Middlebury’s athletic records that never were

By HATTIE LEFAVOUR

MICHAEL BORENSTEIN
The 2019 baseball team led the all-time record for strikeouts, walks and stolen bases in a season.

Middlebury baseball, the college’s oldest athletic team with a dizzying recorded history dating back to 1881, has only been interrupted twice. Among a litany of season records, the first anomaly is a note where the statistics from 1918 should be: “World War I”. None expected the second to be the 2020 season, just as the senior class was on track to become the winningest class in the team’s history. But the spot reserved for their long-awaited record is now filled by an asterisk: “The 2020 season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Anticipation had grown for the senior class since the team clocked the second-most season wins in their freshman season, then tied for the most ever in 2019. Last year’s team also led the all-time record board for most strikeouts, most walks and most stolen bases in both a single game and season, as well as second-place school records for most runs, most RBI and most at-bats.

“I think it would’ve been our best year since I’ve been here,” said infielder Brooks Carroll ’20, who is currently listed in the individual top five all-time for  single season and career stolen bases. “This year would’ve been the culmination of all the hard work we’ve put in for four years now. So I think we would’ve had a lot of success.”

Carroll, who played with the team since his first year at Middlebury, attributed the class’s record achievements to their chemistry. “Everyone was bought into the program and did whatever it took,” he said. “It was something we looked forward to in the last couple years, just thinking that it’s a very possible goal that we should work toward. These goals we’ve had for a few years were just being taken away from us.”

The Middlebury men’s track team also entered the 2020 season on an upswing, having won the NESCAC Championship for the past two outdoor seasons. Jonathan Fisher ’20, whose events include high jumping and the 400-meter hurdle, had broken the school’s indoor record for the high jump earlier this year. He was gearing up for the outdoor season with his team before the cancellation.  

“We all had very high hopes for how we could do as a team and individually and to see that all disappear so quickly was pretty heartbreaking,” Fisher said. “No one ever knows what’s going to happen, but I think both the men’s and women’s teams were feeling quite confident going into this championship season.”

Entering the season, Fisher had his eyes on the NESCAC title, as well as the individual record for Middlebury’s outdoor all-time highest high jump. Adding one additional centimeter to his indoor record height would have allowed Fisher to claim the outdoor record, cementing his name in Middlebury’s athletic history.

“I had been hoping to carry that momentum,” Fisher said. “I thought it was definitely within reach, but obviously that was not going to happen.”

On the softball pitch, senior Melanie Mandell ’20 faced a similar circumstance. Mandell had been a standout player since her first year on the team and currently sits on the record board for multiple achievements, including the all-time most season doubles in 2019, most home runs in a single season in 2018 and a tie for highest all-time fielding percentage in 2018. This year, she was preparing to lead her team as captain.

But Mandell was not ready to mourn the loss of her senior season just yet. “I didn’t get any closure on my career,” she said. “It was pretty immediate that I was thinking about how I could come back.”

Mandell eventually made the decision to withdraw from her senior spring semester and return next year as a special student. This will allow her to compete in next year’s softball season and close out her career how she envisioned it. However, Mandell expressed the same sentiment heard from track to pitch to diamond: it’s not about the records.

“It’s really just about playing with my team who I very much consider to be my family on campus,” said Mandell. “It’s about that experience of being with them for one more year.”

Although Carroll and Fisher are graduating on schedule this spring and will not complete the final season of their athletic careers, they also valued the experience of competing alongside their teammates above anything else.

“We’re always trying to do the best we can and, of course, beat records, but the records really aren’t on our minds,” said Carroll, who said the baseball team spent their final week post-cancellation reflecting on their seasons they got to spend together. “I knew this was going to be my last year of baseball ever, so I just wanted it to end on a good note. I wanted to play my last season with my teammates.”

Correction April 30, 2020: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Jonathan Fisher ’20 pole vaults for the Middlebury Track & Field team. He is a high jumper. 

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