April 23, 2012

Middlebury sophomore Alex Kelly (Rockville, Md.) capped a 7-9 day with a walk-off single to left in the bottom of the ninth to give the Panthers a 6-5 victory over Amherst in game two of a NESCAC West doubleheader. The Jeffs earned a 3-1 win in game one, setting up game three on Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. Middlebury moves to 10-12 on the year, 4-7 in NESCAC play, while Amherst sits at 19-6, suffering its first league loss to move to 7-1.

In the 11:00 a.m. opener, Middlebury scratched their lone run across the plate in the bottom of the first. After a Kelly one-out single, junior Michael Morris (Scarsdale, N.Y.) pushed Kelly to third on a single down the line in right. With senior Zach Roeder (Keene, N.H.) at the plate, Morris stole second, putting two runners in scoring position for the clean-up hitter. Roeder knocked in Kelly on an RBI put-out to second base for the 1-0 lead.

Amherst tied it in the third after Taiki Kasuga reached on an error. A single by Kevin Heller allowed Kasuga to reach third base, before a wild pitch by Panther junior starter Michael Joseph (Bala Cynwyd, Pa.) allowed Kasuga to score the tying run.

Amherst took the lead in the fifth after a lead-off triple by left-handed hitter Alex Hero sliced away from a diving Kelly in left field. Kasuga followed, plating Hero with an RBI sacrifice fly to center for a 2-1 lead. The Jeffs put one more on the board in the sixth on an RBI infield single by Dan Pillitter deep to the backhand of the shortstop with runners on first and third for a 3-1 lead.

Middlebury had a chance to tied it in the seventh and final inning of the twin-bill, as junior Thomas Driscoll (New Canaan, Conn.) reached on an error and Kelly collected his fourth single of the game. After a sacrifice bunt  by Morris pushed both runners 90 feet, Roeder once again was at the dish with two runners in scoring position, including the potential game-tying run at second base. Roeder slammed an offering from Amherst starter Bob Cook right at the Jeffs’ third baseman for the second out. With two outs, the Jeff hurler enticed junior Thomas Rafferty (Chicago, Ill.) into an easy grounder to second to end the game.

Kelly had a great opener at the plate for Middlebury, going 4-4 in game one and scoring a run, while senior Tyler Wark (Burlington, Vt.) chipped in with a pair of singles. Joseph (1-4) went seven innings, allowing six hits and two earned runs, while striking out seven.

In game two, Amherst took a 1-0 lead in the second when B. Cook walked, stole second and later scored on a single through the right side by Quinn Saunders-Kolberg. Middlebury answered in the bottom of the inning when Roeder walked, stole second and scored on a single to right by first-year player Hunter Merryman (San Marino, Calif.). Senior Will Baine (Rye, N.Y.) followed with a ground rule double down the right field line, before a bases loaded walk from Driscoll plated Merryman.

The Panthers took a 4-1 lead in the fifth when Kelly walked and scored on a double to left center by Morris. Amherst starter John Cook departed, giving up four runs and three hits with seven walks in four innings of work. He entered the game with just six walks in 30.1 innings this season with a 4-0 mark and a 1.48 ERA. Roeder greeted Adam Medoff with a single to right, while Rafferty followed with  single up the middle to score Morris.

The Panthers threatened in the seventh with a two out rally, loading the bases as Robert Cahill came in to face rookie Dylan Sinnickson (Sands Point, N.Y.). On his first pitch, Cahill was able to entice Sinnickson into a ground out to third to end the threat.

Amherst came back with a big inning in the eighth, scoring four unearned runs to take a 5-4 lead. The big hit in the inning was a two-run ground rule double to left by pinch-hitter Heller to score both B. Cook and Nolan Stewart.

The Panthers answered in the bottom of the frame, as Kelly doubled to left and moved to third on a field error. Following a ground out, Roeder belted a double to left center to score Kelly and tie the game at 5-5.

Amherst loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, but Middlebury junior reliever Andy Dittrich (Woodbury, Minn.) got out of his own jam as Morris made a nice play at first and threw to Dittrich to retire B. Cook.

Wark reached on a throwing error with one out to get things going in the bottom of the ninth for the Panthers. Following a pop out, lefty Dylan Joyce came on in relief to face the next two scheduled lefties at the plate. Driscoll walked, setting up Kelly’s heroics with his walk-off single to left.

Dittrich earned the win in relief, moving to 3-1 on the season with a 0.00 ERA. First-year starting pitcher Cooper Byrne (Ridgewood, N.J.) had a solid start, going seven inning and allowing one earned run and four hits. Kelly went 3-5 with a double, two runs scored and three RBI to up his average to .434. Roeder, Rafferty, Merryman and Baine each had two hits in the win.

            Middlebury left 15 runners on base in game two, while the Jeffs stranded 10.

On Saturday, Middlebury exploded for 11 runs in the second inning on its way to a 16-6 win over Amherst on Forbes Field. With the split yesterday, the Panthers earn their first-ever NESCAC West series victory over the Jeffs since the three-game sets began in ’01.

In the decisive second inning, the Panthers sent 15 batters to the plate with nine of them earning hits. Baine had a huge inning with a two-run triple and a two-run single. Kelly, Morris and Merryman each had RBI singles in the frame.

The Panthers added a run in the third before Mike Samela plated Bob Cook with a triple to left center for the Jeffs in the fourth to make it a 12-1 game.

Middlebury added three more in the fifth, including a two-run single from Baine to earn his fifth and sixth RBI of the day.

The Jeffs plated four runs on four hits in the sixth to make it a 15-5 game. Brendon Hardin had a two-run double to center, while Eric West and Tyler Jacobs each had RBI singles.

The Panthers added to their lead with a run in the sixth, while John Wagner scored on Semela’s triple in the ninth for Amherst.

Rookie Logan Mobley (Ross, Calif.) earned a win in his first career start, moving to 2-0 with five innings of work. Classmate Eddie DeArias (Sudbury, Mass.) threw three scoreless innings before rookie Matt Leach (W. Hartford, Conn.) tossed the ninth. Baine finished 3-6 with a triple, two runs scored and six RBI in the game, while earning seven assists at shortstop. Kelly went 2-5 with a triple while scoring four times, while Rafferty was 2-3 with a double and three runs scored. Merryman had a 2-3 day with three RBI while scoring twice, Roeder was 2-3 with three runs scored, while Michael Morris was 2-4.

• Baseball team record: 11-12

• Up next: 4/24 @ St. Michael’s, 4/25 @ S. Vermont, 4/28 vs. Trinity (2) – 12:00