AMHERST, MA – Senior Evan Bruno (Williamsburg, VA) hit a two-out RBI-single to right field in the top of the ninth inning that proved to be the game-winning hit, as the Amherst College baseball team came from behind to earn a 7-6 victory over 19th-ranked Keene State College. The Lord Jeffs improve to 12-6-1 on the season and return to action this weekend for a crucial three-game series with Williams College.
The Owls jumped on Amherst starting pitcher Jim Cetkovski (Toronto, ON) early, as Jeff Perkins, Joe Rousseau and Jamie Chevalier hit consecutive singles to load the bases in the bottom of the first inning. First-year Bobby Doyon kept things going with a single of his own to drive in two runs, giving Keene State an early 2-0 lead.
Amherst cut the deficit in half in the fourth inning when Bruno hit a two-out single to bring in junior Brendan Powers (Walpole, MA). Powers led off the inning with an opposite-field single and advanced to second when senior co-captain Neal Allar (Floyds Knobs, IN) was hit by a pitch.
Keene State came back in the bottom half of the frame when Perkins reached on a fielder's choice and stole second base, eventually scoring on a fielding error to increase the lead to 3-1.
The Lord Jeffs responded with three runs in the fifth to take their first lead of the game, with first-year Jose Espinosa (Ridgefield, CT), senior co-captain Josh Card (North Adams, MA) and first-year Brian Merrigan (Holbrook, MA) each reaching on singles to load the bases with no outs. Powers grounded into a double play but it was enough to bring Espinosa home, and first-year Scott Shaffer (Boulder, CO) singled to score Card and Allar to give Amherst a 4-3 lead, with Allar diving head first into home to just beat the throw from the outfield.
The lead didn't last long, however, as sophomore Anthony Cipolla singled with the bases loaded to pick up a pair of RBIs and give the Owls a 5-4 advantage in the bottom of the sixth. The tug-of-war continued when Shaffer and junior Angus Schaller (Leucadia, CA) hit back-to-back RBI-singles to hand the lead back to the Jeffs in the top of the seventh.
Junior Teddy Blank (Waban, MA), who entered the game in the fourth, kept Amherst's momentum going in the seventh with a 1-2-3 inning, picking up a pair of big strikeouts to keep the 6-5 lead in tact. Blank could not shut the Owls down in the eighth, however, as Ryan Jones singled up the middle and was moved to second on a Perkins sacrifice bunt, allowing Chevalier to score Jones on a single that tied things up at 6-6.
Chevalier, who came into pitch in the seventh inning, retired the first two batters in the top of the ninth but could not finish the job. Schaller kept the Jeffs alive with a double down the left field line, and Bruno followed up with a hard single through the right side of the infield that scored Schaller for the go-ahead run. Chevalier surrendered another hit on the ensuing at-bat but got out of his jam, with the Owls heading into the bottom of the ninth trailing 7-6.
Cippola led off the inning with a single and Doyon followed up with what seemed to be a great sacrifice bunt, but he was called for interference while running to first base and pinch-runner Joe Allison was sent back to first with one out on the board, causing a huge momentum swing in favor of the Jeffs. Blank struck out the next batter and got senior Greg Ford to send a deep fly ball to right field. It looked as though the ball might have enough to get over the fence, but Schaller was able to position himself for the easy catch and the last out of the game, with Amherst hanging on for the 7-6 upset.
Bruno, Merrigan and Powers each went 3-for-5 to lead Amherst, with Bruno driving in a pair of runs and displaying timely hitting in the clutch. Shaffer, Schaller and junior Mike Neff (New York, NY) each went 2-for-5, with Shaffer driving in three runs on the day to increase his hitting streak to 10 games.
Cetkovski allowed three runs—two of which were earned—on six hits through three-plus innings, striking out a pair and walking one. Blank (2-1) struck out six and walked none to earn the win, allowing three earned runs on eight hits in six innings of work.
Five Keene State players had two hits, while Cipolla went 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Chevalier also had two RBIs but was credited with the loss after giving up a pair of earned runs in 2.2 innings of relief. Starting pitcher Ben Sonberg went 6.1 innings, scattering nine hits for five earned runs and five strikeouts. Amherst out-hit the Owls on the day, 17-14.