Baseball Drops Game One At Amherst

April 17, 2009

Middlebury dropped game one of a three-game NESCAC West series at Amherst by a score of 5-3. The Lord Jeffs (12-9/5-3) and Panthers (9-12/1-5) will play two on Saturday, with the first game set to begin at noon.

Amherst scored two runs in the seventh inning to break a 1-1 tie and added another two in the eighth, while Middlebury scored once in the eighth and once in the ninth but had its comeback attempt fall short. Junior Teddy Blank earned the win by pitching 2.2 innings of relief to improve to 2-1, while starting pitcher Nick Angstman took the loss to drop to 1-3.

Amherst starting pitcher Ryan Healy walked the lead-off hitter in each of the first two innings but escaped unharmed each time thanks to some good defense by the Lord Jeffs. The hosts responded with the game's first run in the bottom half of the second when sophomore shortstop Jose Espinosa sent a single through the left side of the infield to drive in classmate Alex Coburn, who had reached on an error.

Middlebury threatened in the top of the third when a Peter Bourdon double was followed by a Tim Dillon walk. Both runners advanced on a Danny Seymour groundout to set up a second-and-third situation with two outs, but more solid defense got Healy out of the jam. Sophomore Donald McKillop ripped a liner to right field and seemed to have two RBIs coming his way, but Kevin Heller made a stellar diving catch to his right to keep the Panthers off the scoreboard.

The visitors had runners at the corners in the fifth, but a failed sacrifice bunt came back to haunt them as Healy once again pitched out of a jam by getting the inning's final batter to ground out to Espinosa. Middlebury broke through in the sixth when McKillop finally caught a break and led off with a double to right field. Mark Shimrock followed with a double of his own to tie things up at 1-1, but Healy regained his composure and got the next three batters to fly out.

The Jeffs regained the lead in the seventh when first-year Thomas Wheeler led off with a single to left field and was moved over to second base by a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by senior captain Angus Schaller. Pinch runner John Wagner advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a passed ball to hand Amherst a 2-1 lead.

Sophomore Brian Merrigan reached second, before Will Lawton earned an RBI-double to left center that gave Amherst a 3-1 advantage.

Middlebury came right back with a run in the eighth when Shimrock led off with a walk and junior Erich Enns followed with a single to right. Both runners advanced on a passed ball and senior Andrew Matson capitalized by sending a deep fly ball to center field to bring home the Panthers' second run on a sacrifice fly.

Heller handed the momentum right back to Amherst by leading off the bottom of the eighth with a triple that made its way down the line to the fence in right field. In the ensuring at-bat senior Brendan Powers ripped a single to right for his 10th RBI of the season, giving the Jeffs a 4-1 lead. Powers moved to second on a single by first-year Mike Samela and scored when Dylan Joyce reached on an error.

Blank retired the first two batters of the ninth inning in quick fashion, but Seymour started a rally when he reached on an error. An RBI-single by McKillop cut Middlebury's deficit to two, but that's as close as the visitors would get. Sophomore Pat Harris retired the lone batter he faced to earn the save, as he got Enns to pop up to Lawton to end the game.

Healy allowed one earned run on six hits and three walks in 6.0 innings, while Blank surrendered two unearned runs on three hits and three walks. Middlebury hitters did not have a single strikeout to go with their six walks, leaving 11 men on base throughout the game. Angstman surrendered three unearned runs on six hits during 7.0 innings of a solid performance, striking out six and walking two.

Wheeler picked up two hits for the fourth consecutive game to increase his batting average to .447, while the deadly 3-4-5 combination of McKillop, Shimrock and Enns each had a pair of hits for Middlebury.