The Williams baseball team opened the 2000 season with a successful southern swing on its annual Spring Break trip. The Ephs finished the trip with 10 straight wins and a 10-2 record, dominating the competition, which, according to pitcher Mark Daoust ’01, was subpar, “I would say we played well on spring trip, but the competition was awful. I think we beat the state of Pennsylvania 82-12.” Though he was obviously pleased with the stunning success (the Pennsylvania portion of the trip included wins of 19-0, 13-1, 10-0, 19-7, and 21-4), “it was good to get a little momentum going but it makes it tough when we get into these close games to not have any experience with close games down south.”
Having lost two senior pitchers in the class of 1999, Keith Surkont and Jim Frew, who had anchored the pitching staff, Williams pitchers demonstrated skill on the mound that had been a question mark during the preseason. “Our pitching is not as strong as it was in the past,” said pitcher Joe Steinberg ’01, “but we have a lot of good young arms. We’re keeping ourselves in the ball games and giving our team a chance to win … the freshmen are really taking advantage of the players behind them, throwing good pitches and getting ground ball outs instead of trying to strike everybody out.”
Despite the unexpected strength of the pitching staff, the return to New England tested the team’s inexperience with close games; all of their games since returning have been decided in the final inning. After a rainout with Keene State, the Ephs met RPI on Friday, taking the field as the home team but forced by the rain to play off campus. Ben Hamm ‘03 started the game, pitching well despite surrendering seven runs. Bobby Coppola ’03 relieved him, holding RPI to only one additional run. In the top of the ninth, with the game tied 8-8, RPI loaded the bases with a combination of singles and walks; Steinberg then came into the game with no one out and the bases loaded. His first fastball was grounded to Billy Casolo ’02 at shortstop, who got the out at third. The runner on third base scored, however, giving RPI a 9-8 lead. The next batter grounded into an inning-ending double play, but the damage had been done. The Ephs went 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the inning and lost.
On Saturday, Williams traveled to Medford to face the team ranked third in New England, the Tufts Jumbos, in a doubleheader. Steinberg (3-2) started for Williams, pitching the entire seven innings of game one. With two out in the top of the first, the Ephs got on the board early via a Mike Paolercio ’00 single and a walk to Austin Lehn ’03. After Tufts tied the game at two, Lehn singled in the top of the seventh. Eric Fagan ’02 drove him home with a single and Williams led 3-2 going into the bottom of the seventh. Back-to-back singles and an error quickly loaded the bases for Tufts with one out. The next two batters both singled to the left side, scoring two runs and ending the game in a 4-3 Tufts victory.
After game one, coach Dave Barnard, according to Steinberg, told the team “we played as hard as we could, we eliminated a lot of the mental errors we had against RPI … and that the circus does come to town occasionally but it can’t stay the whole weekend.”
In fact, the circus left town after that game, as the Ephs rebounded with a strong performance in game two, earning a victory and a split of the doubleheader. Williams unleashed an offensive barrage in the top of the fourth to snap a 1-1 tie, beginning with a two out, solo home run by Justin Braeutigam ’03. Then, after the Ephs had loaded the bases, Mike Shipley ’02 and Fagan both delivered RBI singles and the Jumbos committed a costly error, giving Williams a 5-1 lead.
In the seventh, leading 5-3, the Ephs added two more runs that proved to be decisive. Casolo led off the inning with a double, and then reached third on a bunt by Tim Albrecht ’01 that Tufts could not field properly. The Jumbos defensive woes continued, as they failed to complete a double play on a grounder by Dave Carrillo ’00 and then committed an additional error, allowing both Casolo and Carrillo to score.
Daoust came on to pitch the final two innings, finishing off a game started by Coppola and taking over for Adam Mancinone ’02. Though the Jumbos scored twice in the bottom of the seventh, the Ephs held on for the 7-5 victory.
Though the Ephs originally had a full schedule for the coming week, the massive snowstorm wreaked havoc on their plans. They were scheduled to play MCLA on Tuesday and the Savannah College of Art and Design, coached by Red Sox great Luis Tiant, on Thursday. Little Three play begins this weekend with a doubleheader at home against Wesleyan on Saturday at 1 p.m. and then a game at Wesleyan on Sunday.