0-12 Start Weighs On Midd Baseball

By Andrew Rigas

The Middlebury baseball team’s struggles continued again this weekend as Amherst swept the Panthers in a three game series on Friday, April 3 and Saturday, April 4 by scores of 22-2, 18-2 and 20-10. The three losses in Auburn, Mass. brought Middlebury’s record to 0-12 on the season and 0-6 in the NESCAC at this early juncture in the season.

Over spring break, the Panthers began their season in Tucson, Ariz., but lost all nine games and verified their lack of experience — only 16 of the 27 players on the roster return from last year — by losing three straight games in walk-off fashion in what Coach Bob Smith describes as “the lack of ability where someone steps up and stops the bleeding.”

After this poor start to the season, it wasn’t going to get any easier for Middlebury against Amherst on Friday, especially with 2013 All-NESCAC second teamer Dylan Sinnickson ’15 out with a strained hamstring. Without Sinnickson, who has done it all for the Panthers by batting for a .484 average, slugging .1000 and even stealing two bases, it was clear the Panthers would have trouble keeping pace with the Lord Jeffs from the get-go.

After Middlebury went three up, three down in the top half of the first inning, senior captain Eric Truss ’15 took the hill, and hit the first batter he faced, epitomizing the team’s pitching woes that would hamper them all weekend. Amherst strung together three consecutive singles following the hit by pitch to take a 2-0 after the first frame.

It didn’t get any better for the Panthers after that, and after three innings the Lord Jeffs were leading 10-0. In the top of the fourth, first baseman Jason Lock ’17 led off with a single and second baseman Raj Palekar ’18 knocked him in with a single of his own to get the Panthers on the board. Shortstop Johnny Read ’17 singled in another run, but Middlebury stranded runners on second and third, missing a big opportunity to cut into the lead.

The game continued to get out of hand for the Panthers as Amherst scored in every inning to win the game 22-2. Middlebury committed eight errors and left 11 runners on base in the contest, although they did notch ten hits, led by centerfielder Ryan Rizzo ’17 with three, and were able to put the ball in play with only seven strikeouts.

The Panthers played two more against the Lord Jeffs on Saturday, with Cooper Byrne ’15 starting on the mound in the first game of the day. The team loaded the bases in the first, only to strand all three runners, and Amherst jumped out to a 5-0 lead in its first chance at the plate. Much like last game, the Panthers committed four costly errors in the field and left 10 runners on base, too many to be successful. After two innings, Amherst led 12-2, and after nine, the Lord Jeffs came away with an 18-2 victory.

In the second game of the doubleheader, the Panthers began to show some fight against the Lord Jeffs. After falling behind 4-0, Joe MacDonald ’16 led off the top of the fifth with a double, and ended up scoring on a wild pitch. Rizzo singled in another run to bring Middlebury within two after four and a half innings. Amherst tallied five runs in the bottom half of the inning, but the Panthers responded with four of their own. The Amherst bats eventually proved too much to handle for the Panther pitching staff, sealing a 20-10 win.