Baseball clinches NESCAC West

Sunday was a historic day for Williams athletics. Not only did men’s lacrosse win its first ever NESCAC crown, but baseball (24-10, 9-3 in the NESCAC) won the NESCAC West by beating Amherst (22-10-1,8-4) in a historic game commemorating 149 years of collegiate baseball. The Ephs and the Jeffs played Sunday at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, where the same two schools played the very first collegiate baseball game in America 149 years ago. While the Jeffs won that contest 73-32, Williams came out victorious on Sunday by a final score of 9-4.

“I could not imagine a better way to end the regular season than playing Amherst in front of a great crowd for the chance to take first place in the NESCAC West,” co-captain Max Pinto ’08 said. “The rivalry always means so much, and when you tack on the playoff and historical implications it became even more special.”

Both teams entered Sunday’s game with an 8-3 conference record, making the game’s outcome decide the NESCAC West title. The Jeffs won the two previous contests against the Ephs this season, taking both games by one run. Williams entered the game winning 10 out of their last 11 contests.

Dan Benz ’09 threw a solid game for the Ephs, shutting the Jeffs out in the seven of eight innings he pitched.

Benz started the game striking out the first two Amherst batters. He walked the third and Neal Allar homered in the clean-up position to immediately put the Jeffs in a 2-0 lead. From that point on Benz allowed no runs and struck out seven more Jeffs.

Williams responded in the bottom of the first frame, as co-captain and lead-off hitter James DiCosmo ’08 scored on an Amherst error with two outs. Rookie Chad Brown ’11 ended the inning with a line drive to the Amherst first baseman.

That would be Brown’s only out of the game as the rookie and Pittsfield native went 4-for-5 on the day. In the bottom of the third, Brown hit Robin Allemand ’10 home with an RBI-single to tie the score 2-2. Brown’s momentum caught on and the team exploded with a five-run inning in the fourth.

With a single, Zack Stone ’09 started off the fourth for the Ephs. He advanced to second and third on a sacrifice fly and then a single by DiCosmo. Amherst starting pitcher Chris Edgar threw a wild pitch, allowing Stone to score and DiCosmo to reach third. After a walk and a hit batter, Edgar was clearly tired on the mound. Williams took advantage as Allemand hit a sacrifice fly to score DiCosmo and Al Mathews ’10 followed with a two-run double. Brown then came to the plate and knocked another RBI single, scoring Mathews. After changing pitchers, Amherst got out of the brutal inning five runs behind.

Williams would not relinquish its lead, and the Ephs added another run in the bottom of the eighth off of yet another Brown RBI single.

The Jeffs attempted to rally in the ninth, but the seven-run deficit was too much to overcome. Williams won the historic game 9-4 and clinched the NESCAC West title.

“For the third time all season in over 30 games, we played error free baseball,” Pinto said. “I think that our ability to make 27 outs really [was] truly exceptional. If we are able to play good team defense and get a few clutch hits we [will] play a whole lot more games in the next few weeks.”

The day before meeting up with their NESCAC rivals, the men played a non-conference game at MIT.

The Ephs got off to a quick start against the Engineers, putting up two runs in the first.

After their two-run first inning, the Ephs’ bats remained silent as the Engineers slowly crept back into the game. Starting pitcher Ben Horwitz ’09 threw a strong six innings, allowing only seven hits which MIT converted into a run in the second, third and sixth innings.

Entering the seventh and final inning the Ephs trailed the Engineers 3-2. But Williams delivered under pressure as pinch hitter Pat Barren ’11 led the team off with a single down the third base line. Bryce Bennett ’11 then pinch-ran for Barren and advanced to second off a sacrifice bunt from DiCosmo. Mikell then doubled to center field to score Bennett and tie the score. Williams did not slow down as Pinto’s ground-out advanced Mikell to third who was then hit home on an RBI triple from Allemand. Mathews then brought Allemand home with a double to center. Williams entered the bottom of the seventh with a 5-3 lead.

Tommy Hester ’11 entered the game to close for Horwitz. MIT’s lead-off batter singled off Hester to start the come-from-behind rally for the Engineers. Hester then walked the second batter and committed an error to load the bases. With no outs and the winning run on first, Hester struck out the next batter. MIT’s Phillips hit an RBI-single, but Hester then forced two outs to seal the 5-4 win.

Williams has won 11 out of its last 12 games and is hoping this momentum will continue in the post season. The men will take on Tufts at Wesleyan on Friday in the first round of the NESCAC playoffs.

“We are going to try to take these next few games one pitch at a time, and focus our concern on the simple parts of the game,” Pinto said. “We hope to pitch, hit and throw the ball around to the best of our ability, and we are confident that if we play our style of baseball and have a great time, we will get through the tough NESCAC tourney and make it back to Regionals.”