The Elmira Pioneers defeated the Amsterdam Mohawks 9-7 to force a third game in the PGCBL Championship. After trailing 5-0 early, the Pioneers climbed back into the game and knotted the series at one game apiece, with a winner-take-all series finale coming up.
In the top of the first, the Mohawks looked as though they’d run away with the game en route to their second consecutive PGCBL crown. After two quick outs, Amsterdam got a single, a double, a walk, another single, then a bases-clearing double from John Sansone (Florida State). They quickly put together a 4-0 lead. The Mohawks added another run in the top of the second to bring their lead to 5-0.
The Pioneers, however, didn’t let the game get too out of hand. Starting pitcher Danny Britt (Trinity Christian) began to command his arsenal, and kept Amsterdam off the board for the rest of his five-inning outing. Elmira Head Coach Matt Burch was uncertain as to how things would unfold after his club fell behind, but started to feel the momentum shift after the Pioneers got on the board in the bottom of the second.
“It’s interesting because I know everyone wants to go home,” Burch said. “It’s been a long summer for our guys, for their guys. You don’t know what you’re going to get, but we got that one run across then those guys start to get a little energy and Danny (Britt) settled in a little bit after those first two innings. He gave us five innings and about 85 pitches. And then the relievers came in and did a good job.”
A pair of key errors from Amsterdam outfielders allowed the Pioneers to mount their comeback. Brian Bashara (Old Dominion) reached on an error by left fielder Jordan Ebert (Auburn) to lead off the second, and eventually came around to score. Then in the bottom of the third, with Amsterdam leading 5-2 and runners on first and second, Colby Gee (Ithaca) hit a dribbler through the right side of the infield. Mohawks right fielder Kyle Barrett failed to field the ball cleanly, allowing both runners to score and Gee to advance to second base. Elmira trailed by just one run, and Britt was locked in.
The Pioneers tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. After Taylor Hillson (Mansfield HS) lead off with a base hit, the Pioneers moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Another sacrifice bunt attempt came when Parker Curry (Samford) came to the plate, but Curry beat the pitcher to the bag to give Elmira runners on the corners with just one out. As Chris Knott (East Stroudburg) stepped in, Curry stole second base without a throw. Knott then singled to shallow center field, scoring Hillson to tie the game.
Elmira scored one run each in the fifth and sixth, then added two in the eighth to build a sturdy 9-5 lead. Curry moved off of shortstop to pitch the eighth for the Pioneers. As the game moved to the ninth, Coach Burch had a decision to make about whether to keep Curry on the mound.
“He said ‘I’m going, I’m good.’ So he hung in there for two innings, and we get to play tomorrow night.”
Things got a little bit shaky after Curry recorded the first two outs of the ninth. The Mohawks wouldn’t go down easily, and they put together three straight hits, including a two-run double from Ed Charlton (NJIT). John Sansone, who had a three-run double earlier in the game, represented the tying run as he stepped into the batter’s box. After a long battle, Curry got Sansone to swing and miss at the final pitch of the game, giving the Pioneers a 9-7 victory, and forcing Game 3 of the series.