Baseball Goes 2-2 Over the Weekend, Prepares for NESCACs

By ISABELLA MARCUS

With a series win against the Amherst Mammoths, the Middlebury baseball team (23-10, 7-5) clinched a spot in the NESCAC Championship playoffs for the fourth time in program history and the second time in three seasons. 

The Panthers started the week with a 12-3 win versus Union College (18-20, 14-10), adding a single-game program record of 17 walks and 12 stolen bases. 

Middlebury took a 5-1 lead in the third inning on three Union erros and six walks. In the top of the fifth inning, Middlebury tacked on six runs in three hits. 

FIrst-year pitcher Alex Rosario received the win, starting five innings, only giving up one run on three hits, with seven strikeouts. Senior pitcher Colby Morris tossed a scoreless inning against Union.

“We basically just let the game come to us,” Morris said. “Their pitchers weren’t throwing strikes and we were patient at the plate and worked walks to get on base. Conversely, we threw strikes on the mound and forced contact from their hitters, essentially controlling the game from the get-go.”

In Game one against Amherst (16-14-1, 6-6), Middlebury scored three runs in the 10th inning to earn a 6-4 win over the Mammoths.  

Morris threw nine innings against Amherst, allowing just three runs and striking out six batters. With his 18th career victory, Morris moves into third-place all time with 168 strikeouts. 

Junior second baseman Andrew Hennings went 4-for-6 with an RBI single.

In Game two, Middlebury eliminated Amherst from postseason contention and clinched a NESCAC playoff spot. 

Amherst took the lead in the bottom of the second inning, but Middlebury responded in the top of the third with an RBI single from Hennings, evening the game out at 1-1. Middlebury took the lead with an RBI single up the middle from senior catcher Phil Bernstein in the top of the fourth.

First-year pitcher Alex Price earned the win over six and two-thirds innings of work, allowing one run on four hits and striking out five. Junior Andrew Martinson got a groundout to the shortstop to end the game and collect his first save of the year.

Game three started with three scoreless frames from the Panthers to open the contest. Amherst scored one run in each of the first three innings to lead 3-0.

The Panthers responded in the fourth inning, loading the bases with two outs. Sophomore center fielder Henry Strmecki hit a clutch two-run single up the middle, cutting the lead to 3-2. First-year second baseman Andrew Gough added an RBI single to put the Panthers ahead. 

Amherst won on a walk-off after loading the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth. 

Carroll went 2-for-3 for the Panthers with one stolen base. Sophomore pitcher George Goldstein took the loss in relief.

“Against Amherst, the games all happened in a similar manner,” Morris said. “Each of the three games were pitchers’ duels as each team commanded the strike zone and worked efficiently on the mount. We were able to put pressure on their defense, stealing bases and just scrapped enough to outscore them in the first two games. On the mound, our pitchers really executed well in clutch situations to kill their momentum and keep the game within reach until we took the lead.”

Junior infielder Brooks Carroll boasted an OBP of .529 over the week, walking five times, stealing five bases and driving in a pair of runs. 

Middlebury will face the Tufts University Jumbos (26-8, 10-2), in its first game of the tournament at 6 p.m. this Friday at Colby College. 

The Panthers have made it to the NESCAC Championship series twice, and won their only NESCAC title in 2006. Tufts is the top seed in the East for the sixth straight year, after sweeping Colby College. The Jumbos have played in the last four championship series and won their fourth NESCAC title in 2017.

“We are preparing for the tournament like any other weekend series,” Morris said. “As we don’t have any midweek games the next few days, we should have extra time to focus on specific defensive plays and get ready for important situations that these intense games will likely produce. The pitchers will get some much-needed rest for our arms and our position guys should get some live at bats during practice this week too. We are headed up Thursday night to Colby College and will be locked in and ready to bring the noise against Tufts on Friday night.”

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Baseball Goes 2-2 Over the Weekend, Prepares for NESCACs