Jeffs Pound Out 23 Hits, Seven Dingers in Bizarre 17-16 Win Over Brandeis

April 26, 2005 

AMHERST, MA - In a game that saw more tide changes than the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans combined, the Amherst College baseball team churned out 23 hits - including a whopping seven home runs - but surrendered nine runs in the top of the ninth inning, which forced a game-winning two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth in a bizarre 17-16 non-league win over visiting Brandeis University on Tuesday. 

Trailing 16-15 in the final frame (after leading 13-3 in the eighth), Amherst junior Zach Schonberger (Rye, NY), who'd already homered twice, knotted the score with a sacrifice fly and his fifth RBI of the day. With two outs and the bases jammed, senior Kyle Lavery (Westbury, NY) sent Brandeis packing with an RBI single on a hot shot up the middle that senior second baseman B.J. Belair (Spencer, MA) tried to backhand but couldn't handle. 

The win was Amherst's ninth straight and upped its record to 15-3, including a stellar 8-0 mark at home. Brandeis dropped to 18-13 but made a close game out of what appeared to be a blowout early on. 

Amherst's pre-game plan was to pitch by committee, and it worked through the first seven innings as sophomores Brian Donahue (Sudbury, MA) and Nick Kehoe (Washington Depot, CT) and junior Joe Vladeck (Washington, DC) pushed the Jeffs into the eighth with a 10-run cushion. The offense did its part as well, with Schonberger and senior Dave Powers (Andover, MA) each homering twice and sophomores Tom Scott (Randolph, NJ) and Jared Banner (Brooklyn, NY) and senior Josh Santry (Allendale, NJ) leaving the yard in similar fashion on a windy day that sent several routine fly balls careening over the left-center-field wall. 

Speaking of leaving the yard, Brandeis coach Pete Varney was ejected from the game over a disputed catch in foul ground by Amherst junior first baseman Dave Levinson (Philadelphia, PA) that ended the top of the sixth. The Judges were seemingly sleepwalking up until that point but awoke from their slumber with four runs in the eighth and nine in the ninth to take an improbable 16-15 lead. Brandeis tallied just five hits in the ninth but benefited from an error, two walks, a wild pitch and a pair of hit batsmen, and the nightmare didn't end until seldom-used Amherst senior Mike Erkkinen (Yarmouth, ME), whose primary role is that of a reserve infielder, courageously (and mercifully) induced an inning-ending foul-out with runners on first and third. 

Erkkinen picked up his first career win with 0.2 nerve-racking innings, while Brandeis senior Bryan Lambert (Auburn, ME), who entered the game with a miniscule 0.98 ERA, surrendered both Amherst runs in the ninth to take the loss. Senior Jeff Krasner (E. Greenwich, RI) paced Brandeis with three singles, two RBIs and a trio of runs scored. Amherst used 22 players in all, and Schonberger, Powers, Santry and Scott combined to drive in nine runs. 

Amherst returns to action with a NESCAC West Division doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m. at archrival Williams College. Amherst and Williams will also play a single game Sunday at 1 p.m. in Amherst.