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Collegiate baseball: Rams fail to slow down red-hot Mohawks

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WATERTOWN — The Amsterdam Mohawks’ resurgence has two simple ingredients: strong pitching and Josh Gardiner.

East Division-leading Amsterdam got a total of 13 strikeouts, while Gardiner went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, including a two-run triple, as it fended off a late rally to beat the Watertown Rams, 6-4, in Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League play Monday night at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The Mohawks, the two-time defending league champions, are 24-8 overall after winning 22 of their past 24 games since June 14 when they started the season 2-6.

Amsterdam manager Keith Griffin said the pitching staff has made all the difference.

“We’ve got great pitching,” said Griffin, whose team came into Monday’s game with a league-leading 2.29 earned-run average. “It’s been amazing.”

Watertown (18-14) now sits a game behind Newark (19-13) in the West Division standings after the Pilots topped Elmira with a 6-5 walkoff win. The Pioneers are 1 1/2 games out of first place at 18-15.

Mohawks starter Zack Brown struck out six in 4 2/3 innings, while Daniel Castro ( 2-0) got the win in relief.

Thomas Kain picked up an RBI single in the sixth before adding two runs on a Brandon Mikulka error as a part of a three-run seventh, which was one of three Rams’ defensive.

Matt Diorio drove in two of the Rams’ four runs with an RBI single in the fifth that tied it at 2-2 and an RBI single in the ninth to pull the Rams to 6-4. Diorio said that he was looking to provide offense.

“I was trying to make something happen and I had guys in scoring position,” Diorio said.

Zander Clousse (2-1) went six innings, giving up three runs and absorbed the loss.

Amsterdam’s win completed a 4-0 season sweep over Watertown. Rams’ manager Paul Alteri said that his team made too many mistakes to win.

“You can’t make those errors against a team like Amsterdam,” Alteri said. “They take advantage and I think half those runs were scored on unearned runs.”

The Mohawks started the scoring in the third after Gardiner ripped a two-run triple, but had a potential third run snuffed out at home when the speedy JaVon Shelby was cut down after a relay throw from Rams first baseman Dominic Lopez.

Watertown tied it in fifth on RBI singles by Chris Gaetano and Diorio, before Amsterdam plated the next four runs on the Kain single and the two-run error.

Gardiner, who singled in another run later in the seventh, said that he handled a lot of off-speed pitches.

“I saw two fastballs all game,” said Gardiner, who entered Monday with a league-leading .421 batting average. “If they’re going to hang them, I’m going to hit them.”

The Rams did push across two in the ninth, but had a hit taken away at the wall on a running catch by center fielder Marcus Carson.

Pinch hitter Tyler Decker struck out looking for the final out. Alteri said he like the way his team fought back late.

“This team doesn’t pack it in ever,” Alteri said.

■ NOTES: Watertown is off as the PGCBL All-Star Game is today at Dunn Field in Elmira. Diorio, Gaetano, Joe Ogren, Corbin Powers, Jon Escobar and Jake Sale, who was a late addition, will represent the Rams. Willi Martin will be a part of the Home Run Derby. ... Watertown is back in action 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at Adirondack.

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