Courtesy of Wesleyan Sports Information
NASHUA, N.H. - Moving one step closer to defending its NESCAC baseball title, Wesleyan University (27-8) broke a 2-2 tie with a pair of runs in the top of the ninth, then rode the arm of starting pitcher junior Gavin Pittore through the bottom of the ninth as Pittore posted his seventh consecutive complete game in a 4-2 victory over Amherst College (24-12) in the winner's bracket game of the NESCAC tournament at Holman Stadium.
Wesleyan needs one win on Sunday against either Amherst or Bates, which meet in an elimination game at 6 pm Saturday, to successfully repeat at NESCAC champion. Whichever team survives the final elimination game Saturday will have to defeat Wesleyan twice Sunday to unseat the Cardinals.
With each squad throwing one of their pitching aces, the Weseyan-Amherst game came down to the final inning. Wesleyan scored twice in the ninth, all with two outs, as four straight hits started with a double from sophomore Nick Miceli as he one-hopped the left-field fence with his drive. Sophomore Ellis Schaefer followed with a single into left field to put the Cardinals in the lead, 3-2. A single by senior Andrew Yin to left and a single to left by senior Donnie Cimino padded Wesleyan's edge.
In the bottom of the ninth, Amherst got its first two runners on as senior Conner Gunn walked and sophomore Anthony Spina singled to center field. A sacrifice bunt attempt was snaked out by Cardinal first baseman senior Sam Goodwin-Boyd, who fired a low throw to third baseman Schaefer, who made a great scoop for the force out. Then when Pittore uncorked a potential wild pitch while facing freshman Sam Ellinwood, catcher Miceli got a fortunate bounce off the backstop and the ball came right to him in the air. With a pair of pinch-runners on base, only the runner at first attempted to advance and he was gunned out by Miceli going back to first base for the second out. Pittore finished off Ellinwood with his fifth strikeout to end the game.
Wesleyan scored first with a pair of runs in the 4th inning, courtesy of a two-run home run to left field by team long-ball and RBI leader Goodwin-Boyd. It was his fifth four-bagger of the year and improved his RBI figure to 33. On base was Cimino, who walked and stole a pair of bases to stand at third base before Goodwin-Boyd's clout.
Amherst retaliated in the sixth inning to tie the game with Gunn delivering the key hit, a two-run double to deep right field that just eluded the outstretched glove of the Cardinals' senior outfielder Ben Hoynes. That brought home junior Andrew Valdini, who led off the inning with a single to center field, and sophomore Yanni Thanopoulos, who stroked a one-out single to right.
Wesleyan had some base-running blunders in the contest that slowed down its attack. With a hit-and-run on with one out in the fifth inning, Miceli, who walked, slowed up coming into third base after Yin hit a high chopper into right field past the spot vacated by the Amherst second baseman, who had moved to cover the bag. Miceli was thrown out cruising into third by senior Tyler Jacobs. Third baseman Ellinwood then caught Yin trying to take second base with a smart throw. Then in the sixth inning, Cimino was thrown out by junior Mike Odenwaelder attempting to score on a two-out single by junior Marco Baratta, again not seemingly running at full speed.
Amherst starting hurler, senior John Cook, threw into the eighth inning, but was pulled after walking the leadoff batter for the fourth time in his last five innings. He went 7.0 innings, giving up four hits and two runs with four strikeouts and five walks. Taking the loss for the Lord Jeffs was sophomore reliever Chris Baldi, as he was touched for two runs on four hits in his 1.2 inning of work. He fell to 2-2 on the year.
Pittore allowed seven hits and two runs in improving to 7-2 on the year. It was Wesleyan's fourth win over Amherst this season as the Cardinals swept the Lord Jeffs during their three-game NESCAC West series in late April.