Amherst Wins NESCAC West Opener 6-3 Over Wesleyan With Late Rally

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College baseball team opened up NESCAC-West this afternoon with the first of a three-game weekend series against Little Three rival Wesleyan University. The Cardinals erased a three-run deficit through the middle of the game, but the Lord Jeffs scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to take home a 6-3 victory.  Amherst improved to 7-5 (1-0 NESCAC West) with the win, while Wesleyan falls to 11-5 (0-1) with the loss.

With one out in the bottom of the second inning, sophomore catcher Mike Samela (Westport, CT) lined a hard hit ball into short left center, and Wesleyan center-fielder Kyle Weiss's dive came up just short of a great catch. The ball bounced all the way to the warning track, allowing Samela to reach third base. Just two pitches later, Thomas Wheeler (Minnetonka, MN) hit a grounder up the middle to bring home Samela. Amherst rookie Nolan Stewart (New Canaan, CT) kept the rally going with a double to the gap in right-center, before advancing to score on a wild pitch that also brought home Wheeler from third. After a pair of walks by Wesleyan starting pitcher Mike Barsotti loaded the bases, John Wagner (Evanston, IL) had a sacrifice fly to left field to put the Jeffs up 3-0. 

Wesleyan grabbed one run back in the top of the fifth inning. After a lead-off walk by David Skura, Amherst starter Max McKenna (Lexington, MA) induced a 5-4-3 double play grounder from Chris Bonti to clear the bases. With two outs, Brandyn Cooper lined a double down the left field line, and eventually came around to score as Amherst rookie shortstop Dan Pillitteri (Ramsey, NJ) threw the ball away on a grounder by Jonathan Sheehan. 

In the top of the seventh inning, the Cardinals cut the deficit to 3-2 as another error allowed an unearned run. After a double by Bonti put a man in scoring position with just one out, Cooper hit a soft grounder to second base. The ensuing throw from Will Lawton (Newton, MA) got away from Bryce Einhorn (Scarsdale, NY) at first base, allowing Bonti to come around for the Wesleyan score. 

The Cardinals tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the eighth frame after McKenna handed the ball off to Hayden Metz (Ridgefield, CT). Wesleyan's Julian Sonnonfeld, Derek Dettorre and Brice Kelly strung together three straight singles to bring in the game-tying run. 

Amherst responded in the bottom of the eighth, with Lawton leading off the inning with a double into the right-center power alley. Lawton moved over to third on a ground-out by Scott Shaffer, bringing up Kevin Heller (Brooklyn, NY) with one out and runner in scoring position. After Heller was hit by a pitch, Samela brought home Lawton on a fielder's choice to third base. Wesleyan's Alex Meadow came home with the throw, but Lawton beat the tag at home to put the Lord Jeffs back up 4-3. Amherst quickly tacked on two more runs when rookie Bob Cook (Winnetka, IL) drove a hit up the middle following Nolan Stewart (New Canaan, CT) gaining first base on another hit-by-pitch. With the rally, Amherst took a commanding 6-3 lead into the top of the ninth inning.

After letting the save opportunity get out of his hands, Metz closed the door on the Cardinals for the win, improving his record to 4-0 on the year.  In 2.0 innings of work, Metz gave up three hits, one earned run and had one strikeout and one walk. McKenna was superb, going 7.0 innings for a no decision with four hits, two unearned runs, four strikeouts and two walks. Barsotti went the full 8.0 innings for Wesleyan, surrendering six earned runs on eight hits, with seven strikeouts and a pair of walks.

Lawton finished the game 2-for-4 with a run scored, while Cook was 2-for-2 off the bench with a pair of RBIs. Samela was 1-for-4 at the dish with an RBI and a pair of runs scored for Amherst as well. Seven different players had a single hit for Wesleyan, with Kelly, Cooper and Sheehan picking up the three Cardinal RBIs.

The two teams will head to Middletown tomorrow afternoon for a doubleheader that begins at 12 p.m.