Stephens leads Amsterdam to series-tying win over Jamestown

AMSTERDAM — The Amsterdam Mohawks came into Shuttleworth Park tonight desperate for a win to extend the PGCBL finals. Behind the arm of Zane Stephens they did so, winning 5-4 to force a game three.

Amsterdam got up early with a run in the bottom of the first. Mike Antico (St. John’s) drew the lead off walk to start up the game. In the next at bat, Jamestown’s starter Isaiah Molten (Cal State Bakersfield) missed the catch to put out Richie Barrella (Manhattan), allowing Barrella to get on base and Antico to advance to third. A double play by Michael Ludowig (Wake Forest) scored Antico, making it 1-0 Amsterdam.

Amsterdam starter Zane Stephens (Mississippi State) struggled to keep the ball off bats in the early going. After allowing two hits in the first inning, a single and an error on the second baseman put two men on for the lead off hitter Alex O’Donnell (Mercyhurst). After seeing one strike, O’Donnell cranked one deep over the right field wall for a three-run home run.

Even with the hits, Zane still stayed engaged early, striking out seven batters in the first three innings.

“I was just focused on throwing strikes, working the change-up and throwing a lot of off speed because they weren’t touching it very well,” Stephens said.

A poor read by Amsterdam’s centerfielder Mike Antico let the next run in. A ball that should have just dropped in for a single, got under Antico’s glove letting Chase Keng (UTSA) come all the way around and score, making it 4-1 Jamestown.

After the third inning, Zane Stephens proved that he is a dominant force on the mound. Stephens pitched four more innings of shutout ball, sitting down fourteen straight batters with five more punch outs. His final line was seven innings pitched, six hits, twelve strikeouts, and no earned runs.

Stephens said, “Me and Joe (Genord) kind of clicked and had a groove and just kept going.”

The fifth inning saw Amsterdam cut the deficit to two runs. After Jake Hammon reached on an error by the shortstop Sterling Hayes (Vanderbilt), Mike Antico hit a triple to right field to bring Hammon in. Unfortunately, they could not bring Antico in with two outs left.

The Amsterdam bats finally came back to life in the bottom of the seventh. Elvis Peralta got the first hit with a double to right field, then came around to third base on a passed ball, leaving Mike Antico at the plate with one out. Antico lifted the ball out to left field for an opposite field two run homer to tie the game at four.

Antico said, “We had a man on third, I was just trying to knock him in. I was just trying to get a base hit and I ran into it a little bit and that is it.”

Richie Barrella followed this up with a solo home run of his own. His shot put the Mohawks up one run with only six outs left to play.

Barrella said, “I just got a pitch I could handle and it ended up working out.”

Of course a finals game couldn’t end without a little drama. Shane Muntz (Wake Forest) relieved  Stephens for the eighth and ninth innings. Even though Muntz struck out five batters, he walked just as many. Three of the walks came with two outs in the ninth to load the bases for Chase Keng. Keng made contact with the second pitch he saw, flying out to deep centerfield to end the game.

This win ties the series at one a piece, with the final game Wednesday night at Shuttleworth Park. Due to field conflicts, Jamestown will serve as the home team and receive last at bats. According to Mohawks interim head coach Doug O’Brey, right hander Trip Lockhart (Kentucky) will start.

LJ LaFiura

LJ LaFiura is a general assignment sports reporter at the upstate Courier. A Fort Edward native, he attends Saratoga Central Catholic High School.

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