Jeffs Defend NESCAC Title on Banner's Mad Dash

May 15, 2005 

AMHERST, MA - Sophomore speedster Jared Banner (Brooklyn, NY) led off the bottom of the 10th inning with a triple to the right-center-field gap and scored the winning run when the ensuing relay throw sailed out of play, giving Amherst College (23-7-1) a dramatic 8-7 win over visiting fifth-ranked Trinity College (31-7) in the final game of the NESCAC Baseball Postseason Championship Tournament on Sunday. The victory afforded Amherst its second straight conference title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament, with regional play set to begin this Thursday at a site yet to be determined. 

Banner's mad dash followed a series of tense moments in a game that ebbed and flowed like the currents of the Caspian Sea. Thin on pitching due to a demanding three-day tournament slate that included an 11-5 loss to Trinity earlier on Sunday, Amherst drew a gutsy performance from rookie starter Chris Edgar (Massapequa, NY), who pitched 6.1 courageous innings on just two days rest before exiting with a 7-3 lead and runners on board in the seventh. Similarly taxed and suffering from a stomach ailment, junior hurler Joe Vladeck (Washington, DC) entered the fray, and after Trinity knotted the score 7-7 with a four-run rally in the seventh, Vladeck spun a trio of near-perfect innings and willed the Jeffs into the 10th with a chance of defending their NESCAC title. 

"Vladeck did a great job in relief," said Amherst head coach Bill Thurston. "He pitched six innings the other day, so we're really happy with him. Chris (Edgar) struggled early, and we didn't help him defensively, but he was outstanding for a freshman." 

Enter Banner, who was hitless in four at-bats entering his heroic final frame. With a 1-0 count and the outfield playing straightaway, Banner hammered a Mike Regan (West Roxbury, MA) offering toward the wall in right-center and blazed around the bases like the midnight ride of Paul Revere. With a hurtling thud and a cloud of dust, he lunged headlong into third base as the throw floated gently overhead and nestled under a leafy bush. A bit stunned and as excited as a six-year-old on Christmas morning, Banner sprang to his feet and galloped home, spikes hardly touching the ground, where he was engulfed by a tsunami of jubilant teammates. 

"Chris (Edgar) and Joe (Vladeck) did a great job keeping us in the ballgame," said Banner, "but we didn't have much pitching left, and I had to make something happen. The ball jumped off my bat and I knew I could make it to third, so I just kept moving. When I saw the throw went out of play, all I could think was 'NCAA Regionals, NCAA Regionals!' " 

Senior co-captains Josh Santry (Allendale, NJ) and Dave Powers (Andover, MA) and junior Dave Levinson (Philadelphia, PA) each had a pair of hits for Amherst, and Vladeck improved to 7-1 with the biggest pitching win of his career. Senior Billy Wise (East Longmeadow, MA) paced Trinity with a double, two singles and three runs scored. Regan took the loss to fall to 1-1. 

In the opening game, which Trinity needed to win to force Game 2, the Bantams cranked out 11 runs on 15 hits, bolstered by a spectacular eight-inning pitching performance by sophomore Tim Kiely (Swampscott, MA). Trinity senior Aaron Goldstein (Edina, MN) homered in the victory, while junior Zach Schonberger (Rye, NY) drilled his team-leading eighth round-tripper for Amherst.