By Josh McMullen – Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs

LITTLE FALLS, NY – The Utica Blue Sox got off to a hot start to kick off the 2023 Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League season, scoring 11 runs in just five innings. The Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs kept clawing back, but in the end, it wasn’t enough, as the Diamond Dawgs fell just short.

The Blue Sox got their scoring started just four batters in when Will Shannon (Bloomfield Hills, MI/Hillsdale) looped a ball into right field that scored Norris McClure (Mandeville, LA/Spring Hill) from second base. Wyatt Jensen (Luck, WI/St. Thomas) extended the lead with a lazy fly ball to center field in the second, scoring Ben Partridge (Bardonia, NY/Rockland CC).

Taylor Kaufman (Burlingame, CA/Hamilton) doubled the lead for Utica in the third with one swing, slamming a ball to straightaway center field, scoring himself and Shannon. Another RBI single in the fourth, this time by Easton Brenner (Houston, TX/LaFayette), extended the Utica lead to five. McClure then broke the game open with a 2-RBI single to left, scoring Peter Adams (North Augusta, SC/Limestone) and Greg Kopp (McLean, VA/Hamilton).

Another Utica home run, this time by Shannon, scored three and put together a massive rally for the Blue Sox. In the fourth, the Blue Sox would send 13 batters to the plate, scoring seven runs and giving themselves an 11-0 lead.

It looked like a run-rule loss for Mohawk Valley until Mitch Balint (Avondale, PA/Carson-Newman) scored the Diamond Dawgs’ first run of the 2023 season in the fifth, smashing a ball to left field that would score Sam Miller (McMurray, PA/Columbia). Mark Darakjy walked with the bases loaded, scoring Justin Hackett (McMurray, PA/Bryant). Jaden Ross (Tampa, FL/Hudson Valley CC) would get them closer just one batter later, bouncing a ball into center field to score Balint and Brian Heckelman (Mineola, NY/Towson). An error on a dropped ball scored another run, this time Darakjy, to cut the Utica lead to six. A three-run double to center field by Miller cut the lead to just three and made it a brand-new ball game.

In all, 14 Diamond Dawgs came to the plate in the fifth, with eight runs scored on just three hits.

In the sixth, a dropped ball by Balint brought home Andre Demetral (Rochester, MI/NIU), while an RBI double by Brenner brought home Adams to extend the lead back to five. However, the Diamond Dawgs would claw back another run on a passed ball that would score Darakjy, and a sacrifice fly by Miller brought them to within three.

That was as close as Mohawk Valley would get, though, as Thomas Roefaro (Utica, NY/SUNY Oneonta) kept the Diamond Dawgs scoreless the rest of the way to pick up the save for the Blue Sox.

de Jong (Voorhees, NJ/NJIT) got the win for Utica (1-0). Chris Palmer (Saint Rose) got the loss for Mohawk Valley (0-1).

The Diamond Dawgs will stay at Veteran’s Memorial Park on Friday when they host the Saugerties Stallions and try to avenge their 14-inning elimination from the playoffs last season. The Blue Sox will continue the first week of the 2023 season at Duffy Fairgrounds Stadium when they visit the Watertown Rapids.

Photos by Dave Warner