Jeffs Derail Castleton State with 6-3 Win

AMHERST, MA – Jeff Keenan '11 (West Hartford, CT) allowed only two hits in 5.2 innings and Kevin Heller '12 (Brooklyn, NY) went 3-for-5 with a solo home run to lead the Amherst College baseball team to a 6-3 win over Castleton State College Tuesday afternoon at Memorial Field. The Lord Jeffs snapped Castleton's 12-game winning streak to improve to 13-9, while the Spartans fell to 17-9 with their first loss since Mar. 28. 

Entering the game as winners of 15 of their past 16, the Spartans took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning and made it a 2-0 game in the third. Amherst tied things at 2-2 in the home half of the third and took the lead for good in the fourth when Max Einhorn '11 (Scarsdale, NY) singled to left field to drive in Jose Espinosa '11 (Ridgefield, CT), who reached safely in all three of his plate appearances. 

Keenan (2-2) allowed two earned runs on two hits and three walks in 5.2 innings, while Pat Harris '11 (Rochester, NY) pitched the final inning to earn his second save of the season. Seth Harrington '11 (1-1) went five innings for the Spartans, surrendering three earned runs on six hits with four walks and a strikeout. 

Ryan Zielinski '13 led off the game with a walk and came around to score on a sacrifice fly to right field by Billy Manley '10. Zielinski made it a 2-0 game in the third when he sent a single through the right side of the infield to bring in David Brandt '12, who had reached on a fielder's choice and put himself in scoring position by stealing second. 

After Einhorn walked and Brian Merrigan '11 (Holbrook, MA) doubled to left center in the third, Amherst first baseman Bob Cook (Winnetka, IL) cut his team's deficit to one run when a groundout to the second baseman gave him his 13th RBI of the season. Heller followed by sending a curveball back up the middle to score Merrigan for the tying run. 

Einhorn brought in Espinosa for the go-ahead run in the fourth, and neither team would score again until the seventh. Teddy Blank (Waban, MA) relieved Keenan after Jack Lancelin '11 walked with one out, and the Amherst senior co-captain quickly got out of the sixth inning by inducing a 5-4-3 double play. Blank then sat the Spartans down in order in the top of the seventh on only five pitches. 

Heller made it a 4-2 game when he crushed a towering solo shot over the fence in left field for his fourth home run of the season. Castleton threatened in the top of the eighth with runners at the corners and two outs, but southpaw John D'Angelo '10 (Woodbridge, CT) entered the game and needed only two pitches to get the Spartans to end the inning with a groundout to Espinosa at second. 

Cook provided Amherst with some insurance in the bottom of the eighth with his second and third RBIs of the day, scoring Espinosa and Merrigan on a sharp single to right field to make it a 6-2 game. Harris closed things out in the ninth, but not before Garrett Bissonnette '10 drove in pinch runner DJ Detweiler '12 with a single through the middle. Harris had the final putout of the game when he covered first base after a grounder was sent to Cook at the corner. 

Heller went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs, while Cook and Merrigan each finished at 2-for-5. In addition to driving in three runs, Cook extended his hitting streak to nine games. Zielinski (2-for-3, BB) and Bissonnette (1-for-4, RBI) each pushed their hitting streak to 10 games, while Lancelin's 12-game hit streak came to a halt (0-for-3).

Dakota Aker '12 pitched the final three innings for the Spartans and allowed three earned runs on four hits and one walk, striking out two Lord Jeffs. Mike Samela '12 (Westport, CT) stole three bases for Amherst, while Brandt swiped two bags to give him 15 steals for the year.

Tuesday marked the first-ever meeting between the Amherst and Castleton State baseball programs.

The Lord Jeffs will return to action Friday, Apr. 16, when they kick off a crucial three-game NESCAC West series with Middlebury College. The Spartans will host Plattsburgh State tomorrow at 3:30 p.m.