Baseball Closes Season on Six-Game Win Streak
Issue   |   Wed, 05/07/2014 - 02:06
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Alex Hero ’14 had a double in Amherst’s 7-3 win on Sunday.

Amherst baseball finished the week undefeated, going 5-0. The Jeffs head into the NESCAC playoffs coming off one of the team’s strongest weeks of the season. In the process, the Jeffs improved to 28-7 overall, setting a program record for most wins in a single season.

On Thursday, May 1, the Jeffs beat non-conference opponent Wheaton College, who entered play with a 27-13-1 record, by a score of 4-1. First-year outfielder Anthony Spina put the Jeffs on the board in bottom of the third with a two-run homer into left field after second baseman Andrew Vandini ’16 walked. Wheaton retaliated in the top of the fourth with its only run of the game.

In the bottom of the fifth, shortstop Taiki Kasuga ’14 doubled into left field to bring home Spina, making the Amherst lead 3-1. The Jeffs put their final run on the board in the seventh, when center fielder Alex Hero ’14 bunted to again bring in Spina for the tally — his third run of the contest.

John Cook ’15 threw seven stellar innings, picking up nine strikeouts and allowing only six hits. He was relieved by Robert Cahill ’14 and Keenan Szulik ’16, who picked up the save, as the pair totaled two scoreless innings to secure the victory for the Jeffs.

Amherst swept the Colby Mules in a doubleheader on Saturday. In the first game — Amherst’s senior day — Colby took the lead with the opening run of the game. The Jeffs responded in the third with four runs and put two more on the board over the fourth and fifth. Colby was able to bring two runners home in the top of the sixth but could not close the deficit, and Amherst finished with a 6-3 win.

Dylan Driscoll ’14 pitched six innings and allowed just five hits, picking up his seventh victory of the season, tying him for the NESCAC lead with Tufts’ star pitcher Kyle Slinger, while Eric Kotin ’14 earned the save. The offense was led by outfielder Yanni Thanopoulos ’17, going 2-for-2 at the plate, while Kasuga, Hero, Mike Odenwaelder ’16 and Tyler Jacobs ’15 also contributed to the offense.

The afternoon match up was a closer duel, but Amherst came out on top again with a 4-3 victory. The Mules once again scored the first run, but Hero made the score even at one with his second homer of the season. Colby put another on the board in the third to gain the lead. In the bottom of the fifth, Vandini drove Jacobs in to tie the game. Colby scored their third and final run in the top of the seventh on a infield grounder with the bases loaded. The Jeffs didn’t give up, and Conner Gunn ’16 singled up the middle to bring in Odenwaelder and Thanopoulos for the walkoff win in the bottom of the ninth, earning the sweep over the Mules.

Amherst notched its 28th win on Sunday with a doubleheader victory over UMass Boston. The Jeffs scored early and often, putting six on the board in the first two innings. UMass Boston scored three runs over the third and fourth innings, making the score 6-3. Amherst brought in the seventh run in the bottom of the eighth. Quinn Saunders-Kolberg ’14 earned the win, striking out four Beacons and giving up just five hits. Cahill earned the save and tossed three perfect innings.

In game two, the Jeffs once again put numbers up quickly, scoring six runs in the first two innings. Odenwaelder hit a homer in the first to start things off, his sixth of the season, putting him one home run behind the NESCAC lead. Strong hitting by the Jeffs led to another five runs in the second, including a bases-clearing double from Spina, who drove in three runs with the bases loaded.

The Beacons scored their first run in the top of the fourth on a home run, but Amherst easily put another six runs on the board in the bottom of the inning, largely thanks to a grand slam from first baseman Dave Cunningham ’16 on a towering shot to right field. UMass Boston could not overcome the setback, scoring four more runs before the close of the game, while the Jeffs tallied another run in the seventh, and the game ended with a decisive 13-5 win for Amherst.

Szulik earned his sixth win of the year after tossing seven innings. He was relieved by senior pitchers Fred Shepard and Cam Windham. Jacobs, Odenwaelder and Thanopoulos led the offensive effort for the Jeffs, recording three hits each. For his impressive offensive showing this week, Odenwaelder was named the NESCAC Player of the Week in the final week of the regular season. In the second game of the doubleheader alone, Odenwaelder finished 3-4 with 3 RBIs and was a triple shy of the cycle.

Other notable acknowledgments this week include seniors Kasuga and Driscoll, who were named to the Captial One Academic All-District First Team for their outstanding academic and athletic accomplishments over their Amherst careers.
Looking to defend its 2013 NESCAC Championship, Amherst will be competing in the NESCAC Tournament beginning on Friday, May 9 at Tufts as the No. 2 seed in the NESCAC West. The Jeffs are up against the Jumbos, the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC East, at 3 p.m. on Friday.

Should the Jeffs win, they will face the winner of the other match-up on the first day of the playoffs, Wesleyan, the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC West versus Bates, the No. 2 seed in the NESCAC East. Should the Jeffs lose, they will play the loser of this game on Saturday. The NESCAC Tournament is a double-elimination tournament that will leave one team standing at the end with an automatic ticket to the NCAA Tournament beginning on Wednesday, May 14.

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