Walk-Off Heroics Hand Amherst Baseball Doubleheader Sweep of Williams

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College baseball team hosted NESCAC-West and Little Three archrival Williams College this afternoon for a pair of games at Memorial Field. After yesterday's series opener was postponed to May 4 due to poor field conditions, today's doubleheader started an hour late with light rain falling in Amherst. The Lord Jeffs held on for a 4-3 win in the series opener, before using a four-run ninth inning to take the nightcap 6-5.

In game one, the Ephs got on the board in the top of the first inning on a RBI single from Max Pinto, before Amherst hurler Chris Edgar (Massapequa, NY) induced a ground ball with one out to set up a double play. Second baseman Mike Neff (New York, NY) took the high-bouncing grounder near second, stepped on the bag and threw to first to end the inning.

In the bottom of the second, Amherst put up four runs to take command of the game. With one out, junior Angus Schaller (Leucadia, CA) hit a bomb to center field that fell just short of the fence. With Schaller standing on second, Williams starting pitcher Dan Benz put sophomore Will Lawton (Newton, MA) on first with four balls. The pair of Jeff base runners moved to second and third on a passed ball, before a wild pitch on ball four brought Schaller home and put first-year Jose Espinosa (Ridgefield, CT) on base. Senior co-captain Josh Card (North Adams, MA) cleared the bags with a three-run homer to left field to cap the rally.

The next quality scoring chance came in the bottom of the fourth inning, as junior outfielder Brendan Powers (Walpole, MA) sent a deep fly to right field. Eph right-fielder Al Matthews looked like he was in position to make the put-out, but could not come up with the catch. A base-running slip-up prevented Amherst from scoring on the play and extending the lead.

Williams cut into the deficit in the top of the sixth inning when James DeCosmo and Max Pinto laced back-to-back hits. DeCosmo's leadoff smash single up the middle of the infield was misplayed by Amherst's Scott Shaffer (Boulder, CO) to allow DeCosmo to reach second. On the next pitch, Pinto hit a deep fly to center that fell off the heel of Shaffer's glove, landing Pinto on second and scoring DeCosmo. After Pinto moved to third on a passed ball, he was knocked home on a single by Chad Brown to cut the lead to 4-3.

Edgar stayed on the mound to close out the seventh inning for Amherst for a complete game win, 4-3. He finished with 7.0 innings pitched, 6 hits and 1 earned run for the victory, while Denz was left to take the loss for the Ephs.

In the nightcap, Amherst sent junior pitcher Ryan Platzbecker (Westlake, ON) to the mound for the start. The southpaw struggled against the Ephs, walking the first three batters he faced to load the bases, before throwing a wild pitch to allow in the game's first run. Amherst head coach Bill Thurston went to the bullpen early, bringing in junior reliever Teddy Blank (Waban, MA). Blank managed to get out of the inning without giving up an earned run, while Williams scored four runs, three of which were charged to the starter.

Williams stretched its lead to 5-0 in the top of the fourth frame on a series of singles and fielder choices, after starting the inning with a hit-by-pitch. Amherst responded just two innings later when they manufactured their first run of the game in the home half of the sixth. Senior co-captain Neal Allar (Floyds Knobs, IN) picked up an RBI on a sacrifice fly to right field to score Espinosa from third. For the third out of the inning, Amherst traded an out for a run as Powers took off from first to draw the attention of the Williams pitcher, while first-year Brian Merrigan (Holbrook, MA) stole home. The run cut the deficit down to 5-2 with three innings to play.

In the bottom of the ninth, Amherst loaded the bases and brought in senior Evan Bruno (Williamsburg, VA) to pinch hit with two outs. Bruno, the hero from the last game against Keene State, knocked in two runs when he reached on a throwing error from the Eph third baseman. The situation brought up Espinosa who waited for the count to grow to 3-and-2, with Amherst down 5-4. On the pay-off pitch, Espinosa saw a wild pitch come his way to let in the game-tying run come home and move towards first.

The ninth-inning rally brought up Card, who on the second pitch of his at-bat hit a screamer to shortstop, where the second error of the inning allowed him to reach first and score the winning run from third. The four-run final inning marks the second time in the last three games that the Lord Jeffs have rallied for a ninth-inning win.

Amherst first-year Jeff Keenan (West Hartford, CT) picked up the win by throwing 4.0 innings of shutout baseball to close the game, while surrendering just three hits and striking out a pair. Gustafson takes the loss for the Ephs with 1.2 innings pitches, and 4 unearned runs on three hits.

The Lord Jeffs improve to 14-6-1 overall, and 6-2 in the NESCAC-West, while Williams falls to 13-9 for the year, and 3-2 in conference. Amherst will travel to Middlebury next weekend for a three-game series on Friday and Saturday.