(Prior to Sunday's varsity showdown, Amherst and Williams alumni competed in a vintage game to commemorate the first collegiate baseball contest, which was played between the two rivals in 1859. Read more here and check out a feature by Charlie Quigg '09 at MLB.com)
PITTSFIELD, MA – The Amherst College baseball team had its season come to an end with an 8-5 loss to archrival Williams College Sunday afternoon at historic Wahconah Park in Pittsfield. The Lord Jeffs finish with a 16-13 record, while Williams improves to 24-10 and will host the upcoming NESCAC Championship.
Amherst head coach Bill Thurston's career record comes to a close at 811-471-12. The Lord Jeffs needed to win only one game this weekend to keep their season going, but losses to Hamilton and Williams dropped their conference record to 7-5, leaving them in a second-place tie with Wesleyan. Because the Cardinals had taken two out of three from Amherst during the regular season, Wesleyan wins the tie-breaker and advances to the NESCAC Championship as the No. 2 seed in the West division.
At 9-3 in conference play, Williams will host the NESCAC Championship as the West's top seed.
The 291st meeting between Amherst and Williams was decided in the first four innings, as the Ephs held an early 6-3 lead before adding two more runs in the sixth. The Jeffs scored twice in the bottom of the ninth on a two-run homer by senior Mike Neff (New York, NY), but those would be Amherst's final runs of the 2009 season.
Thurston's all-time record against Williams moved to 92-35-1. Amherst's senior class of Angus Schaller (Leucadia, CA), Brendan Powers (Walpole, MA), Nat Pedley (Rye, NY), Mike Landman (Brooklyn, NY), Ryan Platzbecker (Westlake, OH) and Neff finishes with an 82-48-2 overall record in four years.
Platzbecker got the start on the mound for Amherst in search of his fourth win of the season, but he allowed five runs on six hits in 2.1 innings to pick up the loss. Sophomore Max McKenna (Lexington, MA) threw the final 6.2 innings for Amherst, surrendering three runs on six hits while striking out three and walking none.
Amherst got two runs off Williams starting pitcher Ben Horwitz and another two off Harry Marino thanks to Neff's two-run shot, but the Jeffs had trouble with Dan Grossman, who pitched 5.1 stellar innings of relief to pick up the win. Grossman fanned four Amherst batters and walked none, allowing only one run on six hits.
The Jeffs got on the board first when sophomore Brian Merrigan (Holbrook, MA) led off the game with a gapper to right center that resulted in his third triple of the season, and he would soon score on a sacrifice fly to right field by junior Will Lawton (Newton, MA).
Williams struck back with two runs in the top of the second on a two-run blast by Robin Allemand, who finished the day 2-for-4 with two runs and a pair of RBIs.
Amherst wasted no time tying things up at 2-2 in the bottom of the second. After first-year John Wagner (Evanston, IL) was hit by a pitch, fellow first-year Mike Samela (Westport, CT) doubled off the wall in right center to put runners on second and third with nobody out. Merrigan picked up an RBI when he grounded out to second to make it a 2-2 game after two complete innings.
A three-run third inning for the Ephs was highlighted by a Cameron Susk two-RBI triple, which was followed by a squeeze bunt from Chad Brown that made it 5-2 in favor of Williams and chased Platzbecker from the game.
Grossman began the bottom of the third for Williams and was welcomed by a Powers solo shot to right field, marking the Amherst third baseman's fourth round-tripper of the season and the 16th of his career. The Ephs chalked up another run in the fourth on an RBI-single by Al Mathews, as Williams carried a 6-3 lead into the sixth.
The Ephs' final two runs came in the top of the sixth, with Allemand tripling to lead off the inning. Stephen Maier and Mathews each had an RBI-single in the frame to make it 8-3 and Williams nearly made it 9-3, but Amherst's Kevin Heller (Brooklyn, NY) gunned down Mathews at the plate from center field to end the inning.
Amherst threatened with runners on second and third in the bottom of the eighth, but Marino got pinch hitter Alex Coburn (Brookline, MA) to ground out back to the pitcher's mound. Neff's home run in the ninth bounced off the top of the wall in center field before hopping over for two Amherst runs, but that would be as close as the Jeffs would get.