Last weekend, Saturday, March 17–Sunday, March 18, the baseball team took a trip down to Atlanta, Georgia, to take on the Emory Eagles and to rematch the Stevens Ducks. The Panthers played two games on Saturday, starting the day with an 11–4 loss to Stevens and later in the day falling to Emory 10–2. Sunday’s get-out-of-town game against Emory didn’t go much better for the Panthers, as they fell to the Eagles by a score of 10–7.
On the season’s opening weekend, the Panthers fell to Stevens 8–4, so they sought some revenge when they played the Ducks last Saturday in Atlanta. However, Stevens opened up a 6–0 lead to start the game, scoring with five runs in the first and adding another in the second. Middlebury failed to come up with any runs until the bottom of the 8th inning, when Justin Han ’20 hit a single up the middle to drive home Henry Strmecki ’21 and Andrew Corcoran ’18. Hayden Smith ’20 then hit a single to center, bringing home Sam Graf ’19 and propelling the Panthers into the top of the ninth with some momentum despite an eight-run deficit. Han got his second RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly out in the bottom of the ninth, sending Corcoran in for his second run scored.
On the mound, junior captain Colby Morris ’19 took a beating, letting up seven runs over six innings, although he managed to rebound after a tough first one and two-thirds innings. First-year Evan Stewart ’21, who came in to relieve Morris, did not fare much better, as he gave up three earned runs, but no hits. Jack Miller ’21 also saw time on the mound, as did John Tipps ’19, in what turned out to be a harsh 11–4 loss for the Panthers, who left eight runners on base.
In the second half of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Panthers got a shot at the Emory Eagles. Emory had an early lead with a run in the top of the first. Middlebury came back to tie the game at 1–1 in the top of the second with a run from Kevin Woodring ’21 off a hit by Strmecki.
After two more Emory RBI’s in the fifth put the Panthers down 3–1, Middlebury cut into the Eagles’ lead in the top of the sixth as the Panthers made it a one-run game when Graf scored on a sac fly courtesy of Jake Dianno ’21.
However, the game took a turn in the seventh inning: Emory had a seven-run seventh, the last two runs coming on wild pitches, making the final score 10–2. Despite the loss, bright spots for Middlebury included Robert Erickson ’18’s five-inning effort on the mound, as he struck out three and threw 70 percent of his 88 pitches for strikes.
On Sunday, Middlebury took on the Eagles once more. In the first inning, Emory achieved a 4–0 lead on Middlebury with four runs on four hits. The following inning didn’t go better for the Panthers, as their hosts added two more runs in the second inning. Woodring hit a home run in the top of the third, bringing himself and Carroll home and making the score 6–2.
In the bottom of the third, Emory scored another run, but the Panthers responded in the top half of the next inning thanks to an RBI single from Grant Elgarten ’20 that sent Carroll home again. The Eagles quickly scored three more at the bottom of the fifth, making the score 10–3 going into the seventh inning.
The Panthers made a comeback, plating four runs in the seventh. Woodring doubled to bring Carroll home for a third time in the top of the seventh. Smith scored on an infield single hit by Alan Guild ’20, and then Woodring scored his second run of the day on a throwing error. The fourth of the Panthers’ runs came from a single hit by Phil Bernstein ’19, which allowed Strmecki to make a run for home.
Even after a rough weekend, Bernstein explained that the Panthers are not giving up and are ready for what comes next.
“Obviously we want to win every game we compete in, so losing never feels good, but at the same time Coach [Mike] Leonard reminded us to stay positive,” Bernstein said. “It’s only our sixth game. We are an extremely talented team, and we’ve seen glimpses of what we’re capable of already. Consistency will come with more games, and when that happens, we are going to be a very tough team to play against. [This weekend] will pay dividends down the line. Heading into our spring break trip with six games under our belts will be huge.”
Woodring agreed with his teammate, commenting that “despite losing the games, we have a much more positive outlook on our future, especially after our last game where we were able to make a comeback against a good Emory team.”
On the whole, there were plenty of positives the Panthers can build on going forward.
“We were able to limit errors, have good at bats and throw strikes,” Woodring said. “We’re looking forward to spring break and continuing the positive outlook we had during our game today against Emory.”
Middlebury’s positivity doesn’t stop there. They still have their eye on the prize, looking at the Nescac Championship.
“We’re going to use this weekend as a learning experience. We still have a ton of games before conference play starts, so I want our guys to use these games to prepare. We have the ability to make it back to the Nescac Championship, and it all starts next week when we go out to California.”