In a game that began with sun and ended in rain, the baseball team’s pitching shined throughout, as four Cardinal hurlers combined to throw a three-hit shutout in a 3-0 win against the Coast Guard Academy (13-19) on Tuesday, April 22 at Dresser Diamond.
Wesleyan (21-6, 8-1 NESCAC) has now won 13 of its last 14 games. The Cardinals rank first in the NESCAC in batting average (.321), third in fielding percentage (.965), and own a 1.27 team ERA in their last 14 games.
Peter Rantz ’16 (2-1, 3.04 ERA) got the start for the Cards and had it working from the get-go. The right-hander needed only seven pitches to strike out the first two batters he faced and pitched a scoreless top half of the first inning.
In the bottom half of the frame, Ellis Schaefer ’17 got Wesleyan started with a one-out double. Donnie Cimino ’15, whose father threw the team batting practice before the game, followed with a double of his own and ripped a frozen rope into the left center field gap for an RBI to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
“I hadn’t hit a double up north yet,” Cimino said. “I’ve been working on it and got a pitch I could hit. It was a low fastball. I hit low pitches well and it was right there. Just connected good on it.”
Rantz found himself in a jam in the top of the third, with runners on second and third and only one out. He managed to get out of the inning unscathed, however, thanks to a great play by third baseman Ben Hoynes ’15. The Bears’ batter hit it hard to Hoynes’ left, but he made a nice stab and fired home without hesitation to nail the runner trying to score. Hoynes had just entered the game that inning as a defensive replacement for Guy Davidson ’16, who left the game with a bout of pink eye.
“I was playing back, so anything [hit] hard at me, I’m looking to go home,” Hoynes said. “If it’s hit softly, I just go to first. But it was hit hard right at me. So I looked up [at the runner], and it was an easy play, just took my time, and threw a strike to home.”
In the bottom of the third, Wesleyan extended its lead to 2-0 thanks to another RBI from Cimino, who hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Andrew Yin ’15. Yin had led off the inning with his team-leading 40th hit of the season. The Cardinals tacked on one more run in the bottom of the fourth, courtesy of a sacrifice fly by Schaefer, to cap their scoring at 3-0.
The Cards’ arms handled it from there, with Chris Law ’14, Jimmy Hill ’14, and Sam Goodwin-Boyd ’15 combining to throw the final six innings without surrendering a hit.
The win came without the hot-hitting Robby Harbison ’17, who was sick. Matt Sorkin ’15, his replacement at DH, made his first start of the season and demonstrated the extraordinary depth of this Wesleyan team, going two-for-two with a double and two walks.
“I was really excited going into it,” Sorkin said. “I had a lot of injuries at the beginning of the season, so I didn’t get to do what I wanted to help the team out. But getting a start today, getting to play at home, it was just a lot of fun.”
In a game that easily could have been overlooked with a crucial series coming up against Amherst this weekend, Wesleyan remained focused and put its tough loss against Hamilton behind them.
“The effort was good,” said Head Baseball Coach Mark Woodworth. “We were a little banged up. A bunch of guys were sick. After breaking our winning streak, we needed to get right back on it with a clean, solid game. We did that. We need to go back at it tomorrow. Get better.”
Wesleyan will now look forward to its biggest series of the season this weekend against Little Three rival Amherst (21-5, 7-1 NESCAC). The two will clash in Amherst on Friday, April 25 and return to Middletown on Saturday, April 26 for a doubleheader. The winner of the series will take the Little Three title and the top seed in the West division.
“We’re really excited,” Yin said. “Last year we took two out of three, and this year, going into it, we expect to definitely be able to do the same or exceed that. It’s big.”
Woodworth expects his players to take it one pitch at a time and expressed confidence in his team heading into the showdown.
“Let’s win the first pitch,” Woodworth said to the team. “Whether we win or lose the first pitch, let’s go try and win the next pitch. And it doesn’t matter who we’re playing because the process for us to be successful has nothing to do with the other team. It has to do with us. And if we do that, we can beat anybody in the country.”