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Wizards’ season comes to fitting end in suddenly sloppy loss


The Watertown Wizards’ finale represented a microcosm of their disappointing season.

After leading for the first five innings, the Wizards committed several costly errors in the late innings as the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs rallied and routed Watertown, 9-3 on Wednesday in a Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League game at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

“This is kind of the story of our season,” said Watertown first-year manager Nathan Kafka, whose team finished at 18-27.

The victory, coupled with Oneonta’s loss at Glens Falls, allowed the DiamondDawgs (25-21) to clinch the fourth and final playoff berth in the league.

After being shut out for the first three innings, Mohawk Valley successfully mounted a comeback to qualify for the postseason.

“It’s a compliment to our team,” said Mohawk Valley manager Roberto Vaz, whose team at one point lost eight of nine games this season, but surged to win 11 straight games during their stretch run. “We have been able to battle all season and I’m proud of these guys.”

After drawing to within 3-2 in the sixth inning on Mark Stuckey’s two-out RBI double, the DiamondDawgs struck for seven runs in the final two innings to take control.

After Chris Cruz and Jack Morrow hit consecutive singles to open the eighth, Cruz stole third base and then scored the tying run on a delayed steal. Morrow reached third on a wild pitch and scored the go-ahead run on Jesse Burat’s single to left field with two out.

“They definitely can swing the bat and it tends to be late against us,” first baseman Jordan Enos said. “They just kept hanging in there and capitalized on our mistakes.”

The Wizards then self destructed in the ninth inning as the first two base runners reached on infield errors. With one out, Mohawk Valley strung together four consecutive singles en route to scoring five runs, all unearned, with RBI singles from Morrow, Jonathan Scott and Stuckey. The final run scored on a passed ball.

“This was a tough loss, but we’re going out with no regrets,” Wizards left fielder Donald Walter said.

Taylor Wright pitched two scoreless innings to earn the win for Mohawk Valley, which will play first-place Amsterdam in the first round of the playoffs.

“We’re looking forward to the playoffs, but we’re going to have to beat a really good team in Amsterdam,” Vaz said.

Jonathan Perez was roughed up in two innings of relief to take the loss for Watertown.

“It was definitely a tough one for us,” Enos said. “We played well for about seven innings and that last inning definitely hurt.”

The Wizards went 13-10 on the road, but fared just 5-17 at the Fairgrounds, including a 10-game losing skid at home.

“I don’t think there was a player in that locker room who did not think we were good enough to be a playoff team,” Wizards co-owner and general manager Todd Kirkey said. “We did not pitch consistent enough and field consistent enough to put the streak together that we needed. But there are a lot of good players here and I think the future drafts are going to reflect that we did underachieve.”

Kirkey added Watertown has missed the playoffs for five straight years, including three in the PGCBL and two in the New York Collegiate Baseball League.

Kafka concluded: “I just told them I was pleased that they worked hard all summer and improved on things they were struggling with. I just thanked them for the experience they gave me as well. It was a very good experience for me, I learned a lot this summer.”

nNOTES: Four local players took part in the game for Watertown as A.J. Capone (Lowville Academy, College of Saint Rose) started at second base, Dustin Exford (Immaculate Heart Central, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M) started at first base and two of the newest Wizards — center fielder Cameron Allen (Sackets Harbor graduate) and pitcher Jarrod Mattingly (Indian River, Clarkson University) also played later in the game. ... The game drew a crowd of 926 at the Fairgrounds, boosting Watertown’s season attendance total to 11,186 in 22 home games for an average turnout of 508 per game.... Watertown announced its five team awards, which were given to Walter (offensive player of year), Enos (defensive player of year) Alex Solis (player of year, pitcher of year) and Brandon Cipolla (top prospect of year). ... Kevin Jumps of Dexter was chosen as the team’s fan of the year.

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