April 11, 2011

             The Middlebury College baseball team won its home-opener on Wednesday before dropping two of three at Amherst over the weekend.

Middlebury scored 11 runs in the first inning and never looked back, as the Panthers (6-4) topped Southern Vermont (6-11) 19-4 in the team’s home-opener on Forbes Field. The game was originally scheduled to be played at Southern Vermont, but was moved to Middlebury due to field conditions.

            Middlebury sent 14 men to the plate in the first inning, scoring 11 times with just two runs earned. Senior Tyler Wark (Burlington, Vt.)  and junior Zach Roeder (Keene, N.H.) each drove in a pair with doubles, while junior Will Baine (Rye, N.Y.) had a two-run single.

            Trailing 13-1 in the fourth, Dave Northup hit a double to left center to plate a pair for Southern Vermont. Middlebury answered in the bottom of the inning when sophomore Michael Morris (Scarsdale, N.Y.) scored two with a single down the left field line to make it a 15-4 game. The Panthers added three in the sixth and one in the eighth to come away with the 19-4 victory.

            First-year pitcher Dylan Kane (Sands Point, N.Y.) earned the win in his collegiate debut, allowing three earned runs, while striking out four over five innings of work. Classmate Patrick Dyer (Chicago, Ill.) tossed three innings of one-hit ball, while sophomore John Popkowski (New York, N.Y.) closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

            Sophomore Thomas Rafferty (Chicago, Ill.) reached base six times in the game, going 2-3 with two runs scored and four walks to improve his season average to .475. Morris finished the day 2-4 with three RBI, Baine was 2-4 with two runs scored and three RBI, while sophomore Joseph Conway (Hummelstown, Pa.) went 2-4 with two driven in. Senior Donald McKillop (Poway, Calif.) scored four runs in the game, reaching base six times.

Kevin Heller delivered a walk-off single to the gap in right center in the bottom of the ninth inning to lead the Amherst College baseball team to a 7-6 win over Middlebury College Friday afternoon at Memorial Field.

With the score tied at 6-6 in the ninth, Amherst’s Alex Hero laced the first pitch he saw into left field for a leadoff single. After Hero moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Bob Cook, Popkowski intentionally walked the next batter to get to Heller in a force-out situation. Heller fell behind in the count but sent a 1-2 pitch into right center to bring around Hero for the winning run.

Popkowski took the loss to drop to 0-2 after allowing one run on two hits in 1.1 innings of relief. Hayden Metz pitched the final 3.2 innings for Amherst to improve to 1-1, as he allowed one unearned run on two hits with three strikeouts. Hero joined Dan Pillitteri and Mike Samela with two hits apiece for the Jeffs, with Cook and Samela each driving in two runs.

Wark and McKillop each had two hits and two RBIs for the Panthers, with Wark also walking twice and scoring a pair of runs. Conway went 1-5 and accounted for Middlebury’s fifth RBI.

            After each team scored once in the first inning, Amherst pulled ahead thanks to a two-run homer by Cook in the bottom of the second. The Jeffs held a 3-1 lead until an RBI-single up the middle by Wark made it a 3-2 game in the top of the fifth. In the bottom half of the frame, sophomore Thomas Driscoll (New Canaan, Conn.) made two nice catches in left field, including one that robbed Heller of a home run. 

The momentum from Driscoll’s defense carried over into the top of the sixth, when the Panthers put three runs on the board to take a 5-3 lead. Rafferty led off with a double and would come around to tie the score at 3-3, and the visitors took a 4-3 lead when Wark walked with the bases loaded. With two outs, McKillop then sent a dribbler in between the mound and third base, allowing the Panthers’ fifth run to score when Metz couldn’t field the ball cleanly.

Amherst got one back in the sixth and took a 6-5 lead in the seventh when Samela belted a two-run homer to left center, but Middlebury came right back with the tying run in the eighth. Wark ignited a two-out rally by singling to left, and after a fielding error extended the inning McKillop delivered an RBI-single to right, tying the game at 6-6. That would be the final run until Heller’s walk-off, as Popkowski and Metz traded quick 1-2-3 innings.

            Amherst’s Max McKenna and Middlebury senior Nick Angstman (Williston, Vt.) did not factor into the decision after each starting pitcher allowed two earned runs. McKenna surrendered five runs in all on seven hits, striking out two and walking one in 5.1 innings. Angstman gave up four runs on eight hits in six complete innings, finishing with three strikeouts and a walk.

            The Middlebury baseball team split a pair of games at Amherst on Saturday, winning the first game 8-3, falling in the nightcap, 12-2. The Jeffs win the NESCAC West series, 2-1. Baine and Roeder had three hits apiece and combined for three RBIs to lead the charge in the opener, with McKillop adding a two-hit, two-RBI performance. Sophomore Michael Joseph (Bala Cynwyd, Pa.) earned the complete-game victory to improve to 1-1, allowing three runs on only four hits and three walks to go with seven strikeouts.

McKillop belted a two-run homer in the top of the first and the Panthers never relinquished their lead, as they scored in each of the first four innings and carried a 6-3 lead into the fifth. Roeder delivered a solo shot in the sixth and the visitors chalked up one more in the seventh, while Joseph retired eight of the last 11 batters he faced.

Fred Shepard took the loss to drop to 2-2 on the season, while Nolan Stewart highlighted the Amherst offense by going 2-for-3 with a two-RBI double in the fourth inning. Shepard allowed five runs on six hits in 2.2 innings, walking four and striking out one. Dylan Driscoll pitched the final 4.1 innings for the Jeffs, surrendering three runs on eight hits without recording a walk or a strikeout.

Middlebury began the nightcap by taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first and would hold a 2-1 advantage heading into the bottom of the fifth, but the rest of the game belonged to the Lord Jeffs. Led by a two-run homer from Stewart, Amherst scored four runs in the fifth, two in the sixth, four in the seventh and one in the eighth.

The second game was broken open in the bottom of the fifth when a costly fielding error led to four unearned Amherst runs. Back-to-back doubles by Taiki Kasuga and Kevin Heller were followed by an RBI-single up the middle from Mike Samela, as the Jeffs suddenly held a 5-2 lead. An RBI-triple by Bob Cook and Stewart’s first long ball of the year led the charge the rest of the way, with an RBI-single from Thomas Wheeler capping off the scoring in the eighth.

            Sophomore John Wiet (Morristown, N.J.) (1-2) picked up the tough loss for the Panthers, as he struck out six, did not walk a batter and allowed only two earned runs in the first 5.2 innings. Sophomore Tyler Buckingham (Montclair, N.J.) surrendered four runs on five hits in one inning of relief, while senior Scooter Scott (Marlboro, Vt.) gave up one run in 1.1 innings.

• Baseball team record: 7-6
 Up next: 4/12 vs. Skidmore – 3:30, 4/15 vs. Wesleyan – 4:00, 4/16 vs. Wesleyan (2) – 12:00