Baseball Takes Series at Hamilton
Issue   |   Tue, 04/23/2013 - 22:20
Megan Robertson '15, Public Affairs Office
The Jeffs lost a 1-0 heartbreaker at Hamilton, but they rebounded later in the afternoon to win the series. They will square off against the Cardinals this weekend.

Despite a walk-off, 1-0 loss in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader, the baseball team continued its strong play over the weekend, taking two of three games from a fiesty Hamilton team.

The Continentals entered the weekend at just 9-15, but they played the Jeffs, who have now improved to 18-6, tightly in all three games. The loss they handed the Jeffs on Saturday was Amherst’s first in NESCAC play.

As has been the case all season, the highlight of the series for the Jeffs was their outstanding pitching. In the three-game series, Amherst starters allowed just four earned runs in a total of 20 innings (a combined ERA of 1.80). The Jeffs’ offense continues to be somewhat hit-or-miss; after run-scoring difficulty nearly cost the squad a game last weekend, it finally caught up to them against Hamilton.

In the series opener (April 20), however, it was the ace of the staff who shined for the Jeffs. After a shaky performance last week, Bob Cook ’13 returned to form and, in familiar fashion, dominated his opponent. Things did not start perfectly for the Jeffs, as the Continentals scored an unearned run in the bottom of the first. That, though, was all Hamilton would get on the afternoon. Cook settled into a groove, relinquishing just two hits and one walk while striking out five over his seven innings of work.

The Jeffs themselves got on the board in the top of the third thanks to an RBI single by Taiki Kasuga ’14, scoring Quinn Saunders ’14 who, himself, had reached on a single and advanced on an Andrew Vandini ’16 sacrifice. They would take the lead the next inning: first-year Mike Odenwaelder, a frequent offensive catalyst for the Jeffs, reached on an infield hit, stole second, and later scored on a passed ball.

It was the top of the sixth, however, in which the Jeffs found some insurance. With two outs, some sloppy play by Hamilton led to two Amherst runs, the first of which came without the benefit of a hit. Senior Danny Pillitteri was hit by a pitch, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error by the Continentals’ catcher. After Quinn Saunders ’14 walked and advanced on that same error, Vandini drove him in with a single to right-center. That was all the Jeffs would need: after Cook departed, Charles Nutter ’15 picked up the save with two scoreless innings of relief. The Jeffs sealed the deal with a 4-1 victory; Odenwaelder, who leads the Jeffs with a .392 average, was 3-for-5, while Vandini turned in a 2-for-3 day of his own.

Game 1 of the following day, April 21, however, would not bring the same kind of success for the Jeffs. The Amherst pitching continued to be excellent: starter Fred Shepard ’14 pitched the first seven of what was scheduled to be just a seven-inning game, walking just two and striking out nine in a shutout effort. But the Jeffs failed to get on the board against Hamilton pitcher Jonathan Lane. Hardly overpowering, Lane struck out just two in his seven innings, but he hit his spots and recorded plenty of groundouts. The biggest threat for the Jeffs came in the top of the sixth, when Amherst placed runners on second and third with one out. Hamilton, however, brought the infield in and induced a well-placed groundball that could not bring the run home.

With two outs, another groundout killed the scoring chance. That’s where things stood — scoreless — through the end of seven. In the first extra frame, the Jeffs again put two runners in scoring position but could not bring them home. In the bottom of the inning, Hamilton used small-ball to deal the death blow. Outfielder Joe Jensen walked and immediately utilized his speed by stealing second.

After an intentional walk, the Continentals kept the pressure on with another double-steal. This time, first-year backstop Conner Gunn’s throw to third was off-target and, as the ball found left field, Jensen scored the winning run. The final was 1-0 in eight innings, and the Jeffs had dropped their first league game of 2013.

After the gut-wrenching and offensively sluggish defeat, however, the Jeffs knew that, by grinding out another win, they could still take the series. The Amherst squad did exactly that behind six strong innings from Dylan Driscoll ’14; in the nightcap, unlike earlier in the afternoon, the Jeffs were able to come up with some run support for their starter.

After a Cook homer brought the Jeffs to within one in the fourth, the squad took the lead for good with a three-spot in the top of the fifth. The inning was highlighted by another RBI (this time a double) from Cook and a run-scoring single from Odenwaelder. The following inning, a single from Alex Hero ’14 brought in another run, pushing the score to 6-3. In the bottom of the seventh, Driscoll departed and Adam Medoff ’14 picked up the save. Despite the difficult loss, the Jeffs had rebounded to win the series and improve to 8-1 in conference play.

On Monday, April 22, the Jeffs returned to action for a non-league road test against Springfield. While John Cook ’15 kept the Springfield lineup at bay, the Jeffs mounted an all-out offensive assault, highlighted by an eight-run sixth inning, and cruised to a 10-2 victory. Gunn enjoyed a 3-for-4 day at the plate, while Vandini, Saunders, Brendon Hardin ’15 and Jonathan Ramirez ’16 chipped in with two hits apiece.

After leaving some business unfinished against Hamilton, the Jeffs will look to pick up three “W’s” this weekend against Little III rival Wesleyan. This season, the Cardinals are a solid 7-2 in their division and will be looking to gain some momentum heading into the playoffs with a strong performance against the Jeffs. To be sure, the Amherst pitching staff, which has been lights-out in 2013, won’t make it easy on the Cardinal hitters. The main question for the series is that of how the Jeffs’ own bats will perform. If the Amherst offense clicks as it did against Springfield, the Jeffs will have the ability to record a sweep, but winning the series will suffice to make it a successful weekend.