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O’Brien’s heroics spark late comeback, Mohawks defeat Rapids

By Sam Federman

Box Score

Michael O’Brien thought he had a sac fly to right field.

With two runners on in a two-run game, that would be welcomed for the Mohawks, but when Payton Shipman kept going back, the realization set in. O’Brien’s fly ball had made its way over the fence in right, and Amsterdam took a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning.

“It just kept on going back,” O’Brien said. “And I thought it might have a shot to get out of here. I put a good swing on it, caught it out front, and it paid off.”

The Mississippi State outfielder put the team on his back, with three hits, and the first five runs driven in for the Mohawks en route to a 6-5, walk-off victory.

In the first inning, after Javar Williams (Wake Forest) walked, O’Brien drove the ball into the right-center field gap, and motored around the bases to third with a stand-up triple, tying the game at one.

In the third inning, O’Brien again came to the plate with runners on base after Aiden Stewart (Delaware) led off with a single. The center fielder fought off an inside pitch and fisted it into center field, just beyond the reach of a diving Nick Bergamotto, and Stewart scored from second, giving the Mohawks their first lead.

O’Brien’s 3-5 day comes on the heels of some struggles, as he was just 2 for his previous 15 entering the game.

“You go through rough patches here and there as a baseball player,” O’Brien said. “It’s just part of the game, but it’s very important to just keep on going at it, to get after it, and keep putting your best swings on balls, and staying confident. You just realize that everybody goes through it, and it will be better.”

Watertown grabbed the lead with a two-out, two-run double from Bergamotto in the top of the sixth, and tied the game following O’Brien’s home run in the top of the 8th.

Head Coach Keith Griffin decided against putting summer stars Pete Daniel (Belmont) and Cade Ladehoff (NJIT), the team’s two leaders in hits, in the lineup, but both eventually came in the game, in the #9 and #10 holes respectively. The decision was looking like a masterclass, as that was the spot in the order that the Mohawks had due up going into the bottom of the ninth in a 5-5 game.

Daniel reached on an error, but Ladehoff would not come to the plate. After a meeting with Griffin on the third base line, the Freshman All-American took his helmet off, placed his batting gloves inside, and walked back to the Mohawks dugout, making way for Sebastian Harden (Coastal Alabama North) to pinch hit.

The decision ended up being incidental, as Harden walked on four pitches, but Griffin trusted the bat of Harden, who played for him in the spring, to lay down a bunt, which he attempted to do before Jason Carrasco’s pitches missed the strike zone.

O’Brien came to the plate with the bases loaded and the chance to play the hero and cap off his perfect night, but it wasn’t to be. The center fielder swung out of his shoes and popped out to the first baseman in foul territory.

However, his Starkville compatriot, Steven Spalitta, didn’t even have to take the bat off of his shoulder. On four straight pitches, he walked to first base, Daniel pranced the 90 feet to home plate, and the Mohawks won their eighth game in a row.

Amsterdam sits in first place in the PGCBL East Division ahead of two matchups with second place Saugerties, who has given the Mohawks one of their two losses, and sit just a half-game behind pace.

Wednesday’s game will take place at Cantine Field in Saugerties, while the Mohawks welcome the Stallions, led by PGCBL OPS leader Ethan Conrad (Wake Forest commit) to Shuttleworth Park on Thursday.