After Amherst split, baseball’s playoff hopes hinge on final contest with Jeffs

The oldest rivalry in college baseball was put on hold Sunday as rain swamped Williams’ Bobby Coombs Field. After splitting a Saturday double-header, Williams and Amherst will not play the rubber game of the three-game series until Wednesday at the earliest.

Of the eight games the Ephs were scheduled to play at home this year, six have been played on the road due to adverse weather conditions.

The game cannot be made up today as Amherst is playing Springfield; it could potentially be played tomorrow, though the Ephs’ game against Keene State would have to be rescheduled. The game will eventually be played at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y.

Saturday’s game was pitched by Bobby Coppola ’03, who was making his first start since injuring his shoulder three weeks ago.

Coppola, who had been dominant on the mound for the first half of the season, showed signs of rust, giving up eight runs (six earned) on 11 hits while issuing two free passes against four strikeouts over 5.1 innings.

After the Ephs jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Jeffs tied it up in their half of the second and took the lead for good one inning later.

Coppola got the first Jeff batter to strike out looking, but a single followed by a double and a walk loaded the bases for second baseman John Brody, who delivered a two-RBI single. The Jeffs would tack on another run on a run-scoring groundout. The Ephs went the rest of the game without ever threatening Amherst’s lead.

Exactly one year after pitching a perfect game in high school, Chris Bodnar ’05 stepped up for the Ephs and completely dominated the Jeff batters, knowing that a loss would spell the end of the Ephs’ season.

Bodnar went the distance allowing only four hits and two walks while striking out four to earn the 1-0 victory.

“Bodnar had one of the best pitching performances against Amherst that I’ve seen in my four years here,” said tri-captain Mark Scialabba ’02. The complete game performance gave Bodnar his sixth win on the season, good for the team lead, and lowered his ERA to 5.40. For his efforts, Bodnar was named NESCAC co-Player of the Week along with Brody, who was 3-for-6 with three RBIs against the Ephs.

In the fifth inning, the Ephs manufactured the only run that Bodnar would need. Phil Michael ’04 started things off in the inning with a one-out single. In a shrewd managerial move, Dave Barnard, head coach of baseball, called for a hit-and-run and Austin Lehn ’03 came through with a single.

With runners on first and third, Matt Dahlman ’04 bounced back to the pitcher’s mound and LeDuc attempted to turn a double play, but the shortstop’s relay throw was too late.

LeDuc, Amherst’s ace pitcher, took himself out of the game after six innings. “I don’t know if he came out because he was hurt or scared,” said Scialabba. “He’s one of those pitchers that falls apart when things start not going his way.”

With runners on first and second and two outs in the eighth inning, it appeared that Amherst would tie the game up on an unearned run. Amherst’s John Schneider hit a one-hopper to third base which Lehn was unable to handle.

As the ball trickled into the outfield, J.R. Drabick, the lead runner, tried to score. A brilliant turn-and-throw by shortstop Scott Johnson ’05, however, gunned down Drabick at the plate to end the inning.

Depending on when the game is rescheduled, the Ephs will look primarily to Bodnar, Hamm and Ryan Paylor ’04 to handle the pitching duties.

Though the Ephs can expect strong pitching from that trio, the real question will be whether the offense can muster many runs against Amherst’s strong pitching staff.

Though the offense has been dominant for much of the season, it has struggled against the stronger staffs – in five games against Wesleyan and Amherst, the Ephs have scored more than two runs only once.

“Those kids just pitch well, you’ve got to tip your hat to them,” said Barnard. “They can’t pitch well forever, so hopefully we can get some pitches to hit.”

The Ephs next game is scheduled to be a 3:30 p.m. match-up tomorrow at Keene State, though that is subject to change.