Amherst Uses Yet Another Late-Inning Rally to Edge Springfield, 6-5

By Ryan O'Donnell '08

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College baseball team earned a non-conference victory over visiting Springfield College on Wednesday afternoon by a score of 6-5, as the Lord Jeffs (20-9-1) scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to pick up the victory. This marks the fourth straight 20-win season for Amherst and the 19th of head coach Bill Thurston's career.

Springfield got things going early when John Schmaltz drew a leadoff walk in the top of the first. Jamie Mackie ripped a double to the right center fence but a strong relay from Amherst centerfielder Scott Shaffer (Boulder, CO) made its way to second baseman Mike Neff (New York, NY), who fired it home to senior co-captain Neal Allar (Floyds Knobs, IN). Allar stuffed Schmaltz at home plate and tagged him to keep the Pride scoreless, but designated hitter Luke Gabordi knocked a single to left field on the ensuing at-bat to score Mackie and give the Pride an early 1-0 lead. Amherst starting pitcher Jeff Keenan (West Hartford, CT) settled down and retired the next three batters to end the Springfield threat.

Springfield got a little bit of luck in the third inning when Gabordi lined a sharp grounder that took a tricky hop over Neff's left shoulder, allowing Schmaltz to score from second base. Casey Federico knocked a double to drive home Mackie before Justin Nussey singled through the left side to score Gabordi. Amherst first-year pitcher Pat Harris (Rochester, NY) worked out of the jam by forcing Drew Michael into a 4-6-3 double play and the Jeffs trailed the Pride 4-0.

Brian Merrigan (Holbrook, MA) led off the bottom of the fourth with a line drive off Springfield pitcher Jimmy Lisowski, who threw the ball away and allowed Merrigan to advance to second. Amherst third baseman Brendan Powers (Walpole, MA) crushed his third home run of the season to deep right center field, cutting the Pride lead in half.

The Pride got a run back in the top of the fifth inning on an RBI-single from Drew Michael that Merrigan nearly snagged on a diving attempt in right field. After tripling in the fifth, Amherst first baseman Nat Pedley (Rye, NY) delivered a seventh-inning two-out homer off the top of the right field fence that sent Springfield right fielder Joe Kropa tumbling over the fence, as the Jeffs made it a 5-3 game heading into the eighth.

With the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, Drew Michael ripped a sinking line drive to center but Shaffer made the catch right before the ball hit the ground to keep the Jeffs within striking distance. Neff led off the last half of the ninth with a walk before Angus Schaller (Leucidia, CA) pulled a single to left field. "Mr. Ninth Inning" Evan Bruno then delivered a single through the middle to score Neff and bring the Jeffs within a run.

After a Pedley sacrifice bunt placed runners on second and third, rookie shortstop Jose Espinosa (Ridgefield, CT) delivered a clutch RBI-single to left field that tied things up at 5-5. After Merrigan was intentionally walked to load the bases, the very next pitch from Mario Piscitelli got past the Pride catcher, scoring Bruno for the game-winning run.

Powers, Allar and Pedley each had two of Amherst's 10 hits, with Allar stretching his hitting streak to eight games and Bruno increasing his to nine. Mackie, Federico, Nussey and Michael had two hits apiece for the Pride, while Gabordi finished at 3-for-5 with two RBIs.

Keenan, Harris and Teddy Blank (Waban, MA) combined for five runs—four earned—on 10 hits through the first six innings, with each right-hander throwing two frames. First-years Max McKenna (Lexington, MA) and Ryan Healy (Westport, CT) finished the job, with McKenna throwing a perfect seventh inning before Healy closed the game to pick up the win and move to 2-1 on the season.

Jimmy Lasowski pitched well but ended up with the no-decision, as he allowed three earned runs on six hits and one walk in 7.0 innings, adding seven strikeouts. John Wurster picked up the loss (1-2), as he was accountable for the final three runs in 1.1 innings of work.

Amherst returns to action Saturday afternoon for a home doubleheader against St. Joseph's College.