An explosive fifth inning for the Jeffs (11-9, 4-3 in the NESCAC) in Game 1 on Saturday ended baseball’s impressive 11-game win-streak. After losing 12-1, Williams (12-7, 3-2) was unable to respond in Game 2, falling 4-1 as Amherst swept the men this weekend. However, with an impressive spring break trip behind them, Williams was able to rebound from last weekend’s losses to top MCLA (12-7) 7-6 on Monday.
Monday’s game against MCLA was a nail-biter, as the Ephs entered the bottom of the ninth trailing by one run. Williams scored three runs early in the first inning, improving offensively from Saturday’s two-run day. However, MCLA slowly came back to claim the lead with runs in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings. Starting pitcher and co-captain Ben Horwitz ’09 left the mound in the sixth after pitching five solid innings and allowing five earned runs. Tom Coleman ’10 pitched the sixth and seventh while Ben Oliva ’12 took the mound for the eighth inning and Zach Stone ’09 earned the win, closing in the ninth. Entering the bottom of the ninth trailing 6-5, the Ephs turned on their power. After three consecutive singles which loaded the bases, rookie Stephen Maier ’12 hit a walk-off single to give the Ephs back their momentum and the win.
Game 1 of Saturday’s matchup between the Ephs and the Jeffs took the wind out of the Ephs’ sails. Despite the final blowout, the game saw little action in the first few innings. A Williams error in the top of the fourth allowed Amherst to be first on the scoreboard. However, the Ephs held the Jeffs to one run, exiting the inning with a pop-up to third and pitcher Dan Benz ’09 striking out the last batter. Williams was unable to respond in the bottom of the inning, taking the game to the fifth with a close 1-0 score.
Amherst exploded in the fifth inning, scoring 10 runs off of seven hits and two Williams errors. To begin the inning Benz hit the leadoff Jeff batter and walked the next. The next Jeff reached first on an error, which scored the runner on second. From then on it was batting practice for the Jeffs, scoring six more runs before Benz was relieved by Dan Grossman ’12. Benz left the game allowing seven hits and four earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched. Grossman did not have much luck stopping the Jeffs’ momentum. Amherst scored three more runs, one off another Williams error, before Williams finally ended its misery.
The Ephs were only able to respond with one run in the bottom of the sixth when Taylor Mikell ’09 hit a double that scored James Allison ’11, who had walked. In the top of the seventh Amherst added to its insurmountable lead with another run, putting Game 1’s final score at 12-1.
Attempting to put the first game behind them, the Ephs gave the second game their all, but fell short, 4-1. “It’s always tough to come back out after losing by 11 runs,” Horwitz said. “We felt like we had a chance to walk away with a split, but Amherst played well and was able to take two.”
Williams took the lead in the bottom of the first inning of Game 2. Leadoff hitter Maier walked to first and then advanced to second off of a Mikell single to right. Maier then scored on a passed ball to give the Ephs their first and only lead of the day. The Jeffs continued their offensive momentum this time on Eph pitcher Paul Burgdorf ’10, who allowed four runs (three earned) off of nine hits in five innings pitched. Harry Marino ’12 took over for Burgdorf in the sixth inning and held the Jeffs for the rest of the game.
“Amherst played very well this weekend,” Horwitz said. “Their pitchers were able to stay in control of the game, and timely hitting kept them in the driver’s seat. We look forward to playing them again in Pittsfield.”
Before their two losses last weekend, the Ephs were riding high on an 11-game win streak that culminated in a surprising victory over Div. I Fordham in the Bronx on April 7. Without a single error, the underdog Ephs overtook the Rams 5-2. Benz recorded his second win of the season over the Div. I squad with relief from Burgdorf, Marino and Grossman. Stone earned the save. “We went into the Fordham game knowing that the pressure was on them to beat us,” Horwitz said. “We played relaxed and enjoyed being the underdog going into that game.”
The beginning of spring break was a bit rocky for the Ephs, as they lost five in a row in Arizona before they really got comfortable. Williams hopes that the success they found after a challenging start will reemerge after last weekend’s loss to the Jeffs. Horwitz remains confident in the team’s talent and hopes to stay focused on the lessons they learned in Arizona and the Bronx.
“We learned the value of consistency. When the defense makes most of the plays, the pitchers throw strikes and keep the ball down, and we stick with our approach at the plate, we put ourselves in a good position to win some ballgames,” he said. “This team has enormous potential. The challenge will be to reach that potential and maintain that level of play for the league games. For now, we’re just taking it one game at a time, looking to improve on the little things every day.”
Baseball played at Elms last night, and the results came in too late for publication. The men will play Castleton at home tomorrow and at Hamilton on Friday and Saturday.