Baseball Takes Series from Middlebury
By Karan Bains '14, Sports Section Editor
The baseball team played a solid series this weekend against NESCAC rival Middlebury College, earning a pair of victories in the three games the teams contested.

The first game, played in front of a strong crowd sitting atop Memorial Hill and enjoying the spring weather, provided plenty of drama and late-inning heroics. The Jeffs jumped out to an early lead thanks to a home run blasted by Bob Cook ’13. Cook’s first four-bagger of the year gave the Jeffs a 3-1 cushion until the momentum shifted in the fifth inning. After scoring a run of their own to close the gap, the Panthers displayed some excellent fielding and held Amherst scoreless in the bottom of the fifth. Most notably, Kevin Heller ’12 hit a potential bomb to left field that was robbed by Middlebury’s Thomas Driscoll.

The Panthers used this newfound momentum to take a 5-4 lead into the seventh inning. Heller proved determined to get back the homer that was stolen from him earlier in the game, and crushed one beyond reach to left-center to give the Jeffs a 6-5 lead. But the Jeffs could not rest easy yet, as Middlebury tied up the game in the eighth. Once again, it was Heller who came to the rescue, hitting a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth to bring home Alex Hero ’14 and give the Jeffs a 7-6 victory. Co-captain Pat Harris ’11 commended his team’s never-say-die attitude, saying that, “Our team is very resilient and we have proven that by coming from behind in a few games [like this one].”

The Panthers managed to bounce back from the tough loss in the first game on Saturday, earning an 8-3 victory. Reigning NESCAC Pitcher of the Week Fred Shepard ’14 took the mound for the Jeffs but could not find his best stuff, giving up five runs (four earned) in less than three innings of work. On the other hand, Middlebury pitcher Michael Joseph stymied the Jeffs all afternoon, going the distance for a complete game and keeping his team in front throughout.

The second game of the doubleheader started in much the same way as the first, with the Jeffs behind 2-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. This, however, was when the Amherst offense exploded, coming alive with a pair of four-run innings in the fifth and seventh. Helped by a crucial Middlebury fielding error, the Jeffs scored four unearned runs in the fifth and continued to batter the Panthers’ pitching. Hero went 3-3 at the plate, with one RBI and two runs. In addition, Nolan Stewart ’13 went deep and had two RBIs. Taiki Kasuga ’14, Tom Wheeler ’11 and co-captain Brian Merrigan ’11 also recorded two RBIs each in the win.

The Jeffs hit the road on Tuesday, playing Castleton State after a run of home games. They dominated both facets of the game, as starting pitcher Jeff Keenan ’11 gave up only two runs in six solid innings while Cook led an 11-run scoring effort with a grand slam. Cook’s second long ball of the year put an exclamation point on the Amherst outburst, but Kasuga, Merrigan and Scott Shaffer ’11 compiled two hits apiece.

After a successful weekend, the Jeffs hope to continue their development into a top-tier NESCAC team. Harris believes they can get there, pointing out that the players on his squad “have shown glimpses of being a very good team.” The improvement will be put to the test next week, as the NESCAC slate continues. The Jeffs will play a three-game weekend series at Hamilton College, followed by a home game against Brandeis on Tuesday. Then, on Friday, Williams comes to town. The game should feature plenty of emotion and will prove a telling marker of the Jeffs’ progress.

Issue 22, Submitted 2011-04-13 20:05:13