The Albany Dutchmen’s long, strange journey of 2015 ended with a postseason berth and a first-round playoff exit.
The Dutchmen (23-27) won five out of their last seven games to overtake Glens Falls for the third and final playoff spot out of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League’s East Division, only to lose to Mohawk Valley 6-3 in a one-game playoff Friday, July 31, in Little Falls.
Just making the playoffs was a feat for an Albany team that struggled with inconsistent defense this season – a result of losing several outfielders and two catchers to injury during the season. The Dutchmen committed 70 errors this season, which placed them in the lower third of the 10-team league.
“We were playing some guys out of position,” said Albany manager Nick Davey. “We were not the best of defensive teams, and we had to overcome that.”
The way Albany overcame it was with stout starting pitching. The duo of Nick Cioffi (Towson) and Jon Reid (Azusa Pacific) led the way, with Cioffi posting a record of 5-1, an earned run average of 1.67 and 52 strikeouts. Reid had a 4-4 record with a 3.02 ERA.
Cioffi was in fine form for Albany’s last game of the regular season, a 7-1 victory at Glens Falls (22-28) Thursday, July 30, that clinched third place in the East Division. The Averill Park graduate scattered three hits in seven scoreless innings to pick up his team-leading fifth win of the season.
“I knew the kid we got was not the kid we saw at Towson,” Davey said of Cioffi, who was named Albany’s Pitcher of the Year. “I knew the things that happened at Towson this season (0-3 record, 7.23 ERA in 14 appearances) were things that were out of his control. I knew if he could make amends for what happened at Towson, he would have.”
Albany’s offense came through, as well. Dutchmen Player of the Year Michael Fitzsimmons (Ole Miss) belted a solo home run in the second inning to start the scoring, lined an RBI single to cap a three-run third inning rally and added a two-run double in the fifth to help Albany build a seven-run lead.
Meanwhile, Glens Falls looked like a shell of the team that, at one point, held a three-game lead over Albany for third place with 10 games to go. The Dragons couldn’t take advantage of four Dutchmen errors, and they managed only four hits in what was a winner-take-all game.
Albany met Mohawk Valley in the PGCBL playoffs’ opening round for the third straight year, and for a moment it looked like the Dutchmen were going to pull out a victory after taking a 3-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning. However, the DiamondDawgs (33-19) scored twice in the bottom of the fourth inning and took the lead for good on Thomas Walraven’s RBI single in the fifth.
“We just didn’t answer the bell. They came back and scored twice to tie the game, and we never responded,” said Davey. “But at the end of the day … the reason we lost that game was because we didn’t play defense. We had a dropped third strike, which started their two-run rally, and then we had an error that led to another run.”
Michael Bollmer (Louisville) singled three times and scored a run to lead Albany’s offense. Hunter Boose (Georgia Regents) and Tom Moore (Siena) drove in two of the Dutchmen’s three runs on sacrifice flies in the fourth inning.
Despite the first-round exit, Davey said he was pleased the Dutchmen made the playoffs.
“Overall, the season was a success. The win-loss total could have been better, but we made the playoffs for the third straight year, which was the organization’s goal at the start of the year,” said Davey.
The coaching staff will take a break before beginning the recruiting process for the 2016 PGCBL season.
“We’re going to take this month off, and we’re all going to do our separate things,” said Davey. “We’ll start talking and get the wheels turning in late September.”