Baseball Batters Competition, Ends Florida Swing at 6-4
By Karan Bains '14, Sports Section Editor
The baseball team started its season with solid play over spring break, and returned from Florida with a 6-4 record.

The Jeffs began their campaign against UMass Boston, the No. 15 team in the country, on March 12. The team proved itself against the stiff challenge, however, and snatched a 5-4 victory to start the year with a spark. Max McKenna ’11 got the win with 6.1 innings of work, giving up only one earned run. Pat Harris ’11 picked up the save. The Amherst offense was powered by doubles from Mike Samela ’12 and Scott Shaffer ’11.

The Jeffs then took on Worcester State in a doubleheader, and dropped the first game by a score of 3-7. Amherst bounced back, however, to even the series in the night game, taking a 6-3 victory. Dylan Driscoll ’14 pitched 4.1 innings and gave up two earned runs to get the win in his first collegiate game. Shaffer and Thomas Wheeler ’12 gave Driscoll support with a pair of two-for-three hitting performances, and combined for three RBI.

The NESCAC schedule began the following day, as Babson defeated the Jeffs 7-6. The Jeffs struggled from the mound and the plate for most of the game, and a three-run homer by Wheeler in the top of the ninth inning was the only reason the final score indicated a tight contest.

The games continued to come one after another without respite, but the Jeffs battled through fatigue to blow out Stevens Tech by a score of 8-0. Fred Shepard ’14 tossed seven shutout innings and Kevin Heller ’12 went 3-5 to spur the Amherst offensive barrage. In addition, Nolan Stewart ’13 went 2-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs as well.

The positive momentum continued to build with a comeback victory over SUNY Oneonta, a team that finished last season with an impressive 32-13 record. The Jeffs trailed 1-3 in the top of the eighth inning, but a single from Bob Cook ’13 started a rally that sent the game into extra innings. Stewart then drove in Heller in the 12th inning for the eventual winning run, and a scoreless save from Harris preserved the Jeffs’ fourth victory of the trip.

After splitting a doubleheader with Endicott College, the Jeffs went on a scoring binge. The second game against Endicott provided the basis for the hot hitting, as Heller and Wheeler both went deep in the 8-0 victory, supported by McKenna’s second win of the trip. Amherst beat Southern Maine in an exciting 13-7 affair, then followed up with a 14-12 loss to Grinnell despite a huge offensive effort. The Grinnell loss ended the swing on a negative note, but the Jeffs thought the overall trip was a success. Infielder Ryan D’Souza ’14 summed up the week by saying “it was a good opportunity for us to test ourselves against some good competition. Even though we felt we should have fared better than our 6-4 record, we learned a lot about ourselves as a team.”

As the team returns to campus, it immediately faces another test tonight at Westfield State and then hosts Bowdoin in a doubleheader on Saturday. Additionally, Keene State comes to town next Tuesday to cap a busy week for the Jeffs. If the team can add to the positives from the Florida trip and build on the recent strong hitting, more victories should follow, as long as the pitching staff can hold the opposition in check. Harris has high hopes for the season, citing the team’s improved depth as a strength. “The competition that this depth brings has pushed guys during practice and will continue to do so throughout the year,” he said, and the extra effort should pay off for the team as the season unfolds.

Issue 19, Submitted 2011-03-23 04:57:48