Amherst Sweeps Doubleheader at Middlebury to Clinch Playoff Berth

Courtesy of Middlebury College Sports Information

MIDDLEBURY, VT – The Amherst College baseball team scored a pair of late runs for an 8-7 come-from-behind win over Middlebury College in game one of Saturday's NESCAC West doubleheader, while pounding out 21 hits in game two for a 14-8 win. The Jeffs take the season series 2-1and clinch a spot in the 2008 NESCAC Tournament.

With the game tied at one, Middlebury scored a pair of unearned runs in the second inning to take a 3-1 lead. The Panthers struck for two more in the third to grab a 5-1 advantage. A two-run double by Donald McKillop drove in John Lanahan and Mark Shimrock in the fourth to give the Panthers a 7-1 lead.

Middlebury starter Nick Angstman worked into the fifth inning, before being relieved by Justin Wright, who was seeing his first action of the season. Amherst plated five runs on four hits in the inning, taking advantage of three Middlebury errors.

Trailing 7-6 in the seventh and final inning, Amherst rallied as senior Evan Bruno (Williamsburg, VA) singled up the middle, as McKillop came on in relief of Wright. A sacrifice bunt moved Bruno to second before first-year Jose Espinosa (Ridgefield, CT) was hit by a pitch. One out later, a walk to first-year Brian Merrigan (Holbrook, MA) loaded the bases for Brendan Powers (Walpole, MA), who ripped a two-run single up the middle to give Amherst its first lead of the game.

Middlebury threatened in the bottom of the inning, but left two runners on base as they fell 8-7. First-year Max McKenna (Lexington, MA) earned the win with three scoreless innings of relief, while fellow first-year Jeff Keenan (West Hartford, CT) picked up the save. McKillop suffered the loss for Middlebury.

Merrigan went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, while Bruno was 3-for-4 for Amherst. McKillop was 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs for Middlebury, Tim Dillon went 3-for-4, and Mark Shimrock was 2-for-4 with two driven in.

The Amherst bats came out swinging in game two, as seven straight players had hits, including four doubles, after two were out in the first inning. Middlebury starter Christian Hansen was chased from the game and relieved by Steve Shortle, as the Jeffs took a 5-0 lead after a half inning.

Trailing 6-0, Middlebury scored four in the sixth to make it a 6-4 game. A three-run double to center by McKillop was the big blow for the Panthers, driving in three unearned runs.

Amherst gained some breathing room on a two-run shot to center by senior co-captain Neal Allar (Floyds Knobs, IN) in the seventh and a similar homer from junior Angus Schaller (Leucadia, CA) in the eighth. The Jeffs tacked on three more in the ninth to lead 14-4, before Middlebury plated four runs in the bottom of the inning to make it a 14-8 final.

Keenan earned the win for Amherst, while first-year Jim Cetkovski (Toronto, ON) earned the save with one earned run over 3 1/3 innings of work. Hansen suffered the loss for the Panthers.

Bruno had a 4-for-5 game with two runs scored and two driven in to finish at 7-for-9 for the day. Allar went 3-for-6 with five RBIs and two runs scored, while Schaller was 3-for-6 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Nick Lefeber paced the Panthers with a 3-for-5 game.

Amherst will finish the regular season with at least eight wins in the NESCAC West, while Wesleyan can finish with eight at the most. Since the Jeffs took two of three games from the Cardinals, they hold the head-to-head advantage and have therefore earned a spot in the upcoming conference tournament.  

The Lord Jeffs return to action Tuesday for a non-conference doubleheader at Brandeis.