AMHERST, MA – TheAmherstCollege baseball team welcomed non-conference foe Westfield State College to Memorial Field this afternoon for the 2008 Home Opener. The Lord Jeffs took an early lead, and after having the game tied in the top of the sixth, saw junior Angus Schaller (Leucadia, CA) hit the game-winning homerun in the bottom of the frame for a 4-3 win.
In their first game since returning from Spring Break in Fort Myers, FL, the Lord Jeffs handed the ball to first-year hurler Jim Cetkovski (Toronto, ON). The rookie threw three innings of scoreless ball, while giving up two hits and striking out a pair, before turning the mound over to classmate Pat Harris (Rochester, NY).
Amherst took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a well-executed delayed double steal. When the Westfield State catcher was throwing the ball back to the pitcher, first-year Scott Shaffer (Boulder, CO) took off from first to steal second. As soon as the Westfield pitcher turned to throw to second, junior Mike Neff (New York, NY) stole home for the game's opening run.
Amherst stretched their lead to 3-1 on a rally in the fourth inning. Senior Neal Allar (Floyds Knobs, IN) started the stretch with a lead-off double, before back-to-back walks loaded the bases with no outs. Despite hitting into a double-play, Shaffer drove in Allar, before an error by the Westfield State third basemen let in another run.
In the top of the sixth inning, Westfield's Ben Wagner knocked in Jeff Ackerman from second-base with a line-drive to left field to tie the game at 3-3. Wagner advanced to third base, with just one out showing after Mike Trachtenberg hit into an error at third base. Trachtenberg stole second without drawing a throw from Amherst senior catcher Josh Card (North Adams, MA), but was left on base alongside Wagner on a strikeout.
Amherst responded in the bottom of the sixth inning on an opposite field homerun by outfielder Schaller to take a 4-3 lead. Relief pitcher Teddy Blank (Waban, MA) continued to excel on the mound for the Lord Jeffs to avoid giving up the equalizer once again.
In the top of the eighth inning, Amherst pitcher Ryan Platzbecker (Westlake, ON) got out of a jam with a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning, and leave Westfield State's tenth runner on base.
Sophomore second baseman Will Lawton (Newton, MA) led off the bottom of the eighth with a hit-by-pitch, and then took second base when the Owl's pitcher through the ball away trying to pick him off at first. Westfield State put Schaller on first with an intentional walk to put the double-play ball back into the situation.
After seeing Shaffer strike out, Amherst used the double-steal to advance the runners to second and third with one out and Nat Pedley (Rye, NY) at the plate. The Owls chose to put Pedley on with an intentional walk to load the bases and take their chances against first-year Jose Espinosa (Ridgefield, CT) and the double-play. Westfield got their wish with a 1-2-3 double-play to end the inning still down 4-3.
Amherst kept Platzbecker in to close the game out, as the 6'4" southpaw picked up a fly out to left field, before striking out the last two batters swinging. Schaller went 1-for-1 with the game-winning homerun, and a pair of walks and a sacrifice hit to lead Amherst.
Westfield was led by Ben Wagner and Jeff Fields, who each had a pair of hits and an RBI in the losing effort.
The Jeffs improved to 7-4 on the season, while Westfield falls to 5-6 on the year. Blank picked up the win to improve to 1-1 on the season, while Sean Keane was the loser, and Platzbecker picked up his second save of the year.