By NATE DISCAVAGE
LITTLE FALLS- “Insanity is doing the same thing over-and-over again expecting a different result.” Utica Blue Sox fans were beginning to question their sanity last Saturday after the team fell to 0-for-4 on the season against the Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs.
Everything changed on Tuesday night as the Sox (10-21) defeated the Dawgs (20-8) 5-4 for their first win against the team since June 20, 2016, at Veterans Memorial Park in Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League Action.
“In the past, when we’ve played Mohawk Valley, we haven’t been able to get the job done, but we had some crucial plays on defense that saved us there,” Utica coach Xander Uxley said. “We learned from our mistakes in the past.”
It was a hard-fought victory, as the Blue Sox had to overcome the third cycle in PGCBL history by Russ Olive (UMass-Lowell). It was the first cycle since 2014 when Matt Diorio did it for Watertown.
After Cole Pursell (Willamette) knocked a two-run double in the top of the first inning and Mohawk Valley tallied two runs of their own, the two teams entered the top of the eighth inning knotted at two.
It all changed when Kyle Norman (University of Buffalo) hit a one-out RBI single to put Utica ahead. Pursell followed with his second RBI-double of the night before a passed ball allowed Taylor Holmstead (Southern New Hampshire University) to score and increase the lead to 5-2.
The Diamond Dawgs did not give up without a fight. Olive fired up the home crowd by ripping his fifth home run of the season over the right field fence. Back-to-back singles followed by back-to-back hit-by-pitches brought Mohawk Valley within one run.
That is when it all fell apart.
With one out and the bases loaded, Joe Engel (Columbia University) hit a fly ball to right field. Alexis Monge-Rodriguez (Barry) had strayed too far off of first base and was thrown out trying to get back and prevented the game-tying run from scoring on a sacrifice fly.
Blue Sox fans held their breath as the Dawgs threatened again in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and a runner on first, Olive singled to right field and put runners at the corners. The single completed the cycle for Olive. Austin Salnitis (Central Connecticut State) earned his second save of the season by forcing Clay Koniencki (Monmouth) to fly out to right field to end the game.
“We are going to go over the things that we did wrong in this game,” Mohawk Valley coach Blake Nation said. “We did a lot of things wrong in this game that ultimately cost us in all aspects of the game.”
Louie Varland (Concordia-St. Paul) earned his first win of the season. The 6-foot-1 freshman from Minnesota struck out seven batters in six-and-two-thirds innings pitched.
Crandall Poore (Middle Georgia State) suffered his second loss of the season. The six-foot righty allowed a season-high five runs on 10 hits in seven-and-two-thirds innings pitched.
By completing the cycle, Olive tacked on an RBI, two runs and a walk. He currently ranks third in the league with five home runs.
Utica returns home and will face the Saugerties Stallions (15-16).
The Diamond Dawgs will host the Adirondack Trail Blazers (10-20) tomorrow night.