Baseball Bounces Back, Takes Hamilton to Task in Weekend Series
In a season full of surges and slumps for Wesleyan baseball, the Cardinals entered this weekend in need of another string of victories. After dropping three straight to Williams and another to MIT up in Cambridge, Wesleyan did get one back against Coast Guard with a 15-7 win at home last Wednesday. But the real task loomed ahead in Clinton, N.Y., where the Cardinals traveled this past weekend to take on the Hamilton Continentals in a three-game series, hoping to keep pace with Amherst for the division lead in the NESCAC West.
Pitcher Mike Barsotti ’12 carried his team in the Friday series opener, keeping the Cardinals competitive even when the bats weren’t producing. Wesleyan did jump to an early lead in the second inning, by virtue of a throwing error by Hamilton shortstop Colin Henneberger on a grounder by Kyle Weiss ’12. Chris Bonti ’13 crossed home with the unearned run, and Wesleyan was up on top with a 1-0 lead. With a two-hit shutout going through six innings, it looked as though the narrow margin might hold up for the Cardinals, but Barsotti let up a string of three hits in the bottom of the seventh, resulting in two Hamilton runs that put Wesleyan down by one with two frames left to play.
With their backs against the wall, the Cardinals immediately responded in the top of the eighth. Joe Giaimo (grad) and David Skura ’12 started things off with back-to-back singles before Jimmy Hill ’14 entered the game as a pinch runner for Skura. After a double steal put the runners on second and third, Sam Goodwin-Boyd ’15 slapped a single into right-field to drive in Giaimo and tie the game up 2-2. The very next batter, Andrew Yin ’15, dropped down a suicide squeeze that allowed Hill to score, putting Wesleyan back in the driver’s seat with a 3-2 lead.
Rather than fall back on its pitching and defense to preserve the win, the Wesleyan lineup kept at it in the top of the ninth to put the game out of reach. Weiss led off with a single, Alex Meadow ’12 walked, and Donnie Cimino ’15 reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases with no one out as Giaimo stepped to the plate. The fifth-year Cardinal delivered with a single up the middle to break the game open, driving in two to put Wesleyan up three on Hamilton. Cimino went on to score on a throwing error on as he and Giaimo attempted another double steal, and Giaimo crossed home on a single by Bonti to give Wesleyan a 7-2 edge that would hold up as the final score. Barsotti turned in a perfect ninth inning to go the distance in the complete game win, improving his record to 4-3 in the process.
On Saturday, Wesleyan found itself in the opposite situation, as Hamilton spotted the Cardinals a nice cushion early on before making them cling to the lead in the final innings. Weiss got things started in the first with a leadoff double, then Cimino singled him home before stealing second and moving up to third on a wild pitch. After Giaimo knocked Cimino home, the Cardinals had jumped out to an early 2-0 edge. The tandem of Cimino and Giaimo powered the Wesleyan offense in Saturday’s first game, as the frosh singled and the grad student ground-rule doubled to set Skura up to drive them both home with a single. Goodwin-Boyd knocked in Skura, the next batter up, to bring the score to 5-0 in favor of the Cardinals.
Hamilton was able to tack on a run on a wild pitch by Brett Yarusi ’12 in the bottom of the third, but the juggernaut Wesleyan offense kept humming into the fourth inning, aided by Hamilton’s pitching and defensive woes. Another Henneberger error allowed Weiss to reach first, and Hamilton’s Ryan Crawford hit Meadow with a pitch to put two runners on with no outs for Giaimo. The heart of Wesleyan’s lineup came through with a three-run shot to left-centerfield, putting the Cardinals up 8-1 in the top of the fourth inning.
Wesleyan had the lead safely in hand, but Hamilton was not going to roll over without a fight. Crawford, who allowed all eight Wesleyan runs on the game, locked it down and shut out the Cardinals the rest of the way, while Yarusi was tagged for two more runs and Jimmy Hill allowed another two in relief before Sam Elias ’15 came in to record the final five outs of the game to ensure the 8-5 win for Wesleyan. Yarusi pitched 4.2 innings of the seven-inning game to improve his record back to the .500 mark on the year at 3-3.
The Cardinals responded to Hamilton’s late-game charge in the first half of the doubleheader by pouring it on in the second, building momentum early on before blowing out their hosts late. Jeff Blout ’14 allowed just one hit heading into the top of the fourth to maintain a 1-0 Wesleyan lead, before Bonti smacked his third homer of the year to tack on two more runs. With the Cardinals adding on runs in the fifth and sixth innings as well, Blout exited after seven innings with a two-hit shutout and a 5-0 Wesleyan lead. Singles by Bonti and Goodwin-Boyd and a double by Giaimo powered a five-run eighth inning, and Giaimo homered again in a three-run ninth to drive in his fifth RBI on the day on his fourth home run of the year. Chris Law ’14 pitched the final two innings of relief, letting up one run, and Blout picked up his second win on the year as Wesleyan walked away with a 13-1 win.
Following the weekend sweep, Wesleyan stands at 17-13 on the year and has bounced back up to three games over .500 in NESCAC West play at 6-3. The Cardinals will play nonconference games on the road this week against Southern Vermont and Eastern Connecticut before facing off against the division-leading Amherst. After dropping two of three to Middlebury, the Lord Jeffs now stand at 7-2 in division, with the Cardinals just one game behind and threatening for the NESCAC West crown.