Courtesy of Middlebury College
MIDDLEBURY, VT – Thomas Wheeler '12 (Minnetonka, MN) hit a three-run homer to help the Amherst College baseball team take a 5-0 lead in the first inning Friday afternoon at Middlebury College's Forbes Field, but the Lord Jeffs let their early lead slip away to fall out of postseason contention. The Panthers hit a grand slam during an eight-run eighth inning and totaled 21 hits in the game, holding on for a 17-7 win.
Amherst (16-11/5-5 NESCAC West) needed to sweep its three-game series at Middlebury (10-13/5-5 NESCAC West) in order to remain in the hunt for a spot in the NESCAC Championship. The Jeffs and Panthers will begin a doubleheader Saturday at noon in Middlebury.
In the first, Amherst jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Wheeler blasted a pitch from Panther starter Matt Lowes over the fence for a three-run homer and a 5-0 advantage. Lowes settled down over the next few innings as Middlebury added a run in the second on a solo homer by Joseph Conway and another run in the fourth, cutting the Amherst lead to 5-2.
The Panthers took a 9-7 lead in the seventh before exploding for eight runs in the eighth inning for a commanding 17-7 lead. Middlebury played small ball, scoring two of its runs on a pair of RBI singles before Donald McKillop knocked in two runs on a bases-loaded double for a 13-7 lead. Amherst intentionally walked Erich Enns, loading the bases for Conway with one out. Conway delivered with a towering blast to dead centerfield for a grand slam and a 17-7 lead that would hold up.
Of the 21 hits by the Panthers, nine were for extra bases, including seven doubles along with Conway's two homers. Six Middlebury players had multiple hits, including McKillop's 5-for-6 day along with Will Baine's 4-for-5 showing. Conway finished 2-for-5 with the two four-baggers and five RBIs.
Wheeler paced the Jeffs with a 3-for-4 day, including the three-run homer, while Mike Samela '12 (Westport, CT) added a solo shot and Kevin Heller '12 (Brooklyn, NY) went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
John Popkowski (1-2) relieved Lowes in the seventh, pitching two scoreless innings for the win, as Michael Joseph pitched a scoreless ninth. Amherst's starter Max McKenna '11 (Lexington, MA) went 4.2 innings, before Pat Harris '11 (Rochester, NY) ended the fifth inning in relief. Hayden Metz '12 (Ridgefield, CT), who replaced Harris in the sixth inning, took his first loss of the season (5-1). Metz entered the game leading the NESCAC in ERA (1.80) but allowed 11 runs—10 earned—over three innings of work.