AMSTERDAM – Starting pitcher Dylan Dwyer struggled with his control early in Tuesday’s opening game of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League championship series.
However, a quick visit to the mound by Amsterdam coach Keith Griffin got the Mohawks’ hurler on track.
“He told me I needed to start getting ahead, which is true, and I just couldn’t find it out of my wind-up,” Dwyer said. “So I started going out of the stretch. When I was ahead, I just kept pounding off-speed because they just weren’t hitting it.”
Dwyer went on to strike out 11 Elmira Pioneers and kept the game close, allowing the Mohawks time to crank up their offense and pound out six runs in their final three at-bats to take Game 1 of the best-of-3 series 6-3.
“We’re still one game away, though,” Mohawks’ first baseman John Nogowski said. “We’ve got to get one more. We want to do it tomorrow. We don’t want to have to come back here. It’s a great place to play, but we want to finish it off tomorrow.”
The Pioneers broke open a scoreless pitching duel in the top of the fourth when Chris Knott worked the count full before driving a shot over the left-field fence for a 1-0 lead.
The Pioneers stretched their lead to 2-0 when Taylor Hillson scored on an RBI single by Parker Curry.
Although the Mohawks collected four hits through the first five innings, they could not capitalize on the opportunities.
That changed in the bottom of the sixth.
With two outs, John Nogowski hit a sharp grounder that Elmira third baseman Hillson could not handle. Devin Wenzel pinch-hit for designated hitter Dylan Smith and sliced a single to right field. Josh Gardiner followed with an RBI single, scoring Nogowski.
Ed Charlton worked his way on with a walk to load the bases for John Sansone, who lined a drive off the outstretched glove of Pioneers second baseman Brian Bashara for a two-RBI single to give the Mohawks their first lead of the game 3-2.
The Pioneers answered in the top of the seventh.
Chris Kalousdian delivered a two-out double to center field off relief pitcher Zach Breen. Curry singled to left to score Kalousdian and tie the game at three apiece.
The Mohawks fought back in the bottom of the inning with Keith Skinner leading off with a single but was erased on Kyle Barrett’s bunt. Barrett beat out the throw for an attempted double-play.
Barrett stole second and raced home on Nogowski’s RBI single to put Amsterdam up 4-3.
Elmira threatened to tie the game in the eighth when Bashara was hit by a Zach Quayle pitch with one out.
Quayle settled in to strike out Colby Gee and got Andrew Nist to ground out to get out of the inning.
Amsterdam added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Charlton worked his way on with a one-out walk. Relief pitcher Zach Bican struck out Sansone before issuing an intentional walk to Brian Ruby, setting up a lefty-to-lefty situation against Skinner.
“It was the right move,” Griffin said. “They did the right thing to go lefty-to-lefty.”
However, the move backfired as Skinner drove the first pitch from Bican into the left-field corner, scoring Charlton and Ruby for a 6-3 advantage.
“I was joking before that last at-bat and said if he throws me a fast ball I am going to put it over the fence,” Skinner said. “It didn’t put it over he fence but I’ll take what happened.”
Skinner added that he wasn’t rattled by the Pioneers walking Ruby intenionally to pitch to him.
“I’ve always have been pretty good at hitting lefties,” he said. “My father is a left so I’ve been seeing left-handed batting practice my entire life.”
Griffin called on closer Mike Urbanski to shut down Elmira and he responded with a 10-pitch 1-2-3 inning including two strikeouts to lock up the victory.
“We pitched well,” Griffin said. “I thought Dwyer was good and our bullpen was good. It was a good win for us.”
The Mohawks will look to close out their fourth championship in five years under Griffin’s leadership tonight at Dunn Field in Elmira.
Griffin announced Chris Kalica, who picked up the win Tuesday after pitching to one batter and getting the final out in the top of the seventh, will get the start tonight.
“I am pretty excited. Kalica said. What is there to say it’s a championship game. Now we have a chance to take it at their place. We just got to come out and play our game. We’ve been on a bit of a roll here, so we just have to keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”
Nogowski said the Mohawks’ playing for the title tonight is not really a surprise even though they were mired in the cellar of the PGCBL East early in the season.
“It took a while for our team to find our identity, our bullpen and our line up,” he said. “Once we did, the rest is kind of history. We’ve got great players and once we came together as a team, it kind of took off.”
Game 2 is slated to get under way at 7:05 p.m. today in Elmira with Game 3, if necessary, slated for 7:05 p.m. Thursday at Shuttleworth Park.
PGCBL Championship Series (Game 1)
Amsterdam 6, Elmira 3
Elmira000 110 100 – 3 8 2
Amsterdam000 003 12x – 6 10 0
Diaz, Diorio (6), Bican (8) and Nist; Dwyer, Breen (7), Kalica (7), Quayle (8), Urbanski (9) and Skinner.