AMSTERDAM — Every so often, teammates from the same college program get to play together over the summer.
Right in the middle of the Amsterdam Mohawks’ stellar 2023 season have been New Jersey Institute of Technology teammates Luke Longo and Brandon Peterson.
“I wasn’t actually supposed to be on the Mohawks,” said Peterson, a right-handed pitcher from Utica. “The team I was supposed to be on got cut for the summer, so my coach sent me here.
“Then Luke Longo got chosen to come here, too. I’m glad I got to come here with a teammate of mine.”
Over his last four starts, Peterson has dominated. Dating back to June 27, the right-hander tossed 21 1-3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.
In his last two starts, the rising sophomore compiled a stretch of 10 1-3 hitless innings. He tossed six innings of no-hit ball against Albany on July 11. Then on July 18, he did not allow a hit until the fifth inning against Boonville.
“Peterson’s really been getting better and better,” said Mohawks coach Keith Griffin. “Every start, he’s improved.”
“Seeing what he was working on at school and him carry that over to here,” Longo said of his teammate, “it’s great to see all the strides he’s made.”
Over seven starts this season, Peterson is 4-0 with a 1.58 ERA. He struck out 46 hitters over 34 innings while allowing 17 hits and 17 walks. He has stuck out 10 hitters in three of his starts.
“I’ve just been trying to go out there, pitching with confidence and knowing that my defense was going to back me up,” said Peterson, who played in the PGCBL with the Utica Blue Sox last season. “With that mentality, everything’s really been working for me.
“My goal for the summer was to work on having fewer walks and better command. Coming here and continuing to develop was really the plan.”
Already familiar with the structure of the league, Peterson was excited to join a team that expects to win a championship.
“It’s fun,” Peterson said. “It’s fun coming out here and knowing that we have very high expectations and chances to win. Winning baseball is really fun.”
While Peterson has been helping anchor the Mohawks starting rotation, Longo has been a staple in the middle of the batting order.
“Longo’s been right in the middle of our order, three, four or five,” said Griffin. “He plays a great first base, and he catches, too.”
In 36 games with Amsterdam, Longo has posted a .336 batting average with 13 doubles, six home runs and 38 RBIs. He has an OPS of 1.040.
“I try not to look at it too much,” Longo said of his stats, “but I’ve been working with the coaching staff a lot and they’ve been helping me out with some mechanical things I’ve been trying to work on with my swing. I’ve been trying to hammer it in at practice and take that into the game.
“We’ve got a lot of guys in our lineup who can do a lot of damage. A lot of us are going to big schools, but there’s some from smaller schools who are stepping up. Just knowing we have so many guys who can do damage is so reassuring.”
While Peterson is in the early stages of his college career, Longo is on the opposite end. The 6-foot-3 first baseman will head back to NJIT as a graduate student for his fifth year.
This summer with the Mohawks has been a bucket-list item for Longo, who has not been able to play collegiate baseball away from home until now.
“I’ve been looking forward to this,” said Longo, a native of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. “I’ve had a few teammates that played here in the past, and they had a lot of really good things to say. I was definitely fired up to get here.”
In addition to playing together, Peterson and Longo also play against some of their NJIT teammates in the PGCBL, including the Albany Dutchmen’s Austin Francis, who is from Troy.
“It’s different for sure,” Longo said. “It’s good to see my guys, like Austin Francis over on Albany and a couple others. It’s weird to see them in a different uniform, but it’s always great to see how they’re doing.”
“Playing against them in a competitive setting like this, it’s awesome,” Francis said of his Amsterdam counterparts. “It’s not too fun when I’m standing at third base and Luke Longo hits a 110-mile-an-hour line drive past me, but other than that, I’m having a really good time.”
Amsterdam got the best of Albany during their first seven contests this season. However, the Dutchmen finally ended that stretch with a win in the second game of a doubleheader last Thursday.
“The Amsterdam Mohawks are a very, very good team,” Francis said. “They’ve been good for a long time.”
“To get over that hump, those one-run losses, we just had to keep coming together as a team. I think that’s the biggest thing, from the beginning of the year until now, we’re really coming together as one.”
Albany is 18-20 and in fifth place of the PGCBL’s East Division. The Mohawks are 34-4-1 and clinched the East Division title after beating Utica 5-1 on Saturday.
“A lot of us come from pretty good programs that are notorious for winning,” Longo said. “We try to bring that same mindset into the summer. We all want to get better individually, but at the end of the day we’re all here to do one thing and that’s win.”