AMSTERDAM — Friday night at East Field in Glens Falls, the Amsterdam Mohawks will wrap a final bow around what’s been, by almost any statistical metric, the greatest regular season that the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League has seen since its inception in 2011.
What the Mohawks do in the week after that will determine if the franchise hoists its eighth league championship trophy since 2009, or if an unforgiving PGCBL playoff format puts a damper on an otherwise dominant summer.
“We’ve talked all season about winning a championship,” Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin said prior to Thursday’s regular-season home finale against the Utica Blue Sox at Shuttleworth Park. “They know the expectations here when they show up, and they’ve really played well.”
With one regular season game remaining, the Mohawks are guaranteed to become the first PGCBL team to ever finish a regular season with fewer than 10 losses. They’re also guaranteed to break the record for the league’s best winning percentage, the .800 mark set by Amsterdam’s 2015 team.
That team will still hold onto one record over this year’s Mohawks, with its 40 regular-season wins still standing as the league’s all-time best, though the 2015 team played 50 regular season games and this year’s team — which sits at 38-6-1 after Briggs Rutter hit for the cycle to lead Thursday’s 11-2 victory over the Utica Blue Sox — is slated to finish the regular season having played just 46 games.
Griffin, however, isn’t one for paying much attention to the all-time record book.
“I had no idea,” Griffin said when asked about this season’s accomplishments.
This year’s Mohawks team will attempt to avoid the ignominious ending of Amsterdam’s 2015 season. That year, after completely obliterating the PGCBL during the regular season, the Mohawks were ousted by the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs in the East Division championship series.
It was the first time in Griffin’s tenure — and one of only two times in his 12 prior seasons in Amsterdam — where Amsterdam failed to reach the league championship series.
The key to avoiding that fate, outfielder Zach Gardiner said, is to maintain the consistency that’s guided Amsterdam though a season that included both a season-opening 12-game win streak and a run of 14 consecutive victories — a franchise record — to start off July.
“We developed a routine early and we started winning,” Gardiner said. “We just stuck to that routine, because it works.”
It’ll also mean avoiding the pitfalls of a PGCBL playoff format that means the league’s best team must win back-to-back win-or-go-home games just to reach the best-of-three championship series.
Amsterdam will open the postseason Saturday at home in a one-game playoff against whichever of the Oneonta Outlaws, Albany Dutchmen and Watertown Rapids come out of the three-way struggle for the division’s fourth and final playoff spot. With a win there, the Mohawks would advance to host another one-game playoff on Monday, against either Mohawk Valley or the defending PGCBL champion Saugerties Stallions.
Win that, and the Mohawks will face the team that comes out of the West Division playoff bracket in a best-of-three series starting Tuesday.
Though the Mohawks are guaranteed home-field advantage throughout the postseason, it’s a potentially perilous road that Griffin’s admittedly not a fan of.
“I don’t like the way Perfect Game sets the league up,” Griffin said. “There’s no benefit to winning the regular season, other than a home game. I’ve told [team president] Brian [Spagnola], I’ve told everyone that it’s a bad way to set up a finale, but it is what it is. That’s the rules, and we’ve got to play within those rules.”
As for the guys on the field, they’re a bit less concerned.
“We’re not really nervous,” Gardiner said. “We know that as long as we play good, nobody’s going to beat us.”
Griffin’s just fine seeing that kind of confidence from his team.
It’s a group he’s thoroughly enjoyed coaching and one that, though there have been a few quiet stretches offensively, has been consistent from start to finish on the pitcher’s mound and in the field.
“It’s been a really fun group to coach,” Griffin said. “They’ve been enjoyable, they’ve played hard, they’re good baseball players. From my end, they’re one of my favorite teams I’ve had to coach.”
RUTTER’S CYCLE LEADS WIN
The Mohawks’ final home game of the regular season saw Rutter hit for the cycle to lead a blowout win. The Mohawks’ catcher finished 4 for 4 with four RBIs and three runs scored. He ripped an RBI double to kick off the scoring in Amsterdam’s four-run second inning, tripled in the fourth, added a two-run single in the fifth and completed the cycle with a solo home run in the eighth.
Nick Giamarusti added a two-run double for Amsterdam, and a dominant offensive night was backed up by a solid performance on the mound from Amsterdam native Carson Cotugno, who picked up the win after holding Utica to a run on four hits over five innings. Cotugno struck out four and walked two.
Utica 000 101 000 — 2 7 2
Amsterdam 041 130 02x — 11 11 0