With a sweep of Bates over the weekend, the Jeffs kept on rolling, improving to 16-5 and remaining a perfect 6-0 in NESCAC play.
After an easy victory in a non-league tune-up against Castleton State (April 12), the Amherst squad on rested Friday and Saturday as they prepared to host the Bobcats. While Bates had not fared well in recent league play, they had just posted two resounding victories over Becker College and were looking to ride their momentum into the weekend doubleheader.
In Game 1 on Sunday (April 15), Fred Shepard ’14 got the nod against Bates’ Tom Baroni. The two starters dueled early, but the Jeffs struck first in their half of the second, when Quinn Saunders-Kolberg ’14 brought home Bob Cook ’13 with an RBI single through the right side. In the third, Shepard walked the leadoff man, Ryan Curit, but promptly picked him off at first. Despite this, the Bobcats did tie the game as Mekae Hyde roped a two-out double and later scored on a single by Griff Tewksbury. In the bottom of the inning, senior Kevin Heller set the table with a single and a stolen base; he advanced to third on a groundout, but the inning appeared to be over when, with two outs, Cook bounced a seemingly routine chopper to the right side. Here, however, the Jeffs caught a break, as the ball took a freakish hop on second baseman Tewksbury. Diving awkwardly, he managed to field the ball, but his hurried throw to first was low and eluded Kevin McGregor. Heller scored on the error, and the Jeffs took the lead.
Bates threatened in the fourth, but Shepard induced a groundout with two outs and runners on second and third. In the sixth, Shepard hit two batters, but, again, no damage was done. In the seventh, Adam Medoff ’13 relieved Shepard, and Bates threatened again. The Bobcats had one out and runners on second and third courtesy of a walk, another hit batsman and a wild pitch (Jeffs’ pitching allowed six walks and hit four batters in the game). Mike Ciummei lifted a flyball to right field that was deep enough for the runner at third, Steve Burke, to tag and try to score. In a close play at the plate, Burke appeared to beat senior Mike Samela’s on-target throw with a nifty slide, but catcher Thomas Wheeler ’12 blocked the plate and tagged Burke out once he slid past home. Taking advantage of Bates’ failure to score, the Jeffs responded with three runs in their half of the seventh, an inning that included doubles by Taiki Kasuga ’14 and Nolan Stewart ’13. From there, Dylan Joyce ’12 closed with two scoreless innings of relief, and the Jeffs took an eventful Game 1 by a 5-1 margin. Shepard improved to 5-0 on the season, while his batterymate Wheeler and Alex Hero ’14 each collected two hits.
After their tough loss in the first game, the Bobcats seemed deflated heading into Game 2 as Amherst mounted a 6-0 lead in the first inning. John Wagner ’12 led off the game with a double, Kasuga followed with a walk, and Heller immediately delivered an RBI single. Starter Michael Spinosa retired the next two hitters, but Saunders-Kolberg came up with an infield single and, after another walk, Dan Pillitteri ’13 and Tyler Jacobs ’15 each singled, knocking Spinosa out of the game. The Jeffs kept up the barrage all game long, eventually compiling a staggering 20 runs on 19 hits off seven different Bobcats pitchers. The offensive highlights included a 3-for-4 performance from Brendan Hardin ’15, who upped his season average to an impressive .413, and three more hits from Pillitteri. Samela was also 2-for-3, as was co-captain Heller, and Nolan Stewart added a home run into the mix. Lost among the firepower was a solid pitching performance from John Cook ’15, who struck out five over as many innings and improved to 4-0.
On Tuesday, April 17, the Jeffs hit the field for another non-league test against Springfield, which they took, 13-6, with the help of a late rally. Trailing by three entering the sixth, the Jeffs scored five in the inning and never looked back. Heller finished 3-for-5 with a home run, tying the career program record, while Kasuga was 4-for-6.
As the NESCAC season enters its final two weeks, the Jeffs have perhaps their most critical stretch of baseball left to play. Over the weekend, they will play three games at Middlebury, who has struggled badly as of late but is still a threat to upset the Jeffs if they let their guard down. The following weekend (April 27-28), Amherst will square off against Wesleyan, who stands at 13-12 overall. These games will determine the Jeffs’ seed in the NESCAC tournament and set the tone for what they hope to be a fruitful postseason.