Summer Collegiate : : Story
Wednesday, July 31, 2013

PGCBL post All-Star Game swing

Jheremy Brown        
Photo: Perfect Game

For the three days following the PGCBL All-Star Game in Newark, N.Y., I traveled to three different fields, saw four games, and six different teams. The first stop was East Field Stadium in Glens Falls, followed by a double-header at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam, and finally an extra innings thriller at Bellizzi Field in Albany, NY.

Between the white lines the games were great, some pitching heavy, some with offensive outbursts, but like the All-Star Game, it was the “other stuff” that helped give the games a great family atmosphere.

For example, Glens Falls had a “Bark at the Park” night and the local Chamber of Commerce set up and offered promotions on food in the stadium. The Amsterdam Mohawks had a promotion occurring every half inning, allowing kids in the stands ample opportunity to get on the field. Along with on-field promos, the Mohawk players also wore special jerseys that were auctioned off at the end of the night for charity and brought fans that much closer to their favorite players.

My final stop, the Albany Dutchmen, had some unique promotions as well, having their fans stay focused on even minute details throughout the game with their “baseball bingo.” They also had a $10,000 contest where a selected fan had one attempt to throw a pitch through a small hole in plexiglass from the mound to the plate.

Cooperstown Hawkeyes at Glens Falls Golden Eagles

East Field Stadium

Glens Falls General Manager: Darin Williams
2013 Summer Records: Cooperstown: 17-24 | Glens Falls: 23-20

Built in 1970, East Field Stadium has seen its fair share of minor league teams come through, as well as a handful of eventual MLB players including John Smoltz and Kenny Williams, but since 2004 it has been home to the Glens Falls Golden Eagles.

The first regular season PGCBL game I experienced was actually the second game of a double header between Cooperstown and Glens Falls, which resulted in an 8-2 victory for Cooperstown. Unlike the All-Star Game the night prior that had loads of offense, at least for the East, this game didn’t feature any scoring until the seventh inning for either team.

The starting pitching for both teams was very strong, with a couple of lefties getting things going on the mound. Jared Moore started the game for Glens Falls, going four innings and picking up five strikeouts. Although his fastball wasn’t overpowering at 80-83 mph, Moore was able to miss bats and have quick innings, as he cruised through 1-2-3 innings in both the third and the fourth. He showed a good feel for his changeup which he was able to spot side-to-side and burry it when needed, along with a low-70s curveball.

Working the fifth through seventh innings for Glens Falls was Zach Merciez, a big, strong right-handed pitcher from Missouri State. Merciez worked 86-88 in those three innings, touching 89 twice, and didn’t lose any velocity when throwing from the stretch. He also threw a mid-70s slider and flashed a changeup from a three-quarters arm slot that left his hand easy, as did his fastball, and was able to strike out three Hawkeyes.

It was in the top of the seventh however that Cooperstown got their offense going a bit, and thanks to two walks and two defensive miscues, the Hawkeyes were able to plate two runs and take the lead 2-0. After battling off some tough pitches and staying alive, Bryce Anglin came through for Cooperstown, lining an 88 mph fastball from Merciez down the left field line, plating the two runs that the team would use on their way to secure a victory. The double by Anglin was his team's second and final hit of the game, proving to be enough for Cooperstown.

Going the distance for Cooperstown was Jack Stover of Saint Joseph’s who cruised through the first six innings. His repertoire consisted of a fastball that sat 82-85 and touched 86 mph early, a 69-71 mph curveball which featured 1-to-7 break, and a mid-70s changeup, all of which he used to pick up a handful of strikeouts. Along with the pitchability that he showed throughout, Stover showed the ability to control the running game, picking off two runners to help him escape in two separate innings. It was in the seventh inning that the Golden Eagles offense final scratch across a run after an RBI single up the middle by Emmanuel Forcier of New Mexico Junior College.

The single by Forcier was one of only three hits by the Golden Eagles, the other two were singles off the bats of PGCBL All-Stars Buddy Putnam and Josh Anderson. Putnam hit a line drive single to center field in his first at bat, and he followed that with a loud fly ball out to center field in his next trip to the plate. Josh Anderson also collected a single in his first plate appearance, one that he hit to the right center field gap. He continued to show off his power in his third at-bat when he made hard contact to right center field again, even though it was for an out. Anderson uses his strong lower half well and showed that he can drive the ball with regular contact.

GAMES 2 and 3
Utica Brewers at Amsterdam Mohawks

Shuttleworth Park

Amsterdam General Manager: Brian Spagnola
2013 Summer Records:  Utica: 16-26 | Amsterdam: 29-16

In the first of two games on the day, Amsterdam found themselves trailing Utica before the game even started. This is because the game was a continuation game from earlier in the season in which Utica was up 2-0 prior to rain postponing the contest. Amsterdam went on to take both games by scores of 8-3 and 5-0, meaning the Amsterdam pitching shut down Utica, allowing only one run in 17 innings of baseball.

That lone run was an opposite field home run by Auburn outfielder Jay Gonzalez, who was impressive during his round of BP at the All-Star Game. Even though this was his first round tripper of the summer, Gonzalez has shown a strong hit tool, also picking up a single that he shot back up the middle.

The Mohawks offense however was firing on all cylinders. They picked up a run in the second to cut the early deficit in half, scored five runs in the fifth to blow the game open, and added two more in the sixth as insurance.

Leading the way for Amsterdam offense was Brian Ruby, who smacked a double to deep and added an infield single that registered 91 mph off the bat. Also contributing at the plate for the Mohawks were Ed Charlton, who lined a pitch down the left field line for an RBI double, and Devin Wenzel, who pulled a ball hard at the third basemen and had the ball bounce off his glove, bringing in three runs. John Nogowski also picked up a double and Jordan Ebert collected an RBI on a fielders choice.

It turns out Charlton was just getting warmed up as he picked up three more hits in the second game, missing the cycle by a home run, stole a base and picked up an RBI. Charlton showed off all facets of his game, showing good range in and reading the ball well off the bat, along with a strong baseball IQ and speed on the bases.

The attendance of the second game was 1,487, a figure that GM Brian Spagnola attributes to the Mohawks games being an event for the community, where people come to hang out and enjoy watching the boys of summer, year after year.

The fans that came out for the second game got to see a 5-0 victory for the Mohawks, who scored two runs in the first and never looked back, adding another run in the sixth and two more in the seventh. Joining Charlton with some offense was Josh Gardiner, who got himself on base twice with two singles to left field while driving in two runs. Shane Zimmer also collected two singles and two RBI.

Of course good pitching always helps a team win and that is exactly what Amsterdam received from Game 1 starter Jeremy Soule and Game 2 starter Rich Vrana. Soule is a 6-foot-5 right-hander from Fairfield who ran his fastball up 90 mph in the first inning and 86-88 the remainder of his three inning appearance, getting good run and downhill plane on his fastball. He also showed a curveball at 74-76 mph, and despite slowing his arm, he was still able to get some depth on the pitch.

Relieving Soule was Zach Breen, who topped 88 mph from a high three-quarters slot, Christian Bartholomew, who also topped 88 mph and worked 84-87 mph, picked up a couple strikeouts, and Alex Gagne, who worked the ninth, sat 82-84 mph on his fastball.

Rich Vrana gave the Mohawks another strong performance in the second game, working six scoreless innings, striking out six and allowing only two base hits. A left handed pitcher from Marist, Vrana saw his fastball top 87 in the first inning and maintained 83-86 mph on his fastball, to go along with his breaking ball and a changeup which he used frequently, sitting 72-75 mph.

Like the first game, the bullpen nailed down the back half of the game with Zach Quayle working the seventh and eighth innings, pounding the strike zone from a low three-quarters arm slot and spotting his fastball and changeup well. In the final inning the ball was handed to Chris Kalica who worked 85-86 mph on his fastball from an over the top arm slot and mixed in a 70-72 mph curveball and a changeup that hovered right around 80 mph.

Both Utica starters came out firing, as both Hunter McIntosh (Game 1) and Matt Hendricks (Game 2) saw their fastballs touch 88. McIntosh worked the first three innings, with quick 1-2-3 innings in both the second and third. Hendricks went a bit longer, getting through five innings and picking up a few strikeouts thanks to his ability to spot three pitches; a 85-87 mph fastball, a 73-76 mph curveball 73-76 mph and a mid-70s changeup that he threw to both sides of the plate. He also picked off two base runners.

Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs at Albany Dutchmen

Bellizzi Field

Albany General Manager: Jason Brinkman
2013 Summer Records:  Mohawk Valley: 24-17 | 
Albany: 24-19

The fourth game that I saw may have been the best of them all. Through the first three innings there were a total of three base runners. Two of the runners belonged to Mohawk Valley thanks to Jordan Serena being hit by a pitch in the first inning and Sam Dexter collecting his first of two singles in the third inning. The lone runner for Albany came in the first inning, from the two-hole hitter Tyler Orris who knocked a single to right field.

The fourth inning was a different story, as both teams brought across two runs, the only runs that would be scored by either team until extra innings. Mohawk Valley found their groove in the fourth as the first four batters reached base. Singles by Dalton Herrington, Landon Thibodeaux and Jordan Friend and a walk by Casey Rodrigue helped the Diamond Dawgs score their first run, followed by a sac fly from Craig Lepre, giving Mohawk Valley their 2-0 lead.

That didn't deter the Albany Dutchmen though as they came firing right back in the bottom of the inning. Tyler Orris got things going again for the Dutchmen offense, drawing a walk and coming around to score quickly thanks to a line-drive single off the bat of Matt Dacey, a Perfect Game National alum. With two outs in the inning and a runner on first, Bradley Noland hit a line drive triple to the left-center field gap, the first extra-base hit of the game, which tied the game at 2-2.

Over the next five innings offense was virtually non-existent, with only one hit for each side, mostly due to the performances of starting pitchers, Gavin Culpepper (Mohawk Valley) and Matt Gallup (Albany). Each pitcher went 7 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs. Gallup showed the ability to throw to both sides of the plate and use his three-pitch mix effectively. His fastball sat 80-83 mph, topping 84 throughout his outing, with his changeup sitting at 73 mph to go along with a low-70s curveball, which he used to pick up four strikeouts. Aside from the fourth, Gallup had very quick innings.

An extra-large, lean-framed Culpepper maintained his mid- to upper-80s velocity (peaking at 89 with a lot of 88s) throughout his appearance. Throwing from a three-quarters arm angle, Culpepper showed a very quick arm with which the ball came out of easily and got some tail on his fastball. He currently doesn't use his lower half and height to his advantage as part of his delivery, as it's to envision him throwing harder given his arm action once his mechanics get in sync. He also featured two types of curveballs, an upper-60s "get me over" offering and a 72-75 mph tight breaker, and he also threw a low-70s changeup.

Keegan Long came in to relieve Culpepper, closing out the eighth inning before giving way to PGCBL All-Star submariner Tyler Bray. Bray showed the same quick arm and movement on his fastball as he did in Newark three days earlier, but he bumped his velocity up, topping at 88 mph in this outing. He struck out the side in the ninth for a quick 1-2-3 inning and was on his way to picking up a victory, pitching in the bottom of the 10th with a one-run lead, with runners on first and second and two strikes on the batter.

In that situation the batter was three-hole hitter Chris Suseck, who up to this at bat was 0-for-4 and found himself down 1-2 in his fifth plate appearance. Looking for something he could drive, Suseck found just that in a changeup that Bray left up and in, the one mistake in Bray's two innings, and Suseck drove it to the left gap for a game winning two-run double, helping the Albany Dutchmen claim sole position of third place in the standings.

Picking up the win was Thomas Belcher, who despite giving a run in the 10th, was equally effective as Bray was for Mohawk Valley. Scoring that run was Dalton Herrington, his second time touching home plate during the game, after another base hit by Casey Rodgriue. Belcher struck out one batter with his fastball sitting in the mid-80s, touching 87, and mixed in a low-70s curveball and a 77 mph change.

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