Swinging for the Fences: Jeffs surge to top of NESCAC West standings after sweeping Hamilton
By Karan Bains '14, Sports Section Editor
The baseball team had another successful series last weekend, sweeping three games from Hamilton in a relatively lopsided fashion.

The Jeffs traveled to Hamilton on Friday, but showed no signs of fatigue from the trip once they took the field. Before the game, co-captain Pat Harris ’11 stressed the importance of staying focused for all nine innings, something that the squad as a whole needed to improve on after falling behind early in several previous games. “In a few games we’ve turned up the intensity a little too late and weren’t able to pull out a victory,” he said. “What we’re working on now is to try to have that intensity from the first pitch all the way through.”

His team heeded his words, putting on an impressive show both at the mound and at the plate. Starting pitcher Max McKenna ’11 dominated from the outset, tossing a complete game shutout while striking out five batters and allowing only five hits. The shutout dropped McKenna’s earned run average to 2.19 on the season, while the rest of the team made sure McKenna’s stellar performance did not go to waste.

The offense came alive to support their pitcher and clobbered the Continental pitching to grab an 11"0 victory. Thomas Wheeler ’12 led the charge with a career night, going 3-3 with two home runs and a double. He had five runs batted in and scored three of Amherst’s 11 runs himself. In addition, co-captain Brian Merrigan ’11 bumped his team-leading batting average up to .410 with a 4-4 night at the plate. Jose Espinosa ’11 and Mike Samela ’12 each added a pair of hits as well.

The Amherst victory broke a three-game winning streak for the Continentals, and Hamilton’s fortunes would only get worse on Saturday.

The Jeffs continued their offensive onslaught in the first game of the doubleheader, putting 15 runs on the board. While starting pitcher Fred Shepard ’14 could not replicate McKenna’s performance from the previous day, he and Dylan Driscoll ’14 did enough to help the Jeffs to a 15"8 win.

The offense gave the pitching staff a cushion at the very beginning of the contest, scoring five runs in the first inning. Even so, the game was still in doubt until five more runs came home for Amherst in the seventh inning, essentially deciding the outcome.

Nolan Stewart ’13 went deep for the Jeffs, and his homer was only one of his three hits. Taiki Kasuga ’14 also had three hits, along with three RBIs as well. Wheeler followed up his huge game on Friday with a pair of hits and a couple of RBIs, continuing his hot streak.

However, the dominance could not continue in the second game of the doubleheader, as the Jeffs had to fight to get a tough 5"3 win that did not lack in drama. Ryan Healy ’11 pitched eight solid innings for Amherst, allowing only three runs on three hits to earn his third win of the season.

The Jeffs’ bats cooled down a bit in this one, but they managed a run in the first inning before Samela hit a solo home run in the sixth to put one more run on the board. The score remained deadlocked at two until the top of the ninth, when Kevin Heller ’12 came through with runners on second and third and one out. Heller cracked a three-run homer that propelled the Jeffs to victory. The clutch hit gave the Jeffs their fifth straight win.

With the season past the halfway point, the Jeffs boast a solid 15"5 record and are 5"1 in NESCAC West play. As Harris looks ahead to the rest of the season, he sees the enormous potential in his team and asserts that “Our expectations are high, but our work ethic has been even higher.” This attitude should help the Jeffs as they go into a huge week.

After Keene State comes to Amherst on Wednesday, the weekend series features a familiar opponent: archrival Williams College. The Ephs will come to Amherst on Friday before the two teams go back to Williams for a Saturday doubleheader, capping a series which promises to test the Jeffs and give fans plenty of excitement.

Issue 23, Submitted 2011-04-20 04:40:39