs.

Here are five such players to watch out for this summer in Amsterdam:

MATT SHAW

Often, the Mohawks’ ranks are filled by players who got limited action at power conference schools and are sent to Amsterdam to get their reps in over the summer. That’s not the case with Shaw.

The Brimfield, Massachusetts native stepped immediately into the top of the Maryland lineup as a freshman, starting at second base and hitting in the No. 2 spot for a Terrapins team that contended for a regular-season title in the Big Ten Conference.

Oh, and Shaw is Maryland’s leading hitter, posting a .335 batting average with five home runs and 28 runs batted in as part of a lineup that features 2019 Mohawks star Maxwell Costes, who spent his summer in Amsterdam obliterating the franchise and league record books for power hitting.

With Maryland in the NCAA tournament, Shaw and fellow Terrapins Riley Langerman and Gavin Stellpflug will by late arrivals to Amsterdam this summer, as will the Mohawks’ contingents from two other NCAA-bound teams, Mississippi State and Alabama.

JAKE REINISCH

The Mohawks bring in talented players from across the nation, but Capital Region products are usually well-represented on the roster.

Reinisch, a Shenendehowa High School graduate, had four hits in 14 at-bats this season as a freshman infielder at Wake Forest. Among the Section II standouts slated to join him in Amsterdam this season are Siena’s Connor Bovair (South Glens Falls) and Brett Young (Albany Academy), USC Upstate’s Brendan Disonell (Shenendehowa), Cornell’s Von Baker (OESJ) and the Marist duo of Danny Moshier (Albany Academy) and Isaac Brown (Troy).

Reinisch will hope for similar success with the Mohawks to a fellow Shenendehowa/Wake Forest corner infielder, Justin Yurchak, who hit .306 for Amsterdam in 2015.

TEDDY McGRAW

A teammate of Reinisch’s at Wake Forest, McGraw pitched for the Mohawks in the ICBL last summer and made 19 relief appearances for the Demon Deacons as a freshman this season, posting a 4.42 earned run average and striking out 22 batters in 18 1-3 innings.

An Oneonta native, McGraw possesses an electric arm, with his fastball consistently sitting at 95-plus mph this spring and touching 99 mph on the radar gun at numerous points.

McGraw, Bovair, Cole Patten (Seton Hall), Eli Giles (Alabama) and Carter Frederick (Auburn) are among the team’s top projected hurlers this summer.

GAGE ZIEHL

Ziehl is yet another of the Mohawks’ top projected pitchers, though his time in Amsterdam could potentially be cut short depending on what happens in July’s Major League Baseball Draft.

A 6-foot-1 righthander who plays for Penfield High School near Rochester, Ziehl is committed to Miami for his collegiate career, but could be selected and signed in the draft, which is scheduled to run July 11-13.

Ziehl showcases a fastball in the mid-90s and, if drafted, will likely be one of a large collection of players with Mohawks connections to have their names called this year.

SLATE ALFORD

A native of Madison, Alabama who is committed to Mississippi State — one of the Mohawks’ most fruitful sources of top players in recent years, including 2020 first-round draft pick Justin Foscue and 2021 SEC Player of the Year Tanner Allen — Alford is another talented high school senior due to play in Amsterdam this summer.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Alford is one of the top power hitters in the Class of 2021, and slugged 14 home runs and 17 doubles while hitting .464 during his senior season at Bob Jones High School. His right-handed power bat should fit perfectly in the cozy confines of Shuttleworth Park.

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