Baseball Drops Game One At Amherst

April 8, 2011

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. The Lord Jeffs (10-4, 1-0 NESCAC West) and Panthers (6-5, 3-1) will begin a doubleheader Saturday at noon in Amherst.

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, Middlebury’s John 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.

Tyler Wark and Donald McKillop each had two hits and two RBIs for the Panthers, with Wark also walking twice and scoring a pair of runs. Joseph Conway went 1-for-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, Thomas Driscoll 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. Thomas 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’s Nick Angstman 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.

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