Amherst Sweep Drops Baseball Out of Contention
In the weeks leading up to the NESCAC Tournament, the Cardinals found themselves within striking distance of first-place Amherst as the Little Three rivals kicked off their three-game series, the final matches in Western division play for both teams. If the Cardinals could take at least two of the three games, they would surpass the Lord Jeffs and claim the West division title for 2012. However, if Wesleyan failed to pick up a pair of wins over the weekend, it was at risk of falling out of the NESCAC playoff picture altogether, as the second seed in the West was still up for grabs. The Cardinals gave a dominant Amherst team a long scare, but ultimately fell short, leaving their playoff hopes in the balance.
Traveling up to Amherst, Mass. last Friday to get the series started, Wesleyan looked to be the NESCAC powerhouse early on. Always the consistent bat in the middle of the order, grad student Joe Giaimo put Wesleyan on the board first, driving home Donnie Cimino ’15 with an RBI single in the top of the first inning. The Lord Jeffs, however, tacked on a run of their own in the bottom half to tie the score up 1-1. The Cardinals loaded the bases in the top of the third before singles by Alex Meadow ’12 and Cimino sent all three runners home. The visitors would only continue to pour it on. Cimino knocked in another run in the fourth, and a two-RBI single by Andrew Yin ’15 and two of the runs off Amherst errors in the top of the fifth gave Wesleyan a 9-1 advantage against the best team in the West.
But even with an eight-run edge, when the Lord Jeffs get rolling, there are very few teams that can slow them down. Amherst began chipping away at Cardinal ace Mike Barsotti ’12, capitalizing on a wild pitch and a passed ball in the bottom of the fifth to put three runs on the board. In the sixth, Barsotti loaded the bases and gave up an RBI single and a bases-clearing double before getting pulled after 5.2 innings and eight earned runs. Chris Law ’14 got the Cardinals out of the inning, but with only a 9-8 lead intact. There was nothing Law could do, however. The Lord Jeffs proved in the very next frame that Barsotti was not responsible for this comeback but merely a casualty to the Amherst offensive attack, which took advantage of two throwing errors by shortstop Kyle Weiss ’12 to record four more hits and three more runs, dropping Wesleyan behind for the first time all day with the score at 11-9. The Lord Jeff bullpen locked down the Cardinal lineup for the second half of the game to seal the deal. With Wesleyan’s early lead, Barsotti ended up getting a no decision, while Law’s record dropped to 4-1 for the year as the Cardinals returned to Middletown with a loss.
On Dresser Diamond for the first half of the Saturday doubleheader, Wesleyan got on the board first, as Giaimo doubled to lead off the bottom of the second, later scoring on a groundout by Sam Goodwin-Boyd ’15. Amherst got a run back off Brett Yarusi ’12 in the top of the third, however, and Yarusi let up a two-RBI triple before getting yanked in the next inning. Mike DeLalio ’15 came on in relief, letting in an inherited run for Yarusi and an unearned run of his own in 0.2 innings of work before Jimmy Hill ’14 came on to record the final out of the inning, and stop the bleeding with Wesleyan down 5-1.
Wesleyan was able to grab a couple of runs back in the bottom half of the fourth, as Cimino led off with a single, and both Giaimo and Chris Bonti ’13 were hit by pitches to load the bases. David Skura ’12 knocked in a run on a fielder’s choice, and Andrew Yin picked up an RBI of his own on a bunt single to cut the score to just a 5-3 deficit. That was as close as the Cardinals would get, though, as Hill was tagged for three runs in the fifth and two more unearned runs crossed with Nick Cooney ’15 on the mound in the sixth to extend the Amherst lead to 10-3. Amherst starter Bob Cook shut down the Wesleyan lineup the rest of the way as the Lord Jeffs locked up the West with their second win over the Cardinals. Yarusi fell to 3-4 on the year, and Wesleyan’s playoff hopes fell into dire straits.
True to form for the weekend, the Cardinals jumped out on top early in the second half of the doubleheader, with a two-run double off the bat of Giaimo powering Wesleyan to a 5-2 lead in the second inning. Unique to this final game of the series, the Cardinals dropped the ball in the field, as Wesleyan was charged with six errors in the Amherst comeback. Weiss and Goodwin-Boyd were both charged with errors in the fifth, leading to two Lord Jeff runs. Amherst took a 6-5 lead in the eighth on another Weiss throwing error. Following a two-run single off of Chase Levi ’14, the Lord Jeffs held an 8-5 lead going into the bottom of the eighth. The Cardinals were able to manufacture a run to cut the score to 8-6, but Weiss was charged with his fourth error of the day in the top of the ninth, and Amherst chalked up two more runs to extend the margin. Wesleyan went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, with the 10-6 loss completing the sweep.
Wesleyan dropped to 6-6 in the NESCAC West on the year, but Williams boosted its record to 7-5 in the division to wrest the final conference playoff spot away from the Cardinals. The team will finish its season next Saturday, May 5, in a doubleheader against Trinity in the final home games for its graduating seniors.