A wild weekend of action resulted in the best possible outcome for a Wesleyan team on a roll. Baseball traveled to Amherst for the most important series of the year. On the line was the first seed in the NESCAC West, home-field advantage in the playoffs, and the Little Three championship. Both teams having taken their respective series against Williams, this slew of games became a winner-take-all affair with a host of different prizes up for grabs. When all was said and done, the Cardinals took home the series. Wes heads to the NESCAC playoffs for the first time as the top overall seed since the inception of the conference.
The Cardinals hosted the opener, taking to the well-trodden Dresser Diamond on Friday, April 26. Wes continued a tradition of excellence at home, improving to 8-4 at home, far better split stats than their 5-5 away record or even its 8-7 neutral-field mark. The game featured a dominant pitching performance by Nick Cooney ’15, who managed to hold the Lord Jeffs to six hits in a complete-game effort. He also had six strikeouts and four walks, allowing just one run over the nine innings. That was good enough for the Cardinals, as they scored two runs of their own, including a walk-off RBI single by Donnie Cimino ’15. Cimino and fellow sophomore Andrew Yin were catalysts yet again for the praise-worthy Cardinal offense, as they were each responsible for one of the two runs. Cimino went 3-4 from the plate and later scored on an RBI by Sam Goodwin-Boyd ’15 in the seventh to tie the game. Yin sparked the ninth-inning rally with a bunt single, stealing second and coming around to score on a Cimino single to pull off the comeback victory.
The series moved to Amherst on Saturday, April 27, when Wes would have to take at least one leg of the doubleheader in order to clinch the Little Three and NESCAC regular-season titles. Wesleyan came through with a 3-0 win as Jeff Blout ’14 and Sam Elias ’15 combined for a shutout, limiting the Lord Jeffs to just seven hits over as many innings. Seven of the nine Cardinal batters recorded a hit, while Goodwin-Boyd led the offense by going 2-3 with a double and a run scored from the cleanup spot. The Cardinals scored runs in the fourth and fifth innings, and from that point on the pitching was so good that the game was already won.
After the second win, the Cards had nothing more to prove. The series, conference, and Little Three were already won. This game was a necessary formality on their path to the playoffs. Even under those circumstances, the Cardinals still managed to put up a fight. The game came down to the wire as Wesleyan tied the game at five in the final frame, only to see Amherst walk off with the win in the bottom of the same inning. The outcome was largely irrelevant for Wes as Amherst won 6-5 to end the regular season.
When asked what their chances in the playoffs were, Chris Law ’14 said, “Great. There’s no other way to categorize it. We have proven all season long that we can beat any team. At this point we know that we can win, we just have to go out there and prove it to everyone else again and again.”
As the elation slowly fades, the task at hand remains. Though Law claimed that “the team isn’t afraid of anyone,” the playoffs are a peek at the best competition that the ’CAC has to offer. Success in the regular season allows entrance to the playoffs, but it does not ensure victory.
Wes will host Bowdoin—the number-two seed in the NESCAC East—in the first round of the tournament on Friday, May 10.