May 16, 2011

            The Panther baseball team saw its season come to an end with a 7-2 loss to Amherst in the NESCAC Tournament. Amherst junior Kevin Heller smashed a grand slam to left center field, breaking a 3-3 tie in the top of the eighth inning to lift the Jeffs to the win in a game played at AIC Park in Springfield, Mass. The Panthers end their season with a 15-16 mark.

            Middlebury struck first in the bottom of the second inning when senior Andrew Somberg (Florham Park, N.J.) hit his first home run of the season. Amherst left fielder Brian Merrigan appeared to have the second out of the inning as he drifted toward the left field fence, however Merrigan’s momentum carried him into the wall and the ball popped out of his glove and over the fence.

            The Lord Jeffs evened the score with two outs in the next half-inning, as Merrigan came in from third when the Panther shortstop mishandled a shot to the hole by junior Thomas Wheeler .

            Somberg put the Panthers back on top in the bottom of the fourth inning with a one-out single to right field. After senior Donald McKillop (Poway, Calif.) and junior Zach Roeder (Keene, N.H.) singled to lead off the inning, sophomore Michael Morris (Scarsdale, N.Y.) moved them over with a sacrifice bunt. Somberg’s second hit of the day brought home McKillop from third, and Roeder scored when the right fielder’s throw to third missed its mark and rolled past the Jeffs’ third baseman.

            Amherst tied the contest once again in the top of the seventh. The Jeffs managed to load the bases with two outs, and sophomore Bob Cook drove in two with a single to right field. Amherst could not grab the lead, though, as the next batter popped up to end the seventh.

            The Lord Jeffs would get the winning runs in the next inning. Senior Scott Schaffer walked to lead off the inning, and the Panthers decided to make a change and bring in sophomore John Wiet (Morristown, N.J.) to relieve classmate Michael Joseph (Scarsdale, N.Y.). Wiet allowed a walk and hit a batter before Heller’s heroics put Amherst in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the game.

            The Panthers went in order in the bottom of the eighth and threatened in the ninth, leading off with back-to-back hits and loading the bases at one point, however rookie reliever Cam Windham shut the door to earn the save.

            Senior Ryan Healy got the win on the hill for Amherst, tossing 8.0 innings and scattering eight hits while striking out six and surrendering just one walk. Middlebury’s Joseph was effective during his appearance, which lasted over 100 pitches in 7.0 innings for the no-decision. He allowed nine hits and three walks while striking out six. 

            In game one on Friday, Tufts junior starter Dave Ryan tossed seven strong innings, while senior David Orlowitz tied a tournament hit record, going 5-5 with three RBI, as the NESCAC East Division champion Jumbos downed Middlebury College 14-2 in the opening round of the conference championship at AIC Park in Springfield, MA.

            Seniors Chase Rose and Frank Petroskey, junior Sam Sager and first-year Nate Izzo each recorded a pair of hits for the Jumbos, while combining for six RBI and six runs scored. Sophomore Eric Weikert and senior Ian Goldberg accounted for the other two Tufts base-knocks on the afternoon.

            Morris paced the Panther offense going 2-4, while first-year Alex Kelly (Rockville, Md.) added a pair of hits. Sophomore Joseph Conway (Hummelstown, Pa.) finished 1-3, while juniors Will Baine (Rye, N.Y.) and Murphy McCurdy (Basking Ridge, N.J.) notched Middlebury’s lone runs-batted-in.

            Ryan allowed two runs on six hits while striking out four in the win, while first-year Christian Sbily tossed a pair of shutout innings in relief. Panther senior Nick Angstman (Williston, Vt.) lasted two innings, surrendering six runs on five hits in the loss.

            After a scoreless top half of the first, Tufts wasted no time getting on the board, pushing across five runs on four hits in the bottom of the frame. Senior David LeResche led off the inning, reaching on a hit-by-pitch before Orlowitz laced a single to right to put two aboard. The runners would advance to second and third on a wild pitch before Sager doubled to right center, scoring LeResche.

            Hoping to keep things going, Weikert hit a bloop single to shallow left, plating two more runs to make it 3-0. With the bases loaded and one out, Petroskey hit a grounder to short, allowing Weikert to come home, before Izzo later capped off the Jumbos’ run with a two-out, RBI-single to center that staked Tufts to an early 5-0 lead.

            Looking to extend the Jumbo margin, Orlowitz led-off the bottom of the second with a towering shot to left, pushing the Tufts lead to six. Hoping to avoid any further damage, Angstman settled in, inducing consecutive ground-outs to second before retiring the side on a fly-out to center.

            The Jumbos would again threaten in the bottom half of the fourth, putting two on after an Orlowitz two-out double to center and a hit-by-pitch, but Wiet got a much-needed strikeout, putting the wraps on a second-consecutive shutout inning in relief.

            Middlebury would look to piece something together in the top half of the fifth with sophomore Thomas Rafferty (Chicago, Ill.) drawing a lead-off walk. After junior Tyler Wark (Burlington, Vt.) lined out to third, Kelly singled to right, putting two Panthers on. Sophomore Thomas Driscoll (New Canaan, Conn.) then reached on a fielder’s choice back to the mound, getting runners on the corners, but Ryan got a big strikeout to end the Middlebury threat.

            Trying to put the game out of reach, the Jumbos responded with a big fifth, pushing across five runs on five hits as the Tufts lead swelled to 11-0. With runners on second and third with one out, Goldberg scored on a wild pitch before Petroskey laced a single to left plating another run. Orlowitz later singled to center with two-on and two out, driving in another run, before a Sager base-knock to left coupled with a Middlebury error allowed two more Jumbos to come home, putting Tufts up by 11.

            Still searching for their first run, Rafferty and Conway led off the Middlebury seventh with a pair of singles. Kelly later drew a one out walk to load the bases, before McCurdy reached on a fielder’s choice to short, scoring the Panthers’ first run. Baine later added to the tally with a two-out, RBI-single to center, making it 11-2, but Tufts responded with a three-run frame to pad their cushion en route to a 14-2 triumph.

• Baseball team final record: 15-16