End Of Road
Jammers Fall To DiamondDawgs In Championship Game
For the second time in three years, the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs are the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League champions.
Tuesday night’s coronation came at the expense of the Jamestown Jammers, whose exciting summer ride came to an end just a few innings away from glory.
Leading 8-4 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, Mohawk Valley closer Zach Vennaro allowed a pair of base runners before retiring the final three Jammers’ hitters, capped by a Skyler Valentine (University of Texas-San Antonio) groundout to second base that set off a Dawg pile on the right side of the infield.
“We have a small-town, family feel. … Our owner is always involved and our host families are very involved,” Mohawk Valley manager Blake Nation said. “We’ve got the greatest fans in the league. … I love the intensity they bring … and our fans hate losing.”
“We try to recruit the blue-collar kid. We want the kid who is going to grind and want to be here at this point in the season,” added Mohawk Valley’s owner and general manager Travis Heiser, who has been an elementary school teacher for 16 years. “It’s a credit to our coaches, our staff and our community.”
The DiamondDawgs took the lead for good in the top of the fifth inning. Alexis Monge-Rodriguez’ one-out triple chased Jamestown starter Bradley Griggs (UTSA) and Tim Zeng greeted reliever Michael Ginther (Canisius College) with a run-scoring double on the first pitch he saw to score Monge-Rodriguez.
The Jammers had their best opportunity to rally when Alex O’Donnell (Mercyhurst University) and Jimmy Standohar (Mercyhurst) reached on back-to-back walks to open the bottom of the eighth inning. Nation then turned to Vennaro, who entered the game with 10 saves on the season, striking out 31 batters in 23.2 innings pitched. Asked to bunt, Connor Rule (Kansas State University) popped the ball up to third base for the first out of the frame.
“That’s fundamental baseball,” Jamestown manager Anthony Barone said. “You’ve got to get the bunt down there.”
Still with runners at first and second, reserve second baseman Ryan Markey hit a soft line drive to short that Monge-Rodriguez turned into an inning-ending double play as he caught O’Donnell straying too far off second base.
“It was weird because he almost caught it near the dirt,” Barone said. “As a runner there, you are sort of stuck on what to do.”
Mohawk Valley added on a pair of runs in a sloppy top of the ninth for the Jammers and the West Division champion’s Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters were unable to capitalize on back-to-back singles by John Conti (Canisius) and Chris Estrada (UTSA) that opened the bottom half of the frame.
“There’s a bunch of mixed emotions right now. We played hard, but we ran out of steam there at the end,” Barone said. “Our guys fought all the way and made it to the last game of the year. Give Mohawk Valley credit because they are well-coached, a good organization and a good team.”
The Jammers jumped on top early as Valentine led off the bottom of the second inning with a single and scored one batter later when O’Donnell tripled to deep center field. The Jamestown shortstop then scored on a Standohar single to make it 2-0, but the Jammers gave the lead right back in the top of the third.
“We’ve been in that situation so many times in the playoffs. We’ve come back in almost every win,” Nation said. ” … We knew that we were going to have to compete because championships aren’t easy.”
A walk prior to singles by Lucas Terwilliger and Joe Engel loaded the bases with no outs. With one out, Zeng hit a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Dan Deely when Standohar’s throw to the plate was dropped by Rule on a bang-bang play. Clay Koniencki then gave the DiamondDawgs the lead with a two-run triple down the right-field line.
“That was the turning point of the game,” Barone said. “We scored two and if we can put up a zero there, we can keep the momentum.”
Ben Porter gave Mohawk Valley a 4-2 lead when he led off the fourth inning with his first home run in 187 at-bats this summer.
The Jammers tied the game in the bottom of the fourth as Valentine and O’Donnell walked before Rule’s one-out RBI single. Two batters later, Conti made it 4-4 when he drove in O’Donnell with a two-out single.
The loss marked the end of the most successful season in the Jammers’ three summers of collegiate baseball. After a year in the Prospect League in 2015, the Jammers made the jump to the PGCBL last year and lost in a one-game playoff at Utica. This year, Jamestown beat Onondaga in a one-game playoff before sweeping Elmira in the West Division Championship Series.
“You can see such a progression of baseball and community support,” Barone said. “They were just really behind us this whole season.”
NOTES: Conti and Estrada each had two hits for the Jammers while No. 8 hitter Terwilliger and No. 9 hitter Engel each had a pair of hits for the DiamondDawgs. … Levi Abrahamson threw two innings of shutout relief, allowing two hits and striking out one for Mohawk Valley. … Griggs allowed five runs on five hits and a walk while striking out four for the Jammers while Ginther, Colin Johnston and Nolan Hunt threw the final 4.2 innings, allowing five hits and three runs while striking out seven and walking two.