(ALBANY, NY)-- CJ Kuentzel (Iona University) and JT Vance (Mississippi College) have been named the Week #7 Spotlight Co-Players of the Week presented by Bellini’s Counter. In addition to his organizational recognition, Kuentzel has also been named a PGCBL East Division Co-Pitcher of the Week by the league.
After throwing a scoreless inning of relief on Wednesday against Saugerties, Kuentzel turned in one of the Dutchmen’s strongest starts of the summer in game one of the doubleheader on Saturday in Oneonta, going six shutout innings. He allowed just two hits- a bunt single and a bloop single- and two walks, and struck out four en route to his second win of the summer. Albany took a 1-0 lead in the third inning, and Kuentzel shut Oneonta’s bats down to keep the lead through the end of his day. The Dutchmen added three in the top of the seventh, after it was decided Kuentzel’s day was done.
“I just tried to go out there each inning and put together, hopefully, a long start, some solid innings, and do my job to keep us in the game for as long as possible,” Kuentzel said.
For the week of July 10th through July 16th, Vance went 5-for-16 (.313) with five runs and seven runs batted in to go with his two doubles, two walks, two stolen bases, and a sacrifice fly in the five Dutchmen games. Paired with the run and RBI he registered July 8th against Saugerties, six of Vance’s 10 runs and eight of his 11 RBIs have come in the month of July.
“I’ve really settled my approach in,” Vance credited his success in July to. “I’m starting to get a lot more comfortable. Also, getting in a groove with my teammates, knowing the guy behind you will pick you up and everybody is hitting, it makes things easier throughout the lineup. I think that’s been our recipe for success.”
Kuentzel, the Colonie native, has been one of the Dutchmen’s best pitchers this summer, currently sitting with a 2-0 record and 3.14 ERA in five games. His other start, back on June 23rd at Glens Falls, was another masterpiece, a five inning shutout performance with a season-high six strikeouts.
In his four games since his opening night appearance at Amsterdam, Kuentzel has not allowed a run over 12.1 innings of work. Although not much of a strikeout artist, he has K’d 11 in that stretch, and has dropped his WHIP below 1.00 and held opponents to a team-best .174 batting average against this summer.
“Trying to keep a good routine has been one of my biggest keys to my success,” Kuentzel tipped. “Routines keep you healthy, they keep you going out there, and they get your mind fresh every time.”
Vance’s two biggest hits this past week were his two doubles. The first came on Wednesday against Saugerties, when his two-RBI double made it a 3-2 game in the bottom of the second. He would score two batters later on an RBI single by Mario Cubello (St. John Fisher/Transfer Portal) to tie the game at 3, and the Dutchmen would go on to win in dramatic fashion, 7-6.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth of game two of the doubleheader on Saturday against Oneonta, Vance would clear them, lining another two-bagger into left field to make it 8-0 Albany and effectively put the Outlaws away for good to clinch the doubleheader sweep.
“The sweep was huge for the team, firmly placing us in a playoff spot as we head down the stretch,” Vance said. “I was just trying to get a big swing for the guys, and I knew that if I could come up big there that it would probably put Oneonta away.”
Since the win against Saugerties, the Dutchmen are on a season-high four game win streak, and currently hold an 8-3 record in the month of July. Vance believes this is just the beginning.
“I have full confidence in our pitching staff- they’ve been good the entire summer,” Vance praised. “The bats have been a lot hotter in July, and I think that’s been a big reason for why we’ve been successful.”
And there’s one thing specifically that’s occurred lately that’s helped the Union, Mississippi native get a taste of home.
“I think the heat has helped me fit in to Albany, for sure.”