He might not quite be on Dean Smith’s level yet, but Dave Barnard, head coach of baseball, has set a new standard for wins by a Williams baseball coach after capturing his 195th win this past weekend at Bowdoin. Barnard surpassed Jim Briggs’ old mark of 193 with a 6-2 victory in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader and added to his total with a 12-2 trouncing in the second.
“Winning on the collegiate level is largely a function of the coach’s ability to recruit good players and schedule bad teams,” said Barnard. “We’ve had some success in both areas.”
Barnard insists that he’s never really been concerned about win totals, concentrating instead on the game the team is playing at a given moment. Not even last year’s taste of NCAA play was enough to whet Barnard’s appetite for success beyond the NESCAC.
“My view is that the NESCAC should not be participating in NCAA post-season championships in American team sports (football, basketball and baseball) â€“especially in the middle of final exams,” said Barnard. “Top Div. III academic schools simply cannot compete on a regular basis with institutions that have unlimited admissions support, Div. I transfers and year-round players.”
An Amherst sweep of Hamilton over the weekend has clarified the NESCAC playoff picture heading into the final weekend of regular season conference play. The Ephs currently hold a one-game lead over the Lord Jeffs for the final spot in the four-team NESCAC playoffs.
Thus, the winner of this weekend’s series will, along with Wesleyan, represent the NESCAC West in the tournament. Wesleyan has already clinched a playoff berth.
The Eph offensive attack, which was silenced by Wesleyan two weekends ago, got back on track in a big way this weekend, exploding for 18 runs over two games.
Though the Ephs got behind early when the Polar Bears put up a run in the bottom of the first inning, Williams quickly responded with a run in the second and two in the third. The team would not trail from that point on.
Mark Scialabba ’02 led the Ephs at the plate going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Ben Hamm ’03 pitched four dominant innings to earn the win. The game ended up being merely a precursor of things to come, however, as Scialabba went on a rampage in the second game.
In an offensive onslaught that would have made Robin Ventura, or at the very least Barry Bonds, proud, Scialabba hit a home run in each of his first three at-bats to give the Ephs all the runs they would need behind starting pitcher Chris Bodnar ’05. Scialabba ended up going 3-for-4 with five RBIs in the second game.
“[Scialabba] is absolutely unconscious at this point,” said Barnard. “The man’s hitting .494 and has 10 home runs, and none of them have been cheap.”
Bodnar pitched a complete game, scattering 10 hits through the seven-inning game while striking out six. Jabe Bergeron ’04 went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBIs; Andy Herr ’02 finished 3-for-3 with a run scored.
Earlier in the week, the Ephs crushed Skidmore 15-4. Scialabba crushed another homer to highlight the Eph attack on a day that saw virtually every member of the roster contribute.
Super-sub Matt “Hollywood” Hoffman ’04 did his best Joe McEwing and contributed a two-RBI single up the middle â€“ Hoffman is now hitting .600 in limited playing time on the season.
The big question mark for this weekend’s series against Amherst will be which Eph team shows up to play â€“ the team that has played quality baseball against opponents such as Hamilton, Middlebury and Bowdoin or the squad that looked overmatched against Wesleyan. The team’s primary strength, its offense, will have its work cut out for it against a talented Amherst pitching staff coached by legendary pitching guru Bill Thurston.
“[Hitting] is purely a function of who you’re facing on the mound,” said Barnard. “It’s no secret that good pitching will beat good hitting.”
The Eph offense is clearly capable of putting up more than a couple runs against the Lord Jeffs; the burden will be on the team’s pitching and defense to make those runs stand up.
The Eph defense has been shaky this year â€“ at times it has been spectacular while at others it has been a definite weakness.
The team will have to bring its defensive “A”-game to Amherst as the pitching staff is already stretched thin and cannot afford to have to get extra outs due to defensive miscues.
Ace pitcher Bobby Coppola ’03 is questionable for this weekend’s games due to a shoulder injury, and even if he does play he will not have pitched in three weeks.
The bulk of the innings will be pitched by Bodnar, Hamm and Ryan Paylor ’04. Scott Johnson ’05 has been working out in the bullpen and will have the closing duties thrust upon him. Despite a lively fastball, Johnson has struggled this season with his control, disappointingly walking just under one batter per inning.
“Scott’s got a very good arm and he’s going to have to get used to being the closer,” said Barnard. “That’s going to be his role over the next three-and-a-half years.”
The Ephs will have a tune-up game today in Springfield at 3:30 p.m. They will then play a Saturday doubleheader at Amherst before returning to the Purple Valley for the third game on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.