Baseball Builds Momentum in Middlebury Sweep
The Wesleyan baseball team has roared back from a slow start to the season in Arizona. After struggling with a 4-8 record to start their spring break road trip, the Cardinals won their last three games in the desert and have not let up since returning home. With a 1-0 loss in a nailbiter against Bowdoin, the only blemish on their otherwise sterling recent stretch, the Cardinals have won five of their last six games. Their record has improved to .500 once again at 9-9 heading into a three-game home series against NESCAC West opponent Middlebury.
Friday’s match-up against the Middlebury Panthers had the looks of a pitchers duel in the mold of the Cardinals’ games against Bowdoin last weekend. With Mike Barsotti ’12 taking the mound for Wesleyan, it looked as though runs would be at a premium for the visiting Panthers. In the Cardinals’ first inning at the plate, the hosts did not waste any time exerting their dominance on Dresser Diamond. The Panthers knew they’d be in for a fight following an early scoring outburst by Wesleyan. The first five Cardinals to face Panther pitcher Michael Joseph reached base before a bases-clearing double by Ben Hoynes ’15 gave Wesleyan a 3-0 edge. Sam Goodwin-Boyd ’15 came up next and singled home Hoynes to increase the lead to four with just one inning in the books.
Joseph eventually settled down and Barsotti kept cruising, as each pitcher posted zeroes on the scoreboard until Middlebury finally broke through in the top of the fifth. After a couple of singles and a sacrifice bunt put runners on first and second with one out, Barsotti allowed a single into right field as Middlebury cut the margin to 4-1. Wesleyan would get that run back in the bottom frame of the fifth, however, manufacturing a run off a Middlebury error. Kyle Weiss ’12 ended up on second following a throwing error on his leadoff single, advancing to third on a sacrifice by Alex Meadow ’12 and coming around to score on a groundout by Donnie Cimino ’15 to make it a 5-1 game.
In the top of the sixth, things got dicey for Wesleyan as the Panther batters began to get to Barsotti. Middlebury ended up scoring three runs on four hits, capped off by a throwing error on a pickoff attempt by Barsotti and a two-out triple by Dylan Sinnickson to cut the score to 5-4 and put the Cardinal lead in jeopardy. With the tying run 90 feet away from scoring and a doubleheader looming the next day, Head Coach Mark Woodworth chose to save his bullpen and trust his most reliable starter. Barsotti got out of the inning and blanked the Panthers the rest of the way, boosting his record to 3-2 and matching Joseph pitch for pitch as both starters went the distance in a 5-4 Wesleyan victory.
Saturday’s slate of games would prove much less tenuous for the hosts as the Cardinals rode the momentum of Friday’s close win to drub the Panthers in both games. Wesleyan took advantage of timely hitting and three Middlebury errors to build an insurmountable lead in the early game. Chris Bonti ’13 ended up scoring unearned on a sac fly by Goodwin-Boyd in the second to give Wesleyan a 1-0 lead after the inning was extended by a fielding error by Panther second baseman Tyler Wark. The Cardinals really put Middlebury away in the third, batting around the order and scoring seven runs on just four hits. After Weiss led off with a walk and Meadow reached on an error, Joe Giaimo ’11 and Bonti knocked both in with consecutive RBI singles. David Skura ’12 then walked to load the bases, and following another single by Hoynes to drive in Giaimo, Goodwin-Boyd chased every runner home with a three-RBI-triple. When the damage was done, Wesleyan held an 8-0 lead. The Panthers would allow two more unearned runs in the fourth on a throwing error and a wild pitch. Wesleyan pitcher Brett Yarusi ’12 improved to 2-2 on the season, allowing one run on four hits scattered over six innings before Mike DeLalio ’15 pitched a perfect final frame to give the Cardinals a breezy 10-1 win in seven innings.
Wesleyan came out just as strong in the second half of the doubleheader and executed a similar formula, maintaining its strong pitching while picking up its run production in bunches rather than one scoring outburst. While Jeff Blout ’14 allowed leadoff hitter Thomas Driscoll to score after opening the game with a double, it would be the only hit Blout let up all day, and the 1-0 Panther lead would not last long. Wesleyan erased the lead and went up on top when the Cardinals led off the bottom of the first with four straight singles. Giaimo drove in two of the three Wesleyan runs that inning to put the Cardinals back up 3-1, and he picked up his third RBI of the game on a single in the third inning to bring home Cimino, increasing his team lead to 27 RBIs on the season.
Middlebury had yet to find an answer for the Cardinals and found itself employing its third pitcher of the game as Wesleyan entered the bottom of the fifth inning with a 6-1 lead. Hoynes led off with a walk, followed by another of the strings of hits that were Wesleyan’s bread and butter this past weekend. Three consecutive singles drove in two runs, and the Cardinals got one more run home to build the cushion to 9-1 on a double by Cimino, maintaining his team lead with a .427 batting average. Cimino would drive in the final Cardinal run on a single in the bottom of the seventh, at which point Sam Elias ’15 entered the game with a 10-1 lead. The top of the eighth was rocky for Wesleyan, however, as Middlebury tacked on two unearned runs following a throwing error by Hoynes and a wild pitch by Elias. The freshman pitcher was pulled after recording just one out, and Jimmy Hill ’14 quelled any fleeting hopes of a comeback by recording the final five outs to preserve a 10-3 victory to complete the Wesleyan sweep and to give Blout his first win of the season. His record now stands at 1-2.
The Cardinals find themselves riding a four-game winning streak and have won eight of their past nine, giving Wesleyan a 12-9 record on the year and a perfect 3-0 record in NESCAC West play. Wesleyan will host Albertus Magnus at Dresser Diamond on Tuesday, April 10th, before facing off against Little Three foe Williams this weekend in a home-and-home series.