Six Mohawks named to PGCBL all-league team

Amsterdam’s John Valente was named to the all-Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League first team. Valente led the league with a .422 average this season with the Mohawks. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan)

AMSTERDAM — The Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League recently unveiled its all-league team for the 2017 season, as determined by a polling of the league’s head coaches.

Nine of the 13 teams in the PGCBL were represented with at least one selection on the first or second team, led by the Amsterdam Mohawks and Elmira Pioneers with six honorees apiece.

Highlighting this year’s postseason all-star squad were Jamestown catcher Christ Conley (Canisius), the 2017 PGCBL Player of the Year, and Albany righty Matt Pierce (Siena), the 2017 Pitcher of the Year award winner.

Conley broke the single-season records for walks (51) and on-base percentage (.582), while leading the circuit with a .610 slugging percentage and ranking second with a .382 batting average.

Pierce had a record-breaking summer of his own, as reliever-turned-ace registered a league-best 1.71 ERA and established a new high for wins in a season with eight.

Conley, who garnered second-team All-League honors with the Jammers last season, is one of two players that was recognized for the second time this year.

Mohawk Valley reliever Zach Vennaro (Mount Olive) completed his third go-around with the DiamondDawgs in 2017 and added an All-League first-team selection to his second-team award from a year ago.

Several of the league’s statistical leaders were rightfully honored this season.

Batting champion and Amsterdam Mohawk standout, John Valente (St. John’s), who led all batsmen with a .422 clip, was included on the first team at third base, and across the diamond, Mohawk Valley’s Russ Olive (UMass Lowell) was named the top first baseman in the PGCBL this season after leading the league in both home runs (8) and RBIs (42).

Albany’s Justin Bureau (Ave Maria) tied Vennaro for first place with eight saves this summer and both were elected to the first team. Alex Bellardini (Youngstown State) racked up a league-high 61 innings of work in nine starts for Geneva and was rewarded with a spot on the second team.

Two of the three award winners from the 2017 All-Star Game festivities earned additional hardware with an All-League selection.

Prospect Game MVP Eric Rivera (Florida Atlantic) of Amsterdam and Home Run Derby champ Conor Grammes (Xavier) of Elmira were both recognized on the first team.

Amsterdam also had starting pitcher Andrew Saalfrank named to the first team, while Liam Wilson (first base), Will Holland (shortstop) and Thomas Lane (starting pitcher) earned second-team honors for the Mohawks.

2017 PGCBL All-League Team

First Team

Catcher: Christ Conley (Canisius/Jamestown)

First Base: Russ Olive (UMass Lowell/Mohawk Valley)

Second Base: Nick Estrella (Azusa Pacific/Albany)

Shortstop: Nick Gallo (Oklahoma State/Albany)

Third Base: John Valente (St. John’s/Amsterdam)

Outfield: John Conti (Canisius/Jamestown), Brian Uliana (Rider/ Glens Falls), Eric Rivera (Florida Atlantic/Amsterdam)

Designated Hitter/Utility: Conor Grammes (Xavier/Elmira)

Starting Pitcher: Matt Pierce (Siena/Albany), David Lyskawa (Niagara County C.C./Jamestown), Andrew Saalfrank (Indiana/Amsterdam), Houston Roth (Ole Miss/Elmira)

Relief Pitcher: Zach Vennaro (Mount Olive/Mohawk Valley), Justin Bureau (Ave Maria/Albany)

Second Team

Catcher: Marshall Gilbert (John A. Logan/Elmira)

First Base: Liam Wilson (Canisius/Amsterdam)

Second Base: Jimmy Standohar (Mercyhurst/ Jamestown)

Shortstop: Will Holland (Auburn/Amsterdam)

Third Base: Hunter Wells (Tyler J.C./Newark)

Outfield: Mikey Arman (Kenyon/Geneva), Matt Chamberlain (New Haven/Geneva), Ayrton Schafer (Samford/Elmira)

Designated Hitter/Utility: Allbry Major (Xavier/Elmira)

Starting Pitcher: Alex Bellardini (Youngstown State/Geneva), Henry Martinez (Cypress/Newark), Grant Donahue (Virginia/Elmira), Thomas Lane (Boston College/Amsterdam)

Relief Pitcher: Matt Bowman (SUNY Broome/Onondaga), Allbry Major (Xavier/Elmira)

Conley named Player of the Year

The Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL) named Jamestown Jammers catcher Christ Conley (Canisius) has been named the 2017 PGCBL Player of the Year, as voted on by the league’s head coaches.

Conley returned to Jamestown for a second stint in the PGCBL after earning all-star and second-team all-league accolades with the Jammers in 2016. He one-upped last year’s outstanding performance by garnering highest honor doled out by the league to a batter, while breaking some records along the way.

Conley amassed one of the most impressive slash lines in league history in 41 regular-season games played in a Jamestown uniform this season. He ranked second among qualified batsmen with a .382 average (47-for-123) while leading the entire PGCBL with a .582 on-base percentage and a .610 slugging percentage — he was the only qualified batter in the circuit with an on-base percentage above .500 and a slugging percentage above .600.

In terms of league history, Conley shattered the previous record for on-base percentage, which was set by 2014 Player of the Year Josh Gardiner (.543). His slugging percentage is the third highest all-time and his batting average ranks seventh.

PGCBL Player of the Year Award Winners

2017: Christ Conley (Jamestown/Canisius)

2016: Joe Genord (Amsterdam/South Florida)

2015: Christian Santisteban (Elmira/Manhattan)

2014: Josh Gardiner (Amsterdam/Radford)

2013: John Nogowski (Amsterdam/Florida State)

2012: Ross Kivett (Glens Falls/Kansas State)

2011: Erick Gaylord (Watertown/Campbell)

Pierce named Pitcher of the Year

The Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League named Albany Dutchmen right-hander Matt Pierce (Siena) as the recipient of the 2017 PGCBL Pitcher of the Year award, as voted on by the league’s head coaches.

Pierce helped the Dutchmen (33-16) qualify for the postseason as the second seed out of the East Division by leading the league with the lowest earned-run average among qualified pitchers and breaking the single-season wins record, a mark held by several previous Pitcher of the Year honorees.

The 6-foot-2, 234-pound righty posted an 8-1 record with a 1.71 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 42.0 innings of work on the mound this summer. He not only led the PGCBL in both wins and ERA, but his eight victories established a new single-season record, one more than the likes of Joe DeSarro (Herkimer/SNHU), Zach Logue (Kentucky) and Chandler Shepherd (Kentucky), who each garnered Pitcher of the Year accolades during their time in the PGCBL. Although he wasn’t a strikeout pitcher like each of the aforementioned hurlers, Pierce’s 1.17 WHIP was tied for the third-lowest in the league in 2017.

PGCBL Pitcher of the Year Award Winners

2017: Matt Pierce (Albany/Siena)

2016: Joe DeSarro (Mohawk Valley/Herkimer/SNHU); Brennen Price (Victor/Canisius)

2015: Zach Logue (Amsterdam/Kentucky), Kyano Cummings (Elmira/Siena)

2014: Jayson Yano (Newark/Stevens Institute of Technology)

2013: Eann Cox (Cooperstown/Black Hawk College)

2012: Chandler Shepherd (Amsterdam/Kentucky)

2011: Dominick Ruscitti (Newark/Kutztown)

Barone named Coach of the Year

The Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League recently announced that Jamestown Jammers head coach Anthony Barone was voted the Coach of the Year by his peers.

Barone, who has been at the helm of Jamestown in its three years as a summer collegiate team, helped the Jammers reach new heights this summer.

The team won a franchise-record 34 games in 2017 and finished as the No. 1 seed in the West Division with a 34-15 overall record. After solidifying the top seed in the regular season, the Jammers swept their way to the PGCBL Championship Series, their first-ever title appearance, where they pushed Mohawk Valley to the brink in the best-of-three series.

“Coach Barone did an outstanding job leading his team to the West Division Championship,” said PGCBL President Jeff Kunion. “He really works hard at developing his players and has a great rapport with his young men; just look at how many returned this year to Jamestown. He truly exemplifies what the PGCBL wants in its coaches.”

Under Barone’s tutelage, the Jammers ended the summer ranked near the top of most statistical categories, and boasted the league’s lowest team ERA (3.29) and best fielding percentage (.964). At the plate, Jamestown was second out of the 13-team league in on-base percentage (.407), and third in batting average (.286), runs scored (343) and hits (471). Perhaps most impressive, the Jammers were the only team in the PGCBL to register more walks (312) than strikeouts (310).

A multitude of Jamestown players also achieved success on an individual level with Barone’s guidance.

Christ Conley (Canisius) led all qualified batters with a .610 slugging percentage and a .582 on-base percentage, while finishing second with a .382 batting average, and Ben Brookover (UTSA) and Skyler Valentine (UTSA) ranked first and third in hits with 64 and 58, respectively. On the mound, southpaw starter David Lyskawa (Niagara County C.C.) finished second in the league with 53 strikeouts in just 38.0 innings of work.

As a result, Jamestown sent more players to the 2017 PGCBL All-Star Game than any other team in the league with nine representatives.

By Paul Wager

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