LITTLE FALLS–The Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs have won their first PGCBL championship, beating the Victor RailRiders, 8-4, in Game Two of the PGCBL Championship Series.
The DiamondDawgs came back from a 4-1 deficit to sweep the RailRiders–the third time the PGCBL Championship Series has resulted in a sweep (2012 and 2014 being the others).
“It’s a lot of hard work and just an amazing feeling. I can’t even express how happy I am for the guys, our sponsors, our fans and I think we deserve it,” said Mohawk Valley Owner/General Manager Travis Heiser. “We work very, very hard and it’s definitely something I’ll never forget and something I don’t think our players and the people of the Mohawk Valley will forget.”
Chris Rave gave the DiamondDawgs an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning with a solo home run onto the bleachers in center field.
Victor responded in the top of the third on a Dale Wickham RBI single to right field, a fielder’s choice, a wild pitch and an Evan Fernandez RBI single to take a 4-1 lead.
Mohawk Valley cut the lead to two in the bottom of the fourth as Ryan Stekl hit a leadoff triple into the right field corner and scored on a wild pitch. In the following inning, Anthony Herrera led off the frame with a triple into the left field corner and scored on a Matt Pagano RBI double to left field and Pagano scored on a Troy Scocca RBI single to tie the game at four.
The DiamondDawgs took the lead in the bottom of the sixth as Sam Machonis led off the inning with a broken-bat single, advanced to second on a Rave sac bunt and scored on an Andrew Turner RBI single through the left side. Rave came around to score an insurance run on a wild pitch for the DiamondDawgs in the bottom of the eighth after singling and going to third on a Colin Hawk double. Hawk scored on an Anthony Herrera RBI single up the middle to make it 7-4. Pagano hit an RBI single to left field to score Herrera to extend the lead to 8-4.
Mohawk Valley starter Adam Ashenfarb got the win after allowing four Victor runs (one earned) in 6.2 innings. The southpaw struck out four batters and gave up five hits–four being singles. Anthony Herrera came on in relief of Ashenfarb in the seventh and tossed 2.1 scoreless innings to notch the save for the second-straight game.
Victor starter Luke Tomczyk allowed the first four Mohawk Valley runs in 4.1 innings while registering six strikeouts as he got a no-decision. Dylan Swetman took the loss for the RailRiders as he gave up the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth.
In the East Division Championship Series, Mohawk Valley came back from a 1-0 deficit to beat the Amsterdam Mohawks, the three-time defending champions.
“I knew if we could get through (Amsterdam) then our guys could win the whole thing,” said DiamondDawgs Head Coach Blake Nation.
Anthony Herrera played a big role in the wins in the East Championship Series and the PGCBL Championship Series. The University of Louisiana-Monroe product tossed 10.2 innings total this postseason with a 0.84 ERA, a win and three saves.
“Those Louisiana boys always have a chip on their shoulder and they’re never going to give up,” Nation said of Herrera and ULM teammate Payton Coddou, who had two wins in the postseason.
“I knew coming up here it was always Amsterdam winning it all…but talking to the guys we wanted to grind it out and we did it,” Herrera said.
During the regular season, the DiamondDawgs didn’t get off to the season they had envisioned. They went into July with a record of 9-11, but a record-breaking month saw the club win 23 games to clinch the second spot in the East.
Nation credited the turnaround to his team’s mindset and the willpower of the players.
“They were tired of losing. They were tired of being under .500 and wanted to be a contender in this league and they did that,” he said.
The DiamondDawgs became the third team to win the PGCBL championship and the first non-Amsterdam team to do so since 2011 (Newark). The championship was the first by a team in Little Falls since 1993.
“The guys gelled and they bought into our philosophy and just kept getting after it,” Heiser said. “It means a lot to us as an organization, we’re going to enjoy it and get back to work next week.