New Coach and Old Players Give Baseball Fresh Outlook
By Brian Smith '12, Staff Writer
As the ESPN commentators bid farewell to their viewers, the baseball team did the same to their season. In a heartbreaking loss to Williams College, the Lord Jeffs came back to Amherst without a spot in the NESCAC Tournament. It was also Bill Thurston’s last game as the Amherst head coach, retiring after 44 years at the helm. With their 16-13 record, the season was a bit of a disappointment for the Jeffs. Nevertheless, a solid group of returning players and a promising bunch of first-years give new light to the team and promise for an exciting season this year.

One of the biggest changes for the club this year will be the new head coach, Brian Hamm. A former standout Middlebury player, Hamm has been an assistant coach at Amherst for the past four years. Joining him on the coaching staff this year are Bryan Adamski, Neal Allar ’08, and Shaun McNamara.

While many would think playing for a new coaching staff would be a challenge, many players on the team would disagree.

“I wouldn’t call [playing for Coach Hamm] a challenge because of how well our team has adjusted thus far,” said sophomore outfielder Kevin Heller. “He is always putting the players first, assuring we realize what a fun sport baseball truly is, but also pushing us to reach our maximum potential on the baseball diamond.”

Fellow outfielder Brian Merrigan ’11 is also pleased with the new coaching staff.

“Some people may think that our number one challenge would be adapting to our new coach, but so far everything has gone very smoothly,” he said. “Coach Hamm has been coaching at Amherst for the last four years, so we have [gotten] to know him pretty well and have had no trouble learning his system, which is similar in many ways to that of Coach Thurston’s.”

This year’s schedule features many formidable opponents for the Lord Jeffs, starting right away at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational during spring break. Amherst will play against teams such as Suffolk and Endicott, who won more than 20 games last season. In addition, Amherst will have tough conference opponents, as seemingly every NESCAC team has had recent success or is poised to have a good year.

Although the difficulties that lie ahead are apparent, the Jeffs seem more than ready to tackle them head on. The squad has several key returning players, including senior captains Will Lawton at second base and Teddy Blank at pitcher. Blank will help anchor a pitching staff that features returning juniors Max McKenna and Ryan Healy, who both look to carry over the success they found last year.

In the infield, Amherst has Lawton, Jose Espinosa ’11, Max Einhorn ’11, Bryce Einhorn ’11, Dylan Joyce ’12, Thomas Wheeler ’12, Mike Samela ’12 and Will Godwin ’12 returning for the team. In the outfield, Merrigan, Scott Schaffer ’11, John Wagner ’12 and Heller return for the Jeffs.

The pitching staff this year includes returning players Blank, McKenna, Healy, John D’Angelo ’10, Jeff Keenan ’11, Pat Harris ’11, Joyce and Hayden Metz ’12.

The first-years have provided additional depth to the team this year. Outfielder Justin Ramos ’13, infielders Dan Pillitteri ’13, Nolan Stewart ’13 and Chris Allen ’13, and pitchers Adam Medoff ’13, Bob Cook ’13, and David Fredlund ’12 round out the Amherst rookies.

While many teams have a difficult time integrating first-year players, Amherst seems to excel in doing so. Many upperclassmen feel like the new members of the team are fitting right in, and that the team is looking good overall.

“The team has looked real solid so far,” said Heller. “Underclassmen are not keeping to themselves, but are taking up leadership roles.”

Merrigan echoed this sentiment. “We have a real close-knit group of guys this year, which will definitely be an advantage when we get out on the diamond,” he said. “We have been practicing extremely hard…and are getting better everyday.”

The season will get under way this Saturday, as the Lord Jeffs take on Framingham State College in their first day at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational. Amherst will have 10 games over the course of their nine-day stint in Florida. The Invitational will help the Jeffs prepare for rest of the season, as well as in conference play. The home opener will take place at 3:30 pm at Memorial Field against Westfield State College.

Issue 18, Submitted 2010-03-10 04:59:09