Baseball sputters after strong spring

The poor New England weather wreaked havoc on the baseball team’s schedule this past week as the Ephs attempted to play their first games after returning from their spring break trip to the South. Games that had been scheduled early in the week against Springfield and Hamilton had to be postponed until later in the season. This meant that the Ephs (10-5 overall, 2-3 in the NESCAC) were forced to resume their season against defending Little Three Champion Wesleyan (12-8 overall, 3-2 in the NESCAC).

Strong hitting and pitching allowed the Ephs to jump out to a 10-3 record on their spring trip. The Williams offense, led by slugger Jabe Bergeron ’04, was hitting .379 for the season going into the Wesleyan doubleheader on Sunday. In their two games against the Cardinals, however, the Ephs managed only six hits, only two of which went for extra bases, as they dropped both games by scores of 1-0 and 7-0.

In the second game, Williams started Chris Bodnar ’05 against Wesleyan’s Tom Bloss. Over spring break, Bodnar compiled a 1.50 ERA, getting 20 strikeouts and allowing just three earned runs in 18 innings. Bodnar pitched well against Wesleyan also, going seven and a third and allowing just two earned runs while striking out seven. Unfortunately, the Eph defense, which already had 28 errors to its opponents’ 26 on the season, continued to play poorly, as the team’s three errors and two passed balls allowed Wesleyan to score five unearned runs.

Things started poorly for the Ephs in the first inning, as Wesleyan’s leadoff batter, Jim Barletto, started out with a single. Two passed balls allowed Barletto to advance to third before Dave Vanech singled in what would be the game-winning run. Barletto and Josh Daniels got to Bodnar in the second, hitting back-to-back triples en route to the Cardinals’ only two earned runs of the game.

The Williams offense earned only four hits in the game, as Bobby Coppola ’03 got two hits and Matthew Dahlman ’04 and Mark Chmiel ’05 collected one each. Bloss pitched a gem in his second complete-game shutout of the season, striking out three and allowing four walks.

Bloss was not, however, the only Wesleyan pitcher who found a way to silence the Eph bats on Sunday. In the first game of the doubleheader, Wesleyan’s Bill Robinson allowed just two baserunners, striking out four and walking none, as he out-dueled Benjamin Hamm ’03 in a 1-0 victory. Hamm went the seven-inning distance also, allowing just six hits and one run in his second complete game of the season.

It was Hamm’s fifth start of the season, and his second loss. The pitcher has a 5.40 ERA with 10 strikeouts in 20 innings but has dominated in his last couple starts, allowing just three runs in 12 innings. Unfortunately, meager run support in both games made Hamm the loser despite his solid starts. In the game against Wesleyan, Bergeron and Austin Lehn ’03 managed the team’s only two hits.

Wesleyan scored its lone run in the 1-0 victory in the sixth inning as Wesleyan hitters earned three consecutive singles to knock in catcher Drew Nannini. The RBI was credited to Wesleyan freshman Jeffrey Maier. Orioles and Yankees fans might be interested to know that the infamous fan who caught Derek Jeter’s “home run” ball in the 1996 American League Championship Series, Maier, went 4 for 7 in the two games with an RBI in each. He was also caught stealing three times on three attempts.

On the assumption that the Ephs’ confused schedule holds up, they will play Wesleyan at Williams today at 4 p.m. to finish up the series. The weather looks like it should hold up, and hopefully a good turnout at their first home game of the season will energize the Eph bats.

The Ephs will be looking for Bergeron to return to form, as the team leader in homeruns (4) and RBI (18) was held quiet over the weekend. Bergeron is also the only starter who has hit a round-tripper this season, as Joey Lapaglia ’06 has the only other Eph homerun of the season. Lehn and Dahlman together have eight doubles and two triples. Hopefully in the second half of the season, some of those extra-base hits will begin falling on the other side of the fences.

The Eph pitching has been strong, as expected, and a team ERA of 3.53 over spring break allowed the Ephs to more than double up the run totals of their opponents (109 to 52). Coppola, Bodnar, Ryan Paylor ’04 and Matt Brown ’06 have all kept their ERA’s under 4.00 with over 10 innings of pitching each. Brown has been a pleasant surprise for the Ephs. He is 2-0 with two starts in four games, striking out 15 in just 13.1 innings of work.

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