Shannon Welch/Staff Photographer

Battling brisk weather on Dresser Diamond last weekend, the Wesleyan baseball team (14-5, 3-0 NESCAC) swept Middlebury (2-11, 0-6 NESCAC) to open up NESCAC West play, extending its winning streak to six games.

Nick Cooney ’15 (3-1, 3.34 ERA) picked up the win with a strong series-opening start (7.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO) in a 7-1 Wesleyan victory on April 4 against the Panthers.

In the top of the second, the Cards were able to turn a miscue into a big play.  The Panthers had already pushed across a run and were threatening for more with runners on the corners and two outs. After a wild pitch, catcher Eric Jones ’16 fired to Cooney covering home and nailed the runner trying to score. It was just the momentum shift the Cardinals needed.

After tying the game with an unearned run in the third, Wesleyan took the lead for good in the fourth after RBIs from Ellis Schaefer ’17 and Robby Harbison ’17. The freshmen have been impressive thus far, batting .356 and .370, respectively.

Cooney continued cruising through the Middlebury lineup until he was pulled with one out in the eighth. Sam Elias ’15 got the final five outs, allowing only one hit, no runs, and striking out three.

“He pitched really well,” Head Coach Mark Woodworth said about Cooney. “I’m really happy for him because we asked for him to open up NESCAC league play and be the guy, at home, Friday start, and he pitched great. He threw strikes and we made it easy for him by getting a bunch of runs.”

“It’s a huge win,” Cooney said after the opener. “NESCAC games are big, so hopefully we can come back tomorrow and take the first one, and then focus on the second one.”

The Cardinals did exactly as Cooney hoped on April 5, taking both games of a Saturday doubleheader to complete the sweep of the Panthers.

Once again, it was the pitching that led the Cardinals to a 1-0 victory in the first game. This time, it was Jeff Blout ’14 (3-0, 5.11) spinning a gem. He went the distance for a seven-inning complete game shutout.

Wesleyan managed only one run in the contest, which came courtesy of a Sam Goodwin-Boyd ’15 sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth, but this would be all that Blout needed. The big senior right-hander scattered four hits, struck out six, and walked only one.

“It felt good,” Blout said of his performance. “My fastball was running inside, which was really nice for me. And I was able to throw a curveball over, so they were having a hard time adjusting. Just wanted to really attack them. We had a good team effort. We got the job done.”

In the final game of the series, Wesleyan pulled out an exciting 4-3 walk-off win on a perfectly executed, bases-loaded, suicide-squeeze bunt by Nick Miceli ’17.

Gavin Pittore ’16 (3-0, 6.38 ERA) started the game for the Cards and kept with the series theme of strong pitching performances, giving up only one run and striking out six over six innings. Pittore painted the outside corner with a sizzling fastball most of the afternoon and left in line for a win with Wesleyan leading 2-1 after six innings.

Guy Davidson ’16 drove in a run for the Cards in the bottom of the seventh with his team-leading tenth double of the season to push Wesleyan’s lead to 3-1. This would prove to be a crucial insurance run, as the Panthers plated two runs against Peter Rantz ’16 to tie the score in the top of the eighth.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the eighth, Woodworth turned to Jimmy Hill ’14 to put out the fire. The senior came up clutch, retiring the only batter he faced in the inning to keep the score tied.

“You obviously think about the situation, but you can’t be looking ahead,” Hill said about the bases-loaded jam. “You can’t be looking at the scoreboard. When you get on the mound, your only goal is to get this one guy out and execute this pitch.”

After another scoreless inning from Hill, Wesleyan loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth with a single and two walks, setting up the dramatics with one out for Miceli.

“It was a curveball,” Miceli said about the pitch he bunted. “Pretty lucky that he threw a curveball. Curveballs are easier to bunt down, so that helped me out a lot. I was lucky enough to get it a little down the third base line, not right at the pitcher, so it worked out.”

“I always tell the team, the series is going to be decided in the 25th inning, and I told them that yesterday, and sure enough, it was,” Woodworth said after the sweep. “I’m really proud of them. Well-deserved, well-earned sweep. I’m really psyched for these guys. That’s called team chemistry and playing as a team.”

The Cardinals will try to keep the chemistry going on Wednesday, April 6 at home against Western Connecticut State (9-6), as they look to extend their six-game winning streak.

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