Though all three games were decided by two runs or fewer, including an extra-inning affair Saturday night, the Jeffs managed three critical victories over archrival Williams and improved to 6-0 in NESCAC play.
The road to the weekend sweep, which puts the Jeffs at 14-5 on the season, was an arduous one. On Friday afternoon (April 6), the squad traveled to Williamstown, where they fell behind in the second inning thanks to a Taylor Mondshein triple and a Marco Hernandez sacrifice fly. Despite this early blemish, however, Amherst starter Fred Shepard ’14 held the Ephs to just the one run through his first four innings. In the top of the fifth, the Jeffs got on the board after second baseman Brendon Hardin ’15 connected for an opposite field home run, his first of the year. After Hardin’s shot, Amherst scored again after Tyler Jacobs ’15 singled, advanced twice on wild pitches and crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly from Taiki Kasuga ’14.
The Jeffs had two runners picked off in the inning, preventing them from potentially gaining more breathing room, and, in the bottom of the fifth, the Ephs responded with two runs of their own. After Shepard retired the first two batters, he proceeded to hit two consecutive Ephs with pitches before relinquishing a triple to Matt Kastner that brought in both runners. But the following inning saw the Jeffs retake the lead on three hits and a crucial passed ball that eluded catcher Hernandez. Though Shepard did relinquish another run in the bottom of the inning — Mondshein touched him again, this time for a double, later scoring on on a K.C. Murphy single — it would be all Williams would get. The lefty retired the Ephs in order in the seventh before Cam Windham ’14 relieved him in the bottom of the eighth.
The Jeffs also tacked on two more in their half of the eighth courtesy of hits by Hardin and Nolan Stewart ’13, as well as another Williams miscue. Windham shut the door for the two-inning save, his first of the season, as the Jeffs prevailed, 6-4. Including his home run, Hardin finished at 4-for-4 with three RBI’s on the day. Bob Cook ’13 and Stewart also had two hits apiece. Shepard’s seven solid innings earned him his fourth win of the season.
The following afternoon, the Jeffs, now hosting the action, found themselves trailing a resurgent Ephs squad, 4-2, in the sixth inning of Game 1 (seven innings) of a doubleheader. For the first time on the year, Bob Cook had been roughed up in four-plus innings of work, surrendering four runs on seven hits while walking three. In the fifth, Williams scored an unearned run, charged to Cook, on two Jeff errors. Until that point, Amherst’s offense had also been held to two runs by the Ephs’ Thomas Murphy. In the bottom of the sixth, however, the Jeffs proved just how resilient they can be, staging a three-run comeback with two outs in the inning.
A single from senior captain Kevin Heller scored two runs, including Kasuga all the way from first base. Heller advanced to second on the throw to the plate, setting the stage for fellow senior and captain Mike Samela’s game-winning RBI single. Dylan Joyce ’12 recorded the win with three stellar innings of relief as the Jeffs held on, 5-4. Dan Pillitteri ’13, who got the start at first base, was two-for-three with a run scored in the victory.
As if the series had not already been close enough, Saturday’s nightcap saw a 1-1 nailbiter go into extra frames. John Cook ’15 was excellent for eight innings, and the Jeffs held a slim, 1-0 lead entering the top of the ninth. He returned to the mound to start the inning, but Mondshein, again the culprit, led off with a ringing double to left-center. After Adam Medoff ’13 had relieved Cook, Mondshein advanced to third on a fly out and scored on another, tying the game.
The Jeffs failed to score in their half of the ninth, but Medoff got the Jeffs out of the top of the 10th unscathed, and Amherst immediately threatened in the bottom of the frame. Kasuga reached on a single and the heavy-hitting Heller, perhaps looking to avoid the double play, laid down a bunt which also ended up a base hit.
After Hernandez committed a passed ball, his second such critical mistake of the series, the Ephs intentionally walked Samela, bringing third baseman Nolan Stewart ’13 to the plate. He wasted no time in drilling a single to right-center, securing the walk-off and the exhausting but much-needed sweep for the Jeffs. Stewart was 3-for-5 in Game 2, also driving in the Jeffs’ first run with a tiebreaking single in the bottom of the eighth.
The Jeffs receive a well-deserved break from NESCAC play until Sunday, when they will host a doubleheader against Bates, who have lost six of their last seven games.
In the meantime, they will play at home against Castleton State on Thursday afternoon, looking to stay sharp for Bates and subsequent series against Middlebury and Wesleyan.