Baseball Sweeps Ephs, Rides Streak to Eight
Issue   |   Tue, 04/16/2013 - 22:47
Megan Robertson '15, Public Affairs Office
With solid pitching, tight defense and a balanced offensive attack, the Jeffs recorded a sweep against Williams for the third consecutive year.

For the second straight weekend, the Jeffs came up big, recording a sweep against a conference rival. This time, it was the Ephs who fell victim to the Jeffs’ all-around solid play, dropping three straight to help the Jeffs bump their winning streak to eight.

Coming into the weekend, the Ephs had been scuffling mightily, having dropped five straight contests. The Jeffs, meanwhile, were fresh off a sweep of Middlebury that saw them post two double-digit run performances. On paper, the series looked to be a lopsided one. Even as strong favorites, however, the Jeffs looked to this weekend — as is usually the case with Amherst-Williams matchups — as a potential defining moment in their season.

In Game 1 in Williamstown, the struggling Ephs showed that they would not go away easily. A Friday rainout meant that senior ace Bob Cook, who had nearly thrown a no-hitter his last time out, got the start in the first game of Saturday’s (April 13) doubleheader. This time around, Cook’s outing started much less auspiciously. The Ephs’ Matt Kastner led off with a single to left; he would advance to second on a sacrifice bunt, take third on a groundout and, with two outs, score on a wild pitch.

After their two hits in the first inning, however, the Ephs would collect only four hits the rest of the game. Cook, not his usual, dominant self, struggled with his control at times, hitting three Eph batters and walking another. Even with the wildness and without recording a single strikeout, however, Cook managed to hold Williams to just the one run over five innings. Cook’s brother, John Cook ’15, came on in relief and shut the door over the next two frames.

Despite managing to keep the Ephs off the board for most of the contest, however, the Jeffs found offense of their own hard to come by. In fact, in a game that was scheduled to be seven innings, the Jeffs, though they had their share of chances, could not push a run across through the first six. In danger of a 1-0 loss that would be a devastating blow to start the series, the Jeffs finally responded in the top of the seventh. On this day, the hero was first-year Mike Odenwaelder, who, with one out, deposited a pitch from Thomas Murphy over the left-field fence.

With the momentum squarely in their favor — but by no means out of the woods yet — the Jeffs extended the game into extra innings. After both teams failed to score in the eighth (though the Ephs threatened), the Jeffs would get the last laugh in their half of the ninth. Again, Odenwaelder took center stage with a one-out single and then a steal of second. Ultimately, though, it was fellow first-year Andrew Vandini who delivered the game-winning blow, driving in Odenwaelder with an RBI single. Andrew Kotin ’14, who had gotten out of a precarious jam in the bottom of the eighth, pitched an uneventful ninth to record the win. Despite perhaps being outplayed for most of the game, the Jeffs had eked out a 2-1 victory.

That victory, difficult though it was, seemed to take the pressure off the Jeffs for the nightcap. In Game 2, the Jeffs silenced any concerns about their offensive abilities, responding with a five-run top of the first inning. Aided by two Williams errors, the Jeffs received RBI hits in the inning from Taiki Kasuga ’14 and Eric West ’15 as well as another blow from Odenwaelder, who laced a run-scoring triple to right-center. From there, the Jeffs never looked back. Despite giving up 11 hits, starter Fred Shepard ’14 kept the Ephs off the board until the fifth inning, by which time the Jeffs already held an 8-0 lead. Both Kasuga and Nolan Stewart ’13 were 2-for-4 in the nightcap, with each adding a pair of RBI’s.

The following day, the Jeffs went for the sweep as the series shifted to Amherst for a make-up of Friday’s rainout. Once again, the squad received a strong pitching effort from Dylan Driscoll ’14, who surrendered just two runs over four innings to go along with six strikeouts. Kotin and Adam Medoff ’13 also did a stellar job out of the bullpen, throwing two scoreless innings apiece. Meanwhile, the Jeff bats once again sprang to life, scoring at least one run in each of the first five innings. Vandini continued his hot hitting with a 3-for-3 performance, while Alex Hero ’14 went 3-4; both also homered in the contest. The 7-2 score after five held up for the rest of the game, and the Jeffs earned the sweep.

Amherst’s success against Williams is hardly a recent phenomenon: the Jeffs have now swept the Ephs in three consecutive years and won 10 of their last 11 against the purple and gold. Still, a drubbing of their archrivals is rarely anything less than satisfying for an Amherst team.

Coach Brian Hamm agreed, “Williams is a much stronger team than their record indicates, so sweeping the series was a good accomplishment. We found different ways to score runs this weekend, at times with small ball, and at times with home runs and extra base hits. Our defense is coming together, and that’s being led by our pitching: our entire staff is doing a great job for us.”

This week, the Jeffs will prepare for another NESCAC road test as they face Hamilton for a four-game set on April 20-21. The Continentals are below .500 so far, but, over the weekend, they played a very competitive series with Middlebury in which all three contests were decided by one run. Ultimately, Hamilton lost two of three to drop to 9-15, but they proved that they won’t be fazed by matchups against better teams. Even so, the Jeffs, who have been playing well in all facets of the game, have every reason to like their chances for a third straight sweep.