By Alex Kantor
April 30, 2007
WESTFIELD, MA – The Amherst College baseball team played its fifth game in three days this afternoon, traveling across the Pioneer Valley for a non-conference match-up with local rival Westfield State College. The Lord Jeffs carried momentum from a doubleheader sweep on Sunday to take an easy win over the Owls, 12-6.
Amherst sent senior Brian Donahue (Sudbury, MA) to the mound for the tilt, while Westfield handed the ball to junior Ken Vautrin, a local pitcher from South Hadley, MA.
Amherst jumped on top of Vautrin early and often, grabbing a run in each of the first three innings. Amherst first-year Andy Thal (McLean, VA) led off the game with a single and then stole second base. Senior designated hitter Jared Banner (Brooklyn, NY) grounded out to second, but Thal was able to move to third on the play. Junior Neal Allar (Floyds Knob, IN) picked up the Jeffs' first RBI on a single.
Donahue retired three straight Owls in the bottom of the first before Amherst returned to the dish. After a two-out stand-up double from senior second baseman Mark Mazzone (Wilmette, IL) and a walk from senior outfielder Tom Scott (Randolph, NJ), Thal registered a base hit bunt. The starting third baseman for Westfield airmailed the throw over his first baseman's head, allowing Mazzone to score from first. Scott would have scored from first on the play as well, but the Owls caught a break as the ball rolled out of play under the fence.
Donahue surrendered his first hit of the game to Garrett Kendziera, but would keep the Owls off the board with a pair of strikeouts in the second inning. Amherst registered its third straight one-run inning in the third before Donahue retired three consecutive Owls in the bottom of the inning to maintain the 3-0 lead.
Amherst opened the game up in the fourth with more small ball tactics. Junior Evan Bruno (Williamsburg, VA) led off the inning with a line drive single to left field, and then Mazzone moved him to second on a sacrifice bunt. After a base hit by starting catcher Josh Card (North Adams, MA), Bruno and Card moved to second and third on a perfectly executed double steal. Thal provided a 2-RBI single past Westfield's shortstop, who was pulled in at double play depth.
Westfield grabbed two runs back in the home half of the fourth inning on a pair of throwing errors by the Lord Jeffs to cut the score to 5-2. When the top of the fifth inning came around, Amherst had chased Vautrin from the mound with 10 hits and five runs scored in just four innings of play.
The Owls sent Michael Carr to the hill in relief, but he would not fair much better, as Amherst stayed hot at the plate. First-year Will Lawton (Newton, MA) led off the fifth with a single and then stole second successfully, followed by Bruno grabbing an RBI on a hard-hit line drive to the right field fence. Mazzone joined Bruno on the bags after drawing a walk, and the pair was brought home on a 2-RBI single up the middle by Scott.
In the sixth inning, Lawton belted a two-run home run over the left field fence with help from a gusty wind. In the bottom of the sixth, Amherst held a 12-3 advantage before Donahue was chased from the mound by a pair of hits from Westfield.
First-year pitcher John D'Angelo (Woodbridge, CT) made the relief effort for Amherst, and walked the first batter he faced to load the bases. After a scoreless top of the seventh inning, D'Angelo surrendered a trio of runs to the Owls in the bottom of the frame. Westfield's Kendzeria picked up another two RBIs in the flurry on a single.
In the bottom of the eighth, Thal moved from shortstop to the mound for just his second collegiate pitching appearance. Thal worked through the inning with a pair of walks and a strikeout to give up no hits and no runs.
Amherst was blown away in order in the top of the ninth by Westfield closer Steve Sullivan, before Thal returned to the mound to try and close out the game. Despite a single in the inning, Thal escaped the ninth with another strikeout, and another solid inning of scoreless relief work.
Amherst improves to 15-12 with the win, while Westfield falls to 16-14. Westfield closes its regular season tomorrow against Wesleyan University before heading into conference tournament play as the top seed and regular season champion. Amherst returns to play next weekend for a two-day, three-game series at Hamilton College. The Jeffs need just one win against the Continentals to qualify for the NESCAC Championship Tournament.