AMHERST, Mass. – Sophomore outfielder Joe Palmo hit a three-run homer to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, but Middlebury College scored three runs in the 10th to earn a 6-4 victory over Amherst (15-13-1, 5-5) in game one of a three-game New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) West series.
The two teams will conclude the series with a doubleheader on Saturday at 12:30. Amherst will celebrate Senior Day and then try to sweep the Panthers (22-9, 6-4) and earn a spot in next weekend's NESCAC Tournament.
Palmo went 3-4 with a homer, three RBI and two runs scored, while Kyler Kopacz '21 was 3-3 for the Mammoths.
Middlebury took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third with an unearned run. Hayden Smith led off with a single, advancing on a throwing error. Justin Han followed, reaching on an error as Smith moved to third. Andrew Hennings drove in the run with a fielder's choice to second as Smith crossed the plate.
The Panthers added a run in the fifth as Han singled to center with one out and moved to second on a base hit to left by Hennings. One batter later, Sam Graf singled to left as Han came around to score for the 2-0 lead.
Middlebury added another solo run in the seventh when Han walked and moved to second on a single through the left side by Hennings. Alec Ritch singled to right center to load the bases, before Han scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Graf.
Amherst got back in the game with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the eighth when Palmo hit a three-run homer to right, his third round-tripper of the season and second three-run shot in as many games.
Kopacz led off the inning with a single, then was replaced by Tyler Marshall '21, who reached on a fielder's choice. Kai Terada-Herzer '21 singled up the middle to put two on with one out and Palmo battled to a lengthy at-bat, fouling off several pitches before depositing one into the right field bleachers.
The Mammoths had a chance to walk off with the victory, after putting two on with two out in the ninth, but Colby Morris earned a strikeout to get out of the inning.
In the 10th inning, against Amherst closer Mike Dow '19, Graf led off with a walk, Henry Strmecki reached on a bunt single and Brooks Carroll walked to load the bases with one out. Gray Goolsby drew a bases-loaded walk and Smith was hit by a pitch, as two runs were forced in. Han added another tally when his sacrifice fly to left sent Carroll across the plate with a 6-3 lead.
Amherst rallied in the bottom of the inning, cutting the lead to 6-4. With two runners on, Chase Henley '19 reached on an infield single, and a throwing error allowed an unearned run to cross the plate. Panther reliver George Goldstein was able to retire the final two batters of the inning with two runners on base, securing his third save of the season.
Colby Morris (5-2) allowed three runs over nine innings with six strikeouts for Middlebury. He improves on his school record with his 18th career victory, while moving into third-place all time with 168 strikeouts.
Hennings went 4-6 with an RBI, while six other Panthers had hits, including Han, who went 1-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Graf drove in a pair, going 1-3 with a run scored. Middlebury left runners on base in eight of 10 innings, for a total of 11.
Dow (0-2) suffered the loss in relief, giving up three runs on just one hit, while recording one out.