The Dutchmen celebrate their walkoff victory over Saugerties. (Photo by Shawn Stannard)
The Albany Dutchmen entered the 2015 Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League season with the expectation of another 20-plus win season, and a third consecutive PGCBL playoff berth under sixth-year head coach Nick Davey.
And while it may have taken every game of the regular season to accomplish that goal, it was a successful seventh season of baseball in the capital city of the Empire State. Albany won 23 games, the second highest total in franchise history, en route to a playoff berth.
The season began in Albany on June 2 when the Dutchmen battled the eventual West Division regular season champion Elmira Pioneers. The game would be a sign of things to come on the mound, as Pitcher of the Year Nick Cioffi (Towson) started Opening Night. Cioffi would throw seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits in a 3-1 victory over Elmira. The first start propelled Cioffi to a record-setting season. The Averill Park native won five games and tossed 59 innings, both Dutchmen single-season records. His 1.67 ERA is third in team history among pitchers with at least 20 innings, and seventh in PGCBL history among eligible pitchers. He also struck out 52 hitters, the third highest total in team history, and opposing hitters hit just .177 against him, the best mark this year in the PGCBL and the fourth best in league history.
Cioffi was the leader of a solid staff that contained starters Jon Reid (Azusa Pacific), Mike Reitcheck (Penn), Gavin Wallace (Fairfield), Chris Amorosi (Siena), Brandon Nylin (Herkimer CC) and relievers Zak Spivy (Polk State) and Blake Allen (Baylor).
Another league record would fall two nights later in Glens Falls. Connor McDonough (Hudson Valley CC) walked five times in one game, a 10-7 victory over the Dragons. He became the first and only player in PGCBL history to draw five free passes in a game, a feat that sparked a celebration from his teammates.
The June 4 game in Glens Falls was also the coming-out party for the player who would become another record-setter and Albany’s player of the year. That night, Michael Fitzsimmons (Ole Miss) went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and three runs batted in to lead Albany to a victory. The three RBI started the redshirt freshman on the road to the team RBI record for a single season, with Fitzsimmons driving in 36 runs on the campaign, five higher than any other Albany player before him. He broke the record against the Dragons on July 27 in Albany on a sacrifice fly. Fitzsimmons hit .301 for the Dutchmen, and would return to Glens Falls for his biggest night of the season in the final contest.
Two weeks into the season, the Dutchmen were given the opportunity to face a professional club in the Tri-City ValleyCats, the short-season A affiliate of the Houston Astros. The Dutchmen surprised many by going toe to toe with the ValleyCats, even taking a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a home run over the left field wall by Hunter Boose (Georgia Regents). Albany would eventually fall 6-3, but had proven themselves in front of the biggest crowd the team would see all year.
The 2015 campaign saw the return of one of the best players in franchise history- Zach Remillard (Coastal Carolina). Arriving in mid-June in an exclusive designated hitter role, Remillard built on his Dutchmen legacy with 20 runs batted in and three home runs, recording 35 hits for a .276 average. His three Dutchmen seasons account for most team career offensive records: 135 hits, 67 runs batted in, 80 runs scored and eight home runs. His 121 games played in a Dutchmen uniform is a mark not likely to be eclipsed.
Albany’s season was not without drama, with the Dutchmen twice winning in walk-off fashion. Both walk-off wins came against the Saugerties Stallions, and the first came on June 16. With the bases loaded and no outs, Boose hit a hard shot to third base that was mishandled, allowing Adam Gauthier (Dartmouth) to score. The second game-winner came on July 21. With the game tied at 1, Patrick Hisle (Maryland) clubbed a double into the left-center field gap, again scoring Gauthier to win the contest.
The 2015 PGCBL All-Star Game was held in Little Falls, home of the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs. Three Dutchmen — Cioffi, Remillard and left-handed pitcher Reitcheck were selected to play in the game, and Slayton Vaughan (Oral Roberts) competed in the home run derby. Both Cioffi and Reitcheck pitched scoreless frames as the East All-Stars throttled the West, 18-2.
In an up-and-down year, Albany found themselves down three games with seven to go, behind Glens Falls for the final PGCBL East playoff spot. The Dutchmen quickly rallied, winning the next three games behind gems from Cioffi, Wallace, and Amorosi, along with major contributions from July arrivals Tom Moore (Saint Rose) and Mitch Stophel (King University). Albany entered the final four games of the season up a half game over the Dragons.
A July 27 contest, one that gave Albany a lead of 1.5 games, was one of the best offensive displays in Dutchmen history. Albany scored 19 runs in a win over the Dragons, winning 19-4. Michael Bollmer (Louisville) and Grayson Lewis (Rice) each drove in four runs, as the Dutchmen clubbed 15 hits to bury the Dragons in a critical contest. Lewis and 2014 Player of the Year Sean Aspinall (Azusa Pacific) each scored three runs, part of the 29 each would score on the year, the fourth best single-season total in franchise history.
The season would come down to one game, on the final day of the season in Glens Falls. Just like they both started, Cioffi and Fitzsimmons led the way, as Cioffi tossed seven shutout innings and Fitzsimmons hit his third home run and drove in four runs. Albany won the game 7-1, officially clinching a playoff spot when Andrew Giddens (Ave Maria) induced a line out. The win was the second time in three years Albany had beaten Glens Falls with a playoff spot on the line, and the third year in a row Albany had overtaken Glens Falls in the final week.
Despite a first round playoff loss to Mohawk Valley, it was a successful season due to the efforts of the Dutchmen players who came from around the country to play in Albany. With an exciting 2015 season in the rearview mirror, the Dutchmen look forward to the 2016 campaign and the quest for a fourth straight playoff berth.