Baseball lucky to be in NESCACs

You won’t often find a Williams students singing the praises of Amherst, but there may be a few more people around campus this week giving silent thanks to their traditional archrival. A lackluster performance against the Lord Jeffs just last week appeared to ensure an early end to baseball’s season, but Amherst’s stunning sweep of Middlebury this weekend allowed the Ephs (23-8, 7-5 in the NESCAC) to back their way into the NESCAC tournament.

Coming into this weekend’s games against Hamilton and Colby, the baseball team knew exactly what it had to do: win, and watch the scoreboard closely on Sunday to find the results of the final game of the Amherst-Middlebury series. On Saturday, Williams destroyed the Continentals 26-5. The Ephs followed up the victory with a Sunday doubleheader at Colby that included a 14-2 thrashing of the White Mules and an 8-7 nailbiter.

When all was said and done, the Ephs’ hard work paid off, as Amherst swept Middlebury with an 8-7, 11-inning victory to cap the weekend sweep. The loss sent the Panthers packing and the Ephs to the NESCAC tournament at Amherst, where the team will take on Trinity, the NESCAC Eastern division champs.

The Ephs must have smelled blood in the water in the second game on Sunday, when they torched the Colby pitching staff for 12 runs in just one-third of an inning. After Timothy Burbridge ’06 and Matt Casey ’03 spotted Mule pitcher Tyler Hales two quick outs, 13 consecutive Eph batters managed to reach base safely, as Williams scored 12 runs on seven hits and four errors.

Except for the events that unfolded between the second and third outs of the first inning, the game was a low-scoring affair, as replacement Colby pitcher Jared Cushman allowed just two more runs in the last six innings. Eph pitcher Justin Anderson ’05 pitched six strong innings, giving up two earned runs on five hits and garnering one strikeout in his third start of the season.

Offensive stars were not hard to come by for the Ephs. Austin Lehn ’03 continued his strong performance this year, going 3-of-3, scoring three runs and knocking in another. Jabe Bergeron ’04 put in a typical day’s work, going 2-of-5 with three runs and two RBI. Joseph Lapaglia ’06 went 3-of-4, scored two runs and drove in two more.

The first game of the doubleheader was a much closer affair. In the seventh inning, the Ephs scored four runs in the top half to take a 7-3 lead, but the Mules came right back and took advantage of a few Williams errors to tie it up in the bottom half of the inning. The game went into an extra eighth inning, where Lehn scored the deciding run on a sacrifice fly by Phil Michael ’04.

For the Ephs, Chris Bodnar ’05 and Matt Brown ’06 teamed up to allow seven runs (three earned) on 10 hits and also struck out six. The offensive stars for the Ephs were Michael and Matt Marino ’05. Michael was 4-of-4 with two runs and an RBI, while Marino got four RBI and two hits in four at-bats.

In the Ephs’ other weekend victory, they earned an easy win over NESCAC cellar-dwellers Hamilton. The Continentals are 0-12 in the NESCAC this year, and their woes continued as the Ephs collected 26 runs on 26 hits. Williams failed to score in only two innings and scored multiple runs in six of the nine innings. The star of the game was shortstop Bobby Coppola ’03, who got a homerun and 6 RBI and scored four runs as he went 5-of-6 and got hit by a pitch.

Ben Hamm ’03 pitched a complete game for the Ephs, giving up five earned runs on nine hits and getting 12 strikeouts in the 9-inning performance. Hamilton pitcher David Greene gave up 23 hits and 22 runs (17 earned) in six and a third innings pitched.

Earlier in the week, the Ephs picked up two non-conference victories in close games against Springfield and Keene St. Coppola earned the victory for the Ephs in both games. In the game against Springfield, Coppola came in to pitch the ninth and tenth innings and earned the victory on his own bat with a walk-off single, driving in his catcher, Casey. The Ephs took the victory, 10-9, with 16 hits and no errors, to Springfield’s 15 hits and one error. Ryan Paylor ’04 was the starter for the Ephs.

Against Keene St., the Ephs struggled back from a 5-1 deficit to win 6-5 on a Mark Chmiel ’05 RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning. The hit allowed Lehn to score from second, which he had reached by stretching a bloop hit into a double.