A much anticipated clash of the titans ended poorly for baseball this weekend as the Cardinals of Wesleyan took two of three from the Ephs to maintain their lead in the NESCAC West and capture the 2002 Little Three title. The Ephs (15-8, 6-3 in the NESCAC) lost the first game of a Saturday double header 6-1 before bouncing back with an 8-7 victory in the night-cap. The Ephs got blown out in Sunday’s rubber game, 14-2.
Though Wesleyan technically only has a 0.5 game lead over the Ephs, they have six NESCAC games remaining between a weak Middlebury team and a notoriously bad Hamilton squad.
The Ephs have only three NESCAC games remaining, all of them against Amherst – the winner of the Williams-Amherst series, to be held April 27-28, will likely go to the NESCAC tournament with the loser staying home.
“It’s always disappointing when you don’t win a series,” said Dave Barnard, head coach of baseball. “But we knew going into the weekend we’d have a tough time as soon as Bobby [Coppola ’03] went down.”
Coppola, who has been the team’s best pitcher so far this season, posting a 1.00 ERA over 35 innings en route to a 4-1 record, hurt his shoulder last week. “It killed me to sit out this weekend,” said Coppola. “I was hoping to find a doctor who would give me a cortisone shot, but none would because of the possible long-term consequences.”
Without Coppola, the Ephs pitching staff was stretched thin and the Cardinal bats were able to take advantage to the tune of 27 runs over the three games. Perhaps most surprising, however, was the silence of the Eph bats. The normally high-scoring Ephs managed only one and two runs in their two losses.
In the first game of the series, Wesleyan struck first – putting up a three-spot in the second inning. Cardinal starting pitcher Bill Robinson, making only his second career start, helped his own cause by driving in all three runs with a two-out, bases-loaded double.
Robinson pitched the complete game allowing only one run on three hits and was awarded NESCAC Player of the Week honors for his dominating performance in which he quieted the usually-vaunted Williams lineup.
“The kid pitched really well just as he did earlier in the season against Amherst,” said Barnard. “We also hit some rockets in that game and they made some great plays.”
Taking the loss in the game for the Ephs was Ryan Paylor ’04 (2-3), who went six innings giving up five earned runs on eight hits and five walks. Mark Scialabba ’02 provided the offense for Williams with a solo home run.
In the second game, the Ephs jumped out to a 7-2 lead after two innings and held on to that lead for the rest of the game – though a four-run Cardinal rally in the ninth inning gave the Ephs a scare.
Jabe Bergeron ’04 led the way for the Ephs going 3-for-3 in the nightcap with a three-run homer and two walks. Erik Fagan ’02 (3-for-4, 2 doubles, 1 RBI), Matt Dahlman ’04 (2-for-4, 1 RBI) and Scialabba (2-for-4, 1 RBI) provided the bulk of the offense for the Ephs.
Earning the win was Chris Bodner ’05 (4-1) who went five innings allowing seven hits, three runs (two earned) and three walks while striking out four. After pitching two innings in the first game, Ben Hamm ’03 pitched the final four of the second game to earn the save. Hamm allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits and a walk.
In the rubber game, the Eph bats were once again silenced, this time by Cardinal hurler Nate Whalen. The Ephs scored twice in the fourth inning on RBI singles by Austin Lehn ’03 and Dahlman.
Due to the rain over the weekend, Bobby Coombs field was not in playable condition and all three of the weekend’s games were played at Wesleyan. The Saturday double-header was supposed to be played at Williams, but was moved at 8:33 a.m. on Saturday morning.
The team loaded into vans and made the two hour drive down to Wesleyan. Sunday’s game, originally scheduled to be played at Wesleyan was then tentatively moved to Williams, but that game was also moved to Wesleyan and the team took the two-hour drive again.
“Having the games moved was really tough on us,” said Paylor. “It’s really hard to travel two hours in a van and get off and have to immediately get into a game.”
Earlier in the week, the Ephs beat a mediocre Westfield State team 14-4. Paylor started and went four strong innings. Bodnar relieved Paylor pitching three innings for the win.
The Ephs will now have to set their sights on the match-up in two weeks against Amherst. The Lord Jeffs are currently 11-12 and 2-4 in the NESCAC.
If they sweep Hamilton this weekend, then the winner of the Eph-Amherst series will join Wesleyan as the NESCAC West representatives to the NESCAC tournament.
The Ephs next game is scheduled to be played at home on Thursday against Springfield St. at 4:15 p.m.