By CHRIS FITZ GERALD – Watertown Daily Times
WATERTOWN — A midseason division showdown between two of the top hitting teams in the league in Mohawk Valley and Watertown ultimately proved to be a one-sided affair.
Powered by first baseman Ryan Hernandez, the DiamondDawgs broke open a close game by scoring 11 runs in the seventh inning and went on to defeat the Rapids, 16-7, in a Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League game on a sweltering Saturday afternoon at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
Hernandez slugged a pair of home runs, including a two-run shot to spark the decisive seventh inning for Mohawk Valley.
“This is our first win against them and it was pretty nice to finally beat them,” Hernandez said. “They’re a really good team over there.”
Central Division leader Watertown (14-8) was dealt its second straight loss after generating a three-game winning streak earlier in the week.
“That was a tough one,” Watertown manager David Anderson said. “That was tough and we’ve got another one (today). And as poorly as we feel we’ve played in the last eight games, we’re still in first place.”
The DiamondDawgs, who had lost the previous three meetings against the Rapids, drew within one-half game of Watertown in the division.
“They’ve had our number all year, so it’s nice to get a victory on the road up here,” Mohawk Valley head coach Cory Haggerty said. “They came off a rough night last night, I think they played extra innings last night, so they showed a lot of heart coming out here. It’s not always easy when it’s like 90 degrees out, but this was a good win for us.”
With Mohawk Valley leading 4-3 entering the seventh inning, 16 batters came to the plate in the 11-run uprising for the DiamondDawgs.
“One bad inning kind of hurt us,” Watertown center fielder Julian Kurych said. “But that’s the way the game goes sometimes. So we’ve just got to be ready to come out and play (today).”
After Joseph Castellanos reached on an infield error in the seventh, Hernandez connected for his second home run of the day, hitting both over the left field wall, for a 6-3 advantage.
“At this point in time, we start seeing situations and who is rising to the top,” Haggerty said. “I think right know we’re in a good position where we have a lot of hitters on the same page, and we’re making a push for first place. So that’s nice to see.”
Mike Young, Austin Pollack and Alexis Monge-Rodriguez each delivered RBI singles later in the inning.
“We had a big inning, everyone put the pieces together and we took advantage of our hits,” said Hernandez, a University at Albany player and Boston native who has hit a league-leading six home runs. “We hadn’t been stringing hits together lately, so seeing this is pretty nice.”
The DiamondDawgs also went on to score runs in a variety of ways in the big inning as they scored two runs on two wild pitches, one runner came home on a bases-loaded walk, another scored on an error by the catcher and yet another was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded — en route to building a 15-3 lead.
“We’ve been a little hit or miss lately,” Anderson said. “We’ve got some things to tighten up as far as arms coming out of the bullpen. Some of the balls that have been dropping for us early on aren’t right now. But we’ll stay at it and we’ll be all right.”
After Mohawk Valley tacked on a run in the eighth inning, the Rapids scored two runs in each of the final two innings with designated hitter Nolan Wilson hitting a two-run home run to left in the eighth.
Shortstop Daniel Little homered for Watertown in the ninth and Trevor Kuncl doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Kurych.
“They’re a really tough team, most lineups in this league can really beat you if you’re not doing your job on the mound,” Anderson said of Mohawk Valley. “Especially them, they’ve got guys who can run the ball out of the ballpark at any second. And I think we have five more against them, so these are important games.”
After both teams scored a run in the first inning, Mohawk Valley took the lead for good at 3-1 with two runs in the second inning as after loading the bases, a runner scored on a wild pitch and another scored on Castellanos’ sac fly to center field.
After the DiamondDawgs led 4-1 on Hernandez’s leadoff home run in the third, the Rapids pulled to within 4-3 as Kurych doubled to the right field wall and scored on the same sequence after Mohawk Valley’s cut-off man threw the ball away.
The Rapids, who are now 8-4 at home this season, lost in 14 innings at Geneva the night before.
“We definitely don’t want to use that as an excuse, and I’m sure all the other guys would tell you that as well,” said Kurych, who reached base four times in five trips to the plate against Mohawk Valley, including a double, two singles, and also scored three runs. “We’ve just got to come ready and be focused — one game doesn’t define us. So we’ve just got to keep battling, it’s a long season.”