Middlebury

Baseball Team Prepares For NESCAC Tourney

May 13, 2006

Bowdoin College will serve as host for the 2006 NESCAC Baseball Championship this weekend for the top two teams from each division. The 2006 NESCAC Baseball Championship begins on Friday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m. with Williams taking on Bowdoin at Pickard Field in Brunswick, Maine, while Tufts will face Middlebury at Bates' Leahey Field in Lewiston.

The top two teams from the East and West divisions earn the right to participate in the tournament. The host site rotates between divisions on an annual basis, with the top team in the East Division earning the right to host the event this season. Bowdoin will host in conjunction with Bates this weekend. On Saturday, the two losing teams from Friday's action will meet at Bates' Leahey Field at 10:30 a.m., while the two winners from Friday will clash at Bowdoin's Pickard Field at 10:30 a.m. The winner from Saturday's game at Bates will take on the losing team from the morning game at Bowdoin at 2:30 p.m at Bowdoin. The team that advances out of the final game on Saturday will face the remaining unbeaten team in the field on Sunday at 10:00 a.m., with a second game to follow if necessary.

Bowdoin (27-6-1, 10-2 NESCAC East) is in the midst of the best season in school history, as the Polar Bears have already set the school mark for wins this season with 27. After dropping two-out-of-three games to divisional foe Trinity over the first weekend in April, the Polar Bears have been red hot, going 17-2-1 over their last 20 outings and winning every game on their divisional schedule. Bowdoin's success can be attributed to a solid mix of hitting and pitching. The Polar Bears are batting a combined .352 with 312 runs scored, ranking second as a team in both categories, while averaging almost eight runs per game over the last 20 outings. Leadoff hitter junior Chris McCann (Hopkinton, Mass.) has been the sparkplug for the Bowdoin offense this season, holding a team-leading .414 batting average while drawing 21 walks and swiping 25 bags. From the mound, the pitching staff boasts a combined ERA of 2.73, tops in the NESCAC, which is not surprising given the fact that the Polar Bears have allowed more than four runs only three times in their last 20 games. This will be only the second appearance for the Polar Bears in the NESCAC tournament, after they went 1-2 during their first showing in the 2004 championship. Bowdoin is 5-0 this season against the tournament field.

Bowdoin will open the NESCAC tournament once again against Williams (29-9, 9-3 NESCAC West), after the two teams met in the opening game for both clubs in the 2004 tournament. While Bowdoin claimed a 6-3 win in that game, it was Williams that sent Bowdoin away before the champion-ship contest with a 9-3 victory. Friday's meeting, the first between the Ephs and the Polar Bears this season, will also mark the return of Williams to the conference championship since 2004. The Ephs are looking to add a second crown to their program (2001) with an offense that ranks first in the NESCAC in multiple categories, including batting average (.363), runs scored (349), doubles (97) and home runs (28), just to name a few. Junior catcher Chris Kenney (Walpole, Mass.) is one of three Ephs among the top five in the NESCAC in batting average this season, holding a league-best .507 average entering the weekend. Kenney also leads the league with a .788 slugging percentage, 74 hits, 22 doubles, and 53 RBIs. A strong start on Friday may bode well for Williams, as the Ephs are 1-3 in their tournament opener, with the lone win coming during their 2001 title run.

Making its first-ever appearance in the NESCAC Baseball Championship this year is Middlebury (21-9, 9-3 NESCAC West) after the Panthers clinched the final playoff spot with a 3-0 win over divisional foe Wesleyan on May 5, setting a program record for wins in the process. Middlebury earned the top seed out of the West Division by way of holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Williams (2-1). The Panthers return to Maine for the second time in a week after spending Saturday, May 6, in Brunswick. Middlebury dropped a doubleheader to Bowdoin, 10-2 and 5-1, to snap a five- game winning streak. Friday's opponent will be very familiar to the Panthers, having already faced the Jumbos of Tufts four times this season. Middlebury won all four meetings between the two teams during doubleheaders on April 14 and 15, with three of the four contests decided by a single run. Offensively, the Panthers are paced by sophomore second baseman Nick Lefeber (Branford, Conn.). Lefeber is averaging .425 from the plate this season, fourth among NESCAC players. Classmate Jack Britton (Carmel, Calif.) has been leading the charge from the mound for Middlebury. Britton (4-2) is among the league leaders in ERA (2.49, 50.2 IP) and strikeouts (45) this season.

Tufts (22-12, 9-3 NESCAC East), the second-seed from the East Division, is the lone returning team from last year's championship. The Jumbos are making their fifth appearance in the NESCAC tournament, joining Trinity and Williams as the only programs to appear in the conference champion-ship five times. After a rocky start to the month of April that saw Tufts go 3-7 in the first half of the month, the Jumbos turned it around to finish the regular season strong, going 10-1 with the lone loss coming to Division II foe Bentley. Senior outfielder Jim O'Leary (North Easton, Mass.) is making his final season with the Jumbos a memorable one. In just 27 appearances, O'Leary leads the team in most offensive categories, including a batting average of .475 (2nd NESCAC), an on-base percentage of .567 (1st NESCAC), and a slugging percentage of .707 (2nd NESCAC). Historically, the Jumbos are 2-2 in the opening game of the tournament, earning their lone NESCAC title in 2002.

2006 NESCAC BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Day 1 - Friday, May 12
Game 1 - W2 Williams at E1 Bowdoin - 3:00 p.m. - at Bowdoin Game 2 - E2 Tufts vs. W1 Middlebury - 3:00 p.m. - at Bates

Day 2 - Saturday, May 13
Game 3 - Loser of GM 1 vs. Loser of GM 2 - 10:30 a.m. - at Bates
Game 4 - Winner of GM 1 vs. Winner of GM 2 - 10:30 a.m. - at Bowdoin
Game 5 - Winner of GM 3 vs. Loser of GM 4 - 2:30 p.m. - at Bowdoin

Day 3 - Sunday, May 14 at Bowdoin
Game 6 - Winner of GM 4 vs. Winner of GM 5 - 10:00 a.m.
Game 7 - If Necessary - Immediately Following

--courtesy NESCAC--

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