Amherst Looks to Capture Third NESCAC Crown this Weekend - NESCAC Preview

From a NESCAC Release

AMHERST, MA – Trinity College will look to earn its first NESCAC Baseball title since 2003 when the Bantams host the 2008 NESCAC Baseball Championship this weekend in Hartford, Conn. The two-day, double-elimination tournament begins Saturday morning with Trinity taking on Amherst at 10 a.m. while Tufts will face defending champion Williams at Andrus Field on the campus of Wesleyan University beginning at 10 a.m. The 2008 NESCAC Baseball Championship concludes on Sunday, May 11 at 12 p.m., with a live audio broadcast available for each game.

Amherst (22-10-1, 8-4 NESCAC West) came up short in its bid for the top seed in the West Division, as a 9-4 loss on Sunday to Williams dropped the Lord Jeffs to second in the division behind the rival Ephs. The setback snapped a brief five-game winning streak for Amherst, which heads into the weekend with a 13-5-1 record since the start of April. Two of the five losses, though, came at the hands of Trinity on Apr. 26 in Amherst. The Lord Jeffs came close to ruining the Bantams perfect regular season, falling 7-5 in 11 innings in game one of a doubleheader before dropping game two 6-4.

There is plenty of history between Amherst and Trinity in the NESCAC championship. The Bantams won their lone conference crown over the Lord Jeffs during the 2003 series, winning both game six and game seven on the final day of the tournament. Amherst returned the favor when it won its second-straight title in 2005, rebounding from a game six loss to the Bantams by besting Trinity in 10 innings in game seven, 8-7. Friday's meeting will be the ninth all-time in the playoffs with Amherst holding a 5-3 edge.

Statistically this season, the Jeffs rank seventh in the conference with a .323 batting average and a .392 on-base percentage, while the pitching staff is third with a 4.12 ERA and an opponents' average of .271. Leading Amherst at the dish this spring is senior Neal Allar (Floyds Knobs, IN). Allar, an All-Conference Second Team selection a year ago, is averaging .359 while starting all 33 games, collecting a team-high 47 hits, 12 doubles, and 37 RBIs. On the mound, first-year Jeff Keenan (West Hartford, CT) owns a 1.84 ERA over 11 appearances, good enough for fourth in the NESCAC.

It has been a record-setting season for Trinity (34-0, 12-0 NESCAC East), which returns to the NESCAC Baseball Championship after missing the tournament in each of the last two years. The Bantams, the only remaining undefeated team in the country, head into this year's championship riding a program-best 34-game winning streak. Trinity became the first Division III team in the modern era to go undefeated during the regular season after earning a non-conference sweep at NESCAC rival Wesleyan Saturday afternoon, 14-1 and 11-1. The pair of victories also shattered the record for consecutive wins to start the season, as Johns Hopkins held the previous mark of 33-0.

A strong pitching staff has been a big part of the Bantams' dominance on the diamond this year. Trinity's hurlers have combined for a 1.86 ERA - tops in the nation - along with holding opposing batters to a league-low .206 average and surrendering just 6.75 hits and 2.15 walks per game. It comes as no surprise that Bantam seniors Chandler Barnard, Tim Kiely and Michael Regan along with sophomore Jeremiah Bayer all rank within the top five in the conference in ERA, with Bayer (6-0) leading the NESCAC with a 1.30 ERA and limiting opponents to a .167 average over 12 appearances.

Kiely (8-0) has seen the most action of any pitcher in the league this season, tossing 62.0 innings from the mound over eight starts with four complete games and three shutouts to his credit. Kiely is first among all conference pitchers in strikeouts with 66 and is third in ERA at 1.45. Regan (7-0) is second in the NESCAC in ERA at 1.34, while Barnard (8-0) is fifth at 2.03. While the pitching may get most of the attention, the Trinity offense has been doing its part. The Bantams are second in the conference with a .338 average and a .450 on-base percentage, hitting a combined 31 home runs (1st NESCAC).


2008 NESCAC Baseball Championship Schedule

Friday, May 9


Saturday, May 10
Game 1 - 10 a.m.
Amherst at Trinity

Game 2 - 10 a.m.
Tufts vs. Williams (at Wesleyan) 

Game 3 - 2 p.m.
Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 (at Wesleyan)

Game 4 - 2 p.m.
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 (at Trinity)


Sunday, May 11
Game 5 - 9 a.m.
Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 (at Trinity)

Game 6 - 12 p.m.
Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5 (at Trinity)

Game 7 - Immediately Following
If Necessary (at Trinity)