Trinity sends baseball home at NESCACs

Baseball’s season came to an end this weekend at the NESCAC tournament, as Williams fell twice to Trinity, 9-8 and 14-4, dropping out of the double-elimination tournament. The Ephs finished up the season with a final record of 27-10, 8-7 in the NESCAC including tournament play.

Even though they lost several key players to graduation after last season, the squad persevered longer than many would have expected this spring. The team played hard and tough, keeping up with the league’s best with strong pitching, scrappy base running and some plain, old-fashioned hitting. The team has, however, shown an unfortunate tendency to falter in critical games all season. This weekend was no exception, as the Ephs played extremely well at times, but ultimately fell to superior competition.

The Ephs’ third game of the weekend and second against NESCAC Eastern Division champion Trinity took place on Saturday. The NESCAC tournament format is double elimination, so after their loss to Trinity on Friday and a 6-0 victory over Tufts, the Ephs were in a must-win situation.

The Ephs started co-captain Ben Hamm ’03 against the Bantams’ Chris Rodday. Hamm has been a solid performer all year for the Ephs, leading the team in starts while maintaining a 4.05 ERA. Hamm and Rodday both pitched well through the first three innings, each allowing no runs on only one hit. Each team scored a run in the fourth inning; the Ephs’ run came on a solo shot by slugger Jabe Bergeron ’04.

Bergeron also homered in the sixth inning with Timothy Burbridge ’06 on second base. After Rodday was replaced by Mark Tremblay, Austin Lehn ’03 scored on a wild pitch to give the Ephs a 4-1 lead. The lead was not to last, however, as Trinity came out firing in the seventh and eighth innings, scoring 13 runs on eight hits and two errors against Eph pitchers Hamm, Matt Brown ’06 and Ryan Paylor ’04.

The performance was uncharacteristic of the Eph pitching staff. Brown had a 3.70 ERA and a 5-1 record in six starts, while Paylor boasted a 3.67 ERA and 29 strikeouts in just 32 innings pitched. It was one of the few games all year in which the Eph pitchers failed to keep a lead. The Bantams went on to sweep Amherst in two games on Sunday to capture the NESCAC crown.

The Ephs were able to advance to the Trinity game only after a 6-0 victory over Tufts, who had compiled the second-best record in the NESCAC western division (21-10). Williams started their most reliable starter of the year, Chris Bodnar ’05, who pitched a 9-inning complete game, his fifth of the year in just nine starts. Bodnar gave up five hits and three walks but no runs on his way to a gem of a shutout. Bodnar finishes up the year as the team leader in innings pitched and strikeouts.

The offense also played well against the Jumbos, as Williams leapt out to score two runs in each of the first two innings against Tufts hurler Dave Martin. After doubling and advancing to third on a Burbridge single, Matthew Dahlman ’04 scored on a single by Lehn in the first inning. Second-baseman Bobby Coppola ’03 drove in Burbridge with a sacrifice fly.

Burbridge also earned a run and an RBI in the second inning, as he drove in catcher Matt Casey ’03 with a double, and then scored himself on an RBI single by Bergeron. The Ephs scored two more insurance runs in the fourth inning against Erik Johanson, and cruised to an easy victory.

The Ephs started out the playoff weekend with their first game against Trinity. Coppola got the start for the Ephs, his very first of the year. It might seem like it was a strange time to experiment with switching somebody out of the bullpen, but Coppola has been no ordinary reliever for the Ephs this year. Coppola came into the game with 17 appearances out of the bullpen and six saves and was one of the top pitchers on the team in terms of innings pitched. He also led the team in ERA (2.30).

In other games of the week, the Ephs defeated MCLA 9-1 and took a Monday doubleheader from Bates, 9-4 and 4-3.