Jeffs Split at Middlebury; Heller Sets Hits Record

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Kevin Heller '12 became the Amherst College baseball program's all-time hits leader during a doubleheader split with Middlebury College on Friday, as the Lord Jeffs won a seven-inning game (3-1) before dropping the nine-inning finale in walk-off fashion (6-5).

Heller tied Amherst's previous hits record of 167—which had been held by Dave Powers '05—by going 1-for-1 in Friday's opener, and he broke it with a pinch-hit double that gave the Jeffs a 5-4 lead in the eighth inning of the nightcap. 

Heller's go-ahead double wouldn't stand up as the winning hit, though, as the Panthers got a run back in the bottom of the eighth before Alex Kelley capped a 7-for-9 day by delivering a walk-off single to left in the ninth. 

Amherst (19-6, 7-1 NESCAC West) had its win streak snapped at nine games but still managed to clinch a spot in the 2012 NESCAC Championship after Wesleyan's 7-2 win over Hamilton today. Middlebury moved to 10-12 (4-7 NESCAC West) and will host the Lord Jeffs in a single game tomorrow at 11 a.m.

Middlebury took a 1-0 lead in the first inning of the opener, but Amherst tied it in the third when Taiki Kasuga '14 advanced to third base on a Heller single and scored on a wild pitch. The Jeffs took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Alex Hero '14 led off with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by Kasuga. 

Amherst added a run in the sixth on an RBI infield single from Dan Pillitteri '13, but the Panthers came back to put two runners in scoring position in the seventh. Starting pitcher Bob Cook '13 got out of the jam and finished his complete-game effort by inducing a lineout and groundout, moving him to 4-0 on the season. 

Cook struck out five without walking a batter, scattering nine hits and keeping the Panthers scoreless in the final six innings. Hero (2-for-4) was the only Amherst player with multiple hits, while Kelly finished the game 4-for-4. Michael Joseph (L, 1-4) also tossed a complete game, allowing six hits and two earned runs with seven strikeouts.

The Lord Jeffs struck first in the nightcap when Cook walked, stole second and scored on a single by Quinn Saunders-Kolberg '14 in the top of the second. Middlebury responded with two runs in the bottom of the frame and added another two without recording an out in the fifth, as Amherst starting pitcher John Cook '15 was chased after walking seven batters and allowing four runs in four innings.

Middlebury carried its 4-1 lead into the eighth inning, but Heller delivered a ground-rule double with two outs to hand the lead back to Amherst at 5-4. The Lord Jeffs loaded the bases the following inning but came up empty, as Kelly wound up being the hero of the game after scoring the tying run in the bottom of the eighth and providing the winning hit in the ninth. 

Andy Dittrich (W, 3-1) maintained his 0.00 ERA by recording the final four outs for Middlebury, while starting pitcher Cooper Byrne allowed only one earned run on four hits in seven strong innings.

Cam Windham '14 (0-1) took the loss after 1.2 innings of work, while Adam Medoff '13 and Robert Cahill '14 combined for three innings of shutout relief. Dylan Joyce '12 gave up Kelly's walk-off hit in the ninth after relieving Windham with two outs and a runner on second. 

Hero was once again the only Amherst player with multiple hits (2-for-4), while Heller's 2-for-2 day helped him maintain the team's highest batting average (.444) and slugging percentage (.642). Earlier this season Heller broke the school's career records for RBIs and runs scored, and he is currently tied for the all-time home run mark (18).