Solid Pitching Staff Looks to Lead Jeffs Back to Postseason

February 23, 2007

2006 RECAP
The 2006 squad began its season by posting a 7-4 record in Fort Myers, losing three of those games by one run after failing to maintain ninth-inning leads. The Jeffs returned home and went unbeaten over their next seven games. Amherst ran into a mid-season skid, going just 2-5 over the next seven games, including two losses to division rival Williams College at home, but finished the season strong by winning the last seven games. A tie against Wesleyan University kept the Jeffs out of the postseason, as both Williams and Middlebury colleges finished at 9-3 in the NESCAC West and Amherst finished at 8-3-1. Amherst had won the NESCAC tournament and reached the NCAA tournament the previous two seasons.

The Jeffs lose five players from last year's team, highlighted by tri-captain pitcher Joe Vladeck and tri-captain shortstop Zach Schonberger.  Pitching ace Vladeck won his second consecutive NESCAC Pitcher of the Year award, finishing unscathed at 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA, the lowest in the conference. Over his final two years Vladeck went a combined 14-2, with Amherst losing 2-1 in both of his losses.The Jeffs will not only miss his pitching, but his leadership and competitiveness. Schonberger, a four-year starter who started 120 games at Amherst, was a career .318 hitter, earning NEIBA All-New England and First-Team All-NESCAC honors his junior year. 

The Jeffs also lose leadoff hitter Andrew Green, who boasted a .411 batting average (seventh highest in the NESCAC), .496 on-base percentage (sixth highest in the NESCAC), amazing speed and a knack for scoring runs.  Power-hitting first baseman Dave Levinson, a four-year starter, will be missed as well, especially his .342 career batting average, 93 total RBIs, and a remarkable .992 fielding percentage.  Relief pitcher and designated hitter Rob Anderson, who recorded five saves last year, was the third tri-captain last season, and his leadership will be missed this year.

Amherst returns much of the talent from last year's squad, including three of the top four starting pitchers: seniors Nick Kehoe and Brian Donahue, and junior Chris Edgar. Kehoe is coming off of a fantastic 2006 campaign, where he earned Second-Team All-NESCAC honors. Dropping only one decision, Kehoe tied for third in the NESCAC with six wins.  He was at the top of the conference in several other categories as well, with his 1.99 ERA good enough for fourth-best in the conference and his opponents' batting average of .220 good enough for second in the NESCAC, right behind Vladeck. 

Donahue also had a solid year, completing his third straight season with a sub-3.00 ERA (2.91) en route to a 4-2 record.  His 46 strikeouts, 17 of which were called, ranked sixth in the NESCAC.  Only able to start four games before a sharp line drive ended his season, Edgar hopes to start this season where he left off (3-0 with a 2.17 ERA).  Also lined up to get some starts is sophomore Ben Goldfarb, who made seven appearances last year. 

Relief pitching, a weakness of last year's team, is a necessity for this year's success.  Returning with a year of experience, sophomore southpaw Ryan Platzbecker hopes to build off of a 4.02 ERA in six appearances, which included two saves. Classmates Mike Hinckley, Mike Landman, Daren Snyder and Ben Goldfarb also figure to get some innings of work. 

Co-captain and three-year starter Mark Mazzone, who hit .283 while knocking in 17 runs last season, returns at second base.  Mazzone has set a precedent of playing mistake-free baseball in the field, committing just three errors last season. Joining him in the infield, sophomore third-baseman Brendan Powers returns from a breakout rookie season where he hit .330 and drove in 21 runs.  Across the diamond, sophomore Nat Pedley and juniors Nick Boehm and Neal Allar will fight for time at first base.  Allar, also a catcher, is the leading returning run producer (26 RBIs).  Junior catcher Josh Card is strong defensively and will add pop to the lineup (.318, nine RBIs last season).  Sophomore Michael Neff, after missing most of last year with an injury, will add depth to the middle-infield.

Returning to left field, senior co-captain Jared Banner boasts the highest returning batting average (.338), an impressive mark for someone who spent much of last season recovering from a separated shoulder.  In right field, sophomore Angus Schaller, who batted .314 last season, returns after starting all but five games.  Juniors Tom Scott and Evan Bruno and sophomore John DeCarlo will compete to fill the centerfield vacancy.

The Jeffs welcome many talented first-years this season, some who may contribute right away. Teddy Blank and John D'Angelo give depth to the pitching staff, Eric Pender hopes to add depth and power to the lineup, and Andrew Thal and Will Lawton will bolster the infield.

Amherst has much to look forward to in anticipation of its season opener March 17. Team members worked hard in the off-season to be prepared and in shape for the start of the season. The pitching staff returns depth and experience and there is strong competition to fill offensive and defensive vacancies left by last year's strong senior class. The team will play nine games in eight days in Fort Myers, Florida before returning north. Amherst's home opener is a double-header against Little Three rival Wesleyan March 31.