The Williams men’s baseball season came to a successful but unique end on Saturday when their doubleheader against Middlebury was canceled due to rain. Because of NCAA season regulations, the doubleheader will not be rescheduled, subsequently ending the season for the Ephs. Yet spirits were still high as the team finished their successful campaign with a 29-6 record and the Little Three title in hand.
Due to a decision made by President Hank Payne to withdraw the team from a probable NCAA tournament bid, the Ephs entered the final week of the regular season schedule knowing that Saturday would mark the end of a brilliant spring. What the Ephs didn’t know is that MCLA would forfeit their Wednesday game due to a bench-clearing brawl they participated in earlier in the week, and that Saturday’s competition versus Middlebury would be rained out. The change of events turned the Ephs season finale into a home match-up against Springfield College last Monday.
Williams took their first lead against Springfield in the bottom of the second inning when Matt Sigrist ’99 scored on a Jim Frew ’99 double that put the score at 2-1. Another Sigrist run was scored in the fourth on a Frew sacrifice fly as Williams stretched the lead to two runs. However, the Springfield offensive effort was not finished for the day, answering with a three-run home run off starter Matt Marvin ’98 with two outs in the top of the fifth inning. It was the one mistake made by Marvin in an otherwise very solid season-ending performance. The senior pitched seven strong innings allowing five hits and six walks while striking out eight Springfield batters.
Williams steadily regained the lead on the hot bat of Sigrist (3-3, triple), who again scored in the sixth inning on a beautiful squeeze bunt by Mike Whalen ’98. This tied the game at four runs apiece until Williams scratched out the fifth and deciding run in the bottom of the eighth inning. A Whalen single brought Sigrist across home plate for the fourth time of the day, leaving a 5-4 Williams lead for reliever Jeff Russell ’99 to preserve. Russell closed the door on Springfield with poise as he pitched two scoreless innings while striking out the side in the ninth. Williams exited the field for the last time this spring, winners 5-4 and champions of the Little Three.
As mentioned earlier, Williams was denied the opportunity to receive an NCAA post-season bid because of a decision by President Payne that the tournament would present too much of a conflict with the final exam schedule. Disappointment on behalf of the team and fans was universal when it was understood that the team’s longtime goal to reach the tournament would not be fulfilled this season.
Head coach Dave Barnard shared this disappointment in saying, “It was clear that we would have received a bid to play in the tournament, and it is too bad for the guys that didn’t get the chance to experience national competition. The decision did not surprise me because of the fact that later rounds in the tournament would have conflicted with exams.” However, the coach did concede that he is not a big proponent of NCAA play in team sports like baseball. “It is very difficult for Williams to compete on the national level against schools with significantly different recruiting policies without abolishing the two-sport athlete here at Williams.”
Barnard also expressed how proud he was about his team’s accomplishments this season in commenting, “Winning the Little Three title is what meant the most to me because it was something Williams hadn’t done since 1976.” Eph Co-Captain Ian Macallister expressed some of the team’s disappointment with the decision by saying, “It seems that President Payne is more concerned with politics than with the student body here at Williams. The schedules for both events [exams and the NCAA tournament] have been out for a while, and the administration should have informed us earlier that such a decision was going to be made.”
Despite the controversy, there was no debating the progress made by the Eph baseball club over the past few years. Progressing from a cellar team to Little Three champion is an accomplishment everyone is proud of, especially coach Barnard who began his head coaching tenure with this year’s senior class. Macallister spoke on behalf of the team in saying, “The leadership of this senior class [Jewell, Landis, Macallister, Marvin, and Ostella] is what has really propelled us to being the team to beat in the NESCAC. Now it is time for the younger talent to improve on our success in the seasons to come.”