Bob Cook Shines as Jeffs Sweep Midd.
Issue   |   Tue, 04/09/2013 - 21:27
Megan Robertson '15, Public Affairs Office
Senior ace Bob Cook came two outs from a no-hitter in his Friday outing against Middlebury

If this weekend’s success is any indication of events to come, the Jeffs will find themselves right back in the thick of things come NESCAC playoff time.

Facing conference rival Middlebury for a three-game weekend set, the Jeffs made a definitive statement by recording a sweep. The series was not without its hotly contested moments; Amherst won the middle game of the series by a mere 4-3 margin. Overall, however, the Jeffs had the Panthers’ number: two of their wins came by resounding 11-0 and 11-1 scores.

The Jeffs headed into the weekend 9-5 and still untested in the NESCAC West division. Middlebury, meanwhile, was below .500 (the Panthers entered at 3-7); despite their struggles, however, the Jeffs needed to take care of business in front of the home faithful and establish themselves in league play.

That good start came in the third inning of Game 1 on Friday night, when the Jeffs scored the first two of their 26 runs on the weekend. The first blow came courtesy of Alex Hero ’14, who blasted a two-run home run to right field off Middlebury starter Eric Truss. In the fourth, the Jeffs added four more against Truss to break the game open: the frame featured RBI hits by first-year Mike Odenwaelder and Brendan Hardin ’15 as well as another RBI from Hero on a groundout.

The Jeffs would eventually score five more times, but those runs seemed a mere afterthought considering the dominance of Bob Cook ’13 on the mound. In fact, the senior right-hander took a no-hitter into the ninth inning; only two outs away from a record-book performance, Cook finally proved human, giving up a base hit to pinch-hitter Steven Bodine. After that hit, Eric Kotin ’14 was called upon to get the final two outs. In 8.1 innings, Cook recorded nine strikeouts while walking only one, further proving his status as perhaps the elite pitcher in the division.

After their lackluster performance in Game 1, the Panthers managed to make things significantly more interesting in Game 2 the following day. Again, however, the Jeffs’ pitching staff proved difficult to figure out. Fred Shepard ’14 got the start and was, by all accounts, very solid. The Jeffs’ offense also jumped out to another fast start. Odenwaelder came through with an RBI double in the second inning; the following inning, Taiki Kasuga ’14 scored on a wild pitch. In the fourth, Hero, displaying his versatility, laid down an excellent two-out drag bunt that brought in the third run of the game. In the top of the fifth, however, with a 3-0 lead, the Jeffs seemed to let down their guard. Two errors led to three unearned runs and drove up Shepard’s pitch count; the lefty was knocked out of the game after 4.2 innings, having struck out seven and not allowed an earned run.

In the bottom of the frame, however, the Jeffs redeemed themselves; Kasuga scorched a leadoff triple and scored on a single by Conner Gunn ’16. Much as the Jeffs would have liked some insurance, that run was all they would need.

Sophomore John Cook, who got the win, delivered 1.2 stellar innings of relief, and Cam Windham ’14 recorded a two-out save. Although it wasn’t pretty, the Jeffs were able to grind out the 4-3 win and put themselves in a position to send the Panthers home winless.

The Jeffs did exactly that in Saturday’s nightcap, turning in their second 11-run attack of the series. This time, it was the Jeffs’ first-years who led the scoring effort. Jonathan Ramirez ’16 was 4-for-4 in the game (he went an astounding 9-for-10 on the day with eight RBI), while Andrew Vandini ’16 recorded a 3-for-5 performance of his own. Meanwhile, Dylan Driscoll ’14 ensured that the Middlebury bats stayed quiet. The junior righthander, who has flown under the radar with several stellar performances so far this year, relinquished just one run in seven innings while striking out three and walking none. Adam Medoff ’13 and Charles Nutter ’15 finished out the effort, adding to the bullpen’s excellent performance in the series.

Looking to settle into a regular-season groove as they have the past two years, the Jeffs will face their next test when they take on their archrivals, Williams, over the weekend of April 12. Like Middlebury, the Ephs have been struggling somewhat on the year; they are 9-11 overall and just 2-4 in the NESCAC. The Jeffs know, however, that the course of Amherst-Williams matchups — in any sport — can rarely be predicted on paper. The Jeffs will be prepared to fight tooth and nail, but, even so, their chances of winning the series look strong. Of late, the squad has been receiving well-balanced offensive efforts, including those of several first-years who have established themselves as threats.

As most expected, the Jeffs’ pitching has also been consistently excellent, a trend that looks to continue throughout the campaign. If the Jeffs have had an Achilles heel in 2013, it has, at times, been their defense; this weekend, the squad will need to avoid multiple-error innings if it is to continue cruising.

About the weekend, coach Brian Hamm said, “Middlebury is a much better team than their record indicates and on the whole we played well during the entire series. Our pitchers were efficient and set the tone for our defense and offense. The sweep gave us a good start in NESCAC play, but there is much more to be done especially with tough games against Castleton and Williams this week.”