Jeffs Look to Defend NESCAC Crown

Hero.jpg Contact: Mike O'Brien

NESCAC BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP CENTRAL

AMHERST, Mass. – The 23rd-ranked Amherst College baseball team looks to defend its NESCAC crown this weekend as the Jeffs return to the conference tournament for the fourth consecutive season and 10th time overall beginning Friday, May 9 against Tufts.

Capturing the second-seed from the West Division, the Jeffs capped off the 2014 regular season with a program-record 28 wins and just seven losses while finishing 9-3 in league play. Amherst is scheduled to play Tufts at 3 p.m. Friday to begin the four-team, double-elimination tournament. Tufts, the top seed from the East, will serve as the host while Bates claimed the East's second-seed and Wesleyan enters as the top-seed from the West.

2014 NESCAC BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE
(hosted by Tufts)
Friday, May 9
Game 1 - Tufts (E1) vs. Amherst (W2) – Huskins Field, Medford, Mass., 3 p.m.
Game 2 – Wesleyan (W1) vs. Bates (E2) – Govoni Field, Babson Park, Mass., 3 p.m.
Saturday, May 10
Game 3 - Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 – DeFelice Field, Waltham, Mass., 10:30 a.m.
Game 4 - Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 – Huskins Field, Medford, Mass., 10:30 a.m.
Game 5 - Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 – Huskins Field, Medford, Mass., 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 11
Game 6 - Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5 – Huskins Field, Medford, Mass., 10 a.m.
Game 7 - If necessary – 30 minutes after Game 6

LIVE COVERAGE
Games played at Huskins Field in Medford, Mass. will be webcasted live courtesy of the Northeast Sports Network (NSN) at nsnsports.net/NESCAC. Live stats will be available for the games played at the secondary sites.

Odenwaelder.jpg SCOUTING AMHERST
(28-7/9-3 NESCAC West)

The Jeffs are making their 10th NESCAC Championship appearance since the current format began in 2001 and are 16-13 overall. Amherst captured back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005 while adding a third last season to tie Tufts with the second most championships in conference history. Trinity leads all schools with four titles.

With a program-record 28 wins, the Jeffs rank second in the NCAA Division III New England Regional Poll, fourth in the NEIBA Poll, and 23rd in the ABCA Collegiate NCAA Poll. After opening the season with a 9-3 record during its spring break trip in Winter Haven, Fla., the Purple & White have gone 19-4 since returning north. They are currently riding a six-game winning streak entering this weekend's conference tournament.

The Jeffs boast the league's top offense, leading the NESCAC in batting average (.303), slugging percentage (.410), home runs (18), and stolen bases (73). They also rank second as a team in runs (232) and RBI (205), and third in doubles (62). Amherst's pitching rotation is among the tops in the league as well, as the Jeffs lead the NESCAC in strikeouts (282), averaging 8.51 per game, and hold the second lowest team ERA of 3.17.

Leading the team offensively is 2013 NESCAC Rookie of the Year and first team selection, Mike Odenwaelder '16. The sophomore has played the majority of the season as the team's designated hitter and leads the conference with a .417 (50-for-120) batting average. His .658 slugging percentage is also tops among his league counterparts. Odenwaelder ranks in a tie for second in runs (33) and home runs (6), tied for third in RBI (30), ranks fifth in on-base percentage (.459) and tied for sixth in stolen bases with 11 (11-for-11). He was named the NESCAC Player of the Week on May 5.

Kasuga.jpg Taiki Kasuga '14 has continued to play well in the field for the Jeffs and ranks fifth in the league in batting average (.366). An Academic All-District First Team recipient, Kasuga is the reigning NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year and Second Team All-NESCAC selection. He currently leads the league defensively with 106 assists while ranking second in hits (49), fifth in doubles (11), and tied for sixth in runs (30).

The outfield is led offensively by Alex Hero '14, who ranks 12th in the NESCAC in batting average (.341). The senior centerfielder is also second in the league in stolen bases (18) and is tied for ninth in doubles (8). Joining him in the outfield is a pair of first-years, Anthony Spina and Yanni Thanopoulos. Spina has started 30 of the team's 35 games this season and has not recorded an error in the field. Thanopoulos ranks fourth on the team in batting average and is hitting .318 (28-for-88) while driving in 22 runs.

Amherst has a terrific pitching rotation once again this season. Led by John Cook '15, the junior southpaw ranks fourth in the conference with a 2.16 ERA and fourth in strikeouts (58), while his 10.44 strikeouts per game ranks third among the league's top pitchers. Two other Jeffs rank within the top-10 in the league in ERA with Quinn Saunders-Kolberg '14 and Dylan Driscoll '14 claiming seventh and ninth, respectively. Saunders-Kolberg is 4-0 this year with a 2.43 ERA while Academic All-District First Team honoree Driscoll leads the team in innings pitched (54.1) and boasts a 7-1 win-loss record with a 2.48 earned-run average. His seven wins are tied for first in the NESCAC.

The Jeffs' starters have received plenty of help this season from their relievers. Senior Eric Kotin leads the team with three saves while classmate Robert Cahill holds a 2.08 ERA in 13.0 innings pitched and a .136 opponent batting average. Keenan Szulik '16 is 6-0 as a reliever with one save and Odenwaelder has not allowed an earned run in his last six appearances while striking out 21 of the 65 batters he's faced.

SCOUTING WESLEYAN (24-10/10-2 NESCAC West)
The Cardinals earned the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC West for the second consecutive season and third time overall. Wesleyan defeated Amherst in its three-game series during the final divisional weekend of the year to take sole possession of first place. The team relies on its impressive hitting, which ranks second in the league with a .302 batting average. Robby Harbison '17 leads the team with a .350 batting average, while Donnie Cimino '15 and Andrew Yin '15 are hitting .344 and .341, respectively. With six wins, junior Nick Cooney leads the Cardinals pitching staff and also ranks tops in the NESCAC with 67 strikeouts and second in innings pitched, tossing 56.2.

SCOUTING TUFTS (30-5, 9-3 NESCAC East)
The Jumbos are making their fifth appearance as the tournament's top seed in the East Division, and its conference-best 11th overall. However, Tufts has missed the conference championships in each of the last two seasons and is making its return for the first time since the 2011 season, the year they won a third NESCAC crown (2002, 2010). Opening the season with an 11-1 spring break mark, the Jumbos went on to win 14 of their first 15 games in their return to New England. Tufts won 30 games in the regular season for the first time in program history and boast the top pitching staff in the league. The team's ERA of 2.49 is the lowest in the conference as the Jumbos are led by a trio of pitchers. Kyle Slinger '15, Christian Sbily '14 and Tim Superko '17 are the only pitchers in the league that have an ERA below 2.00. Slinger is 7-0 with an impressive 0.89 ERA, while Sbily is 5-0 with a 1.51 ERA and Superko is 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA. Offensively, the team's 250 runs this season are most among league leaders. Tufts currently ranks No. 10 in the ABCA Collegiate NCAA DIII Baseball Poll.

SCOUTING BATES (19-19/7-5 NESCAC East)
Bates makes its first-ever trip to the NESCAC tournament and their seven wins in league play are the most by a Bobcats team in the championship era. The team's deep pitching staff is led by ace Brad Reynolds '14, who ranks second in the league in strikeouts (60) and sixth in ERA (2.33). He is 5-1 on the year and has not lost since March 29. On the offensive side, the Bobcats are led by seniors Kevin Davis and Griff Tewksbury. Davis ranks sixth in the league with a .363 batting average and is second on the team in runs (24) and RBI (24) behind Tewksbury, who has scored 29 times and driving in 31 runners. Tewksbury's six home runs are second in the conference and his .581 slugging percentage is third. He is hitting .347 on the year.