AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College baseball team scored a combined 24 runs and got a pair of stellar pitching performances during a doubleheader sweep of Middlebury College Saturday afternoon at Memorial Field. After earning a 7-5 come-from-behind win in the first game, Amherst used a 12-run seventh inning to cruise to a 17-1 victory in the nightcap.
The Lord Jeffs improve to 14-9 overall and 7-3 in the NESCAC West, while the Panthers drop to 9-14 (1-7 NESCAC West). Senior captain Angus Schaller (Leucadia, CA) led Amherst on the day by playing outstanding defense at first base and going 5-for-7 with five RBIs and three runs scored.
In between games, Amherst College director of athletics Suzanne Coffey took a moment to honor head coach Bill Thurston, who hosted his final NESCAC series on Saturday. Dozens of Thurston's former players and assistant coaches were in attendance to show their support for the 44-year head coach, who at the end of the 2009 season will retire.
Amherst overcame an early five-run deficit in the first game by scoring seven unanswered runs, while sophomore Max McKenna (Lexington, MA) fired a complete game to improve to 3-3 on the season. Senior Steve Shortle (2-4) allowed six runs in 4.1 innings to pick up the loss for the Panthers.
Middlebury took advantage of some sloppy Amherst defense and scored five unearned runs in the top of the second, with Peter Bourdon, Danny Seymour and Donald McKillop each recording an RBI-single. After senior captain Mark Shimrock walked to load the bases, Erich Enns drove in a pair with a double to right to give the Panthers an early 5-0 lead.
Amherst managed to get one back in the bottom of the second thanks to an RBI-single up the middle by first-year Thomas Wheeler (Minnetonka, MN). The Jeffs threatened with the bases loaded and the heart of their order up in the third inning, but Amherst's big bats couldn't come up with any runs this time around.
The hosts cut their deficit to one in the bottom of the fourth when Schaller, sophomore Brian Merrigan (Holbrook, MA) and junior Will Lawton (Newton, MA) each had an RBI-single to make it a 5-4 game. Amherst kept rolling and took the lead for good in the fifth when senior Brendan Powers (Walpole, MA) ignited a rally with a leadoff double that dropped just out of the reach of a diving Tim Dillon in right field. After Powers came around to score to tie things up at 5-5, a double by sophomore Scott Shaffer (Boulder, CO) chased Shortle from the game and put runners on second and third. Scooter Scott came in to pitch and was greeted by a scorching Schaller line drive that one-hopped the fence and gave the Jeffs their first lead of the afternoon, 6-5.
After a 1-2-3 inning from McKenna in the top of the sixth, Lawton led off the bottom half of the frame with a single before stealing second and advancing to third on a deep flyout. Sophomore designated hitter Alex Coburn (Brookline, MA) gave Amherst its final run with a sacrifice fly to make it a 7-5 game.
Middlebury had runners on second and third with only one out in the seventh, but McKenna buckled down and got the next two batters to fly out. In addition to allowing no earned runs, McKenna struck out four and walked only one, surrendering nine hits in seven innings. Shortle allowed six runs (three earned) on eight hits in 4.1 innings, striking out three and walking two. Lawton and Schaller went 3-for-4 and 2-for-3, respectively, while Enns led Middlebury by going 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.
Amherst jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning of the nightcap, adding three runs in the third and one in the fourth. With a 5-1 lead heading into the seventh, the Jeffs erupted for 12 runs to put the game well out of reach.
The 12-run outburst was highlighted by a three-run home run by Schaller, a no-doubter that sailed over the fence in left center to give the hosts a 12-1 lead. Schaller's long ball was his first of the season and the 16th of his tremendous career.
Despite the long wait in between innings, Amherst starting pitcher Ryan Platzbecker (Westlake, OH) returned to the hill in the eighth to record his fourth 1-2-3 inning of the game. Sophomore Pat Harris (Rochester, NY) relieved Platzbecker and retired the first two batters of the ninth before handing the ball over to junior John D'Angelo (Woodbridge, CT), who was making his first appearance since 2007. D'Angelo retired the lone batter he faced, ending the game on a soft grounder back to the mound.
Lost among Amherst's 17 runs and 16 hits was a dominant performance by Platzbecker, who improved to 3-0 on the season by allowing only one earned run on four hits in 8.0 innings. The senior southpaw struck out eight and walked only one, lowering his earned run average to 2.45.
Middlebury starting pitcher Matt Joseph fell to 0-3, allowing eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits and one walk in 6.1 innings of work. Seymour accounted for Middlebury's lone RBI, a sacrifice fly in the top of the third that scored Zach Roeder, who led off the inning with a single to center.
In addition to Schaller's outstanding day, Shaffer was a combined 3-for-5 with four runs scored and four RBIs, while Heller went 3-for-5 with four RBIs in the nightcap. Every batter in the Amherst starting lineup recorded at least one hit.
With the pair of crucial wins, Thurston improved his career record to 809-467-12. The Lord Jeffs return to action Tuesday, Apr. 21 when they host Brandeis University at 3:30 p.m. The Panthers will host Saint Michael's College on the same day and at the same time.
GAME 1 BOX SCORE
GAME 2 BOX SCORE