By NATE DISCAVAGE
LITTLE FALLS, N.Y.- The crowd roared to life at Veterans Memorial Park as Clay Koniencki (Monmouth) stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the tenth inning. With the winning run standing 180 feet away at second base representing a trip to the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series, Koniencki ripped a two-strike single up the middle into center field to score Russ Olive (UMASS-Lowell) and give the Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs a 4-3 over the defending champion Amsterdam Mohawks.
The dugout quickly emptied as Mohawk Valley dog-piled at first base to celebrate its second trip to the Championship Series in the last three years.
“I was just trying to get a pitch that I could hit up the middle,” Koniencki said. “It feels amazing. It’s been a long season, but it is all worth it.”
Amsterdam did not make it easy for the Dawgs. Entering the top of the ninth trailing 2-1, the Mohawks put runners on second and third with one out before Robbie Spagnola (Hudson Valley C.C.) laid down a suicide-squeeze bunt to tie the game at two. One batter later, John Valente (St. Johns) gave Amsterdam the lead with an RBI-single.
Mohawk Valley put together a rally of its own in the bottom of the ninth. A one-out hit-by-pitch and single for Dan Deely (Sacramento State) and Lucas Terwilliger (Adelphi) set the stage for Joe Engel (Columbia) to hit the game-tying RBI-single.
“Going into the bottom of the tenth, Dan Deely said that we were going to score and win it that inning,” Diamond Dawgs coach Blake Nation said. “I knew we were going to win it right there.”
Koniencki went 3-for-5 and drove in two runs to break out of an 0-for-7 slump in the playoffs.
2016 PGCBL Co-Pitcher of the Year Joe DeSarro (Southern New Hampshire) held Amsterdam in check pitching seven innings allowing only one run while striking out five batters.
Jonathan Sell (Herkimer C.C.) earned the win for the Diamond Dawgs after pitching a perfect tenth inning before the walk-off.
“I knew that we had [Jonathan] Sell coming out of the bullpen. He’s been really good and could have easily gone another three or for more innings,” Nation said.
The intensity picked up in the top of the fourth inning. With the Mohawks leading 1-0 with runners on first and second with no outs, Anthony Gonnella (South Florida) hit a pop-fly on the infield. The umpires never called an infield fly and the Diamond Dawgs dropped the ball proceeding to turn a double play at second and third base.
The umpires originally ruled a double play before Amsterdam argued the call. After about 15 minutes of discussion, the call was reversed stating that an infield fly did occur, but that a double play still occurred since Dylan Reynolds (Fairfield) was tagged when he was not standing on the base. Nation argued with the umpires, and by the time that everything was settled, close to 25 minutes had passed.
Mohawk Valley will face the Jamestown Jammers in the Championship Series. The Diamond Dawgs won the only meeting between the teams back on June 24 2-0. Game one will be played in Little Falls on Sunday before Game two and game three (if necessary) will take place the following two days in Jamestown to determine the league champion.