The baseball team (24-10, 10-2 NESCAC) capped its 2014 regular season with a doubleheader split on Dresser Diamond against Trinity on Saturday, May 3. Trinity toppled Wesleyan 4-2 in the first game, but the Cardinals bounced back in the second, besting the Bantams 8-0. Wesleyan then dropped its season finale 7-3 at Eastern Connecticut State on Sunday, May 4.
Wesleyan’s 24-10 regular-season record is its best finish under Head Baseball Coach Mark Woodworth ’94, who took over as head coach in 2002, and its highest regular-season win percentage (.706) since 1994, when it went 24-6 (.800). That season, the Cardinals and shortstop Woodworth ended up losing to Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the Division III National Championship Game.
Nick Cooney ’15 (5-2, 3.65 ERA) took the mound for the Cards in the first game of the Trinity doubleheader. The junior southpaw battled without his best stuff, tossing five 2/3 innings. Cooney relinquished six hits and four runs while walking four and striking out seven.
The Cardinal bats were stifled most of the game, but the Birds managed to make things interesting in the bottom of the eighth. Trailing 4-1, Wesleyan had the bases loaded with no outs when Sam Goodwin-Boyd ’15 hit a deep drive to left that fell just short of the fence for a sacrifice fly.
It was a case of close but not quite, as the Cards couldn’t manage anymore runs and fell 4-2. The loss was the third in a row for Wesleyan, its first losing streak of the season.
In addition to Gavin Pittore ’16 (5-1, 3.47 ERA) having his best start of the season, the Cardinal bats rebounded in a big way to take the second game of the doubleheader, putting an end to the losing streak.
Captain Donnie Cimino ’15 started the scoring all on his own in the fourth. The junior center fielder singled, stole second and third, and then forced a balk by the Bantam’s pitcher to give Wesleyan a 1-0 lead.
“He was trying to quick-pitch, and he just didn’t come set,” Cimino said about the balk. “And I think I was in his head a little bit at second, and then he was a little rattled. And then we got the first run across, and we just started rolling.”
Wesleyan’s big inning came in the bottom of the fifth. After Ben Hoynes ’15 reached on an error by the Bantam’s shortstop, Ellis Schaefer ’17 hit a butcher-boy single past Trinity’s drawn-in third baseman, who was expecting a bunt.
“That’s actually a play we have,” Schaefer said. “You pretend to bunt. And then hopefully they come in, and then you swing. It felt pretty good. It’s exactly what I was trying to do.”
The play seemed to be a momentum shift, as the Cardinals went on to score four runs in the inning on RBIs from Andrew Yin ’15 and Cimino. Cimino showed just how dangerous he is on the bases by scoring all the way from second base on a wild pitch to push Wesleyan’s lead to 5-0.
“You could tell that they were rattled,” Cimino said. “[Trinity’s pitcher] put his head down after he threw the ball, and I was just going to take it right away.”
The lead was more than enough for Pittore, who brought some of his most electric stuff. The sophomore right-hander threw 7.1 shutout innings, allowing only four hits and striking out four.
“I think I just got in a zone out there,” Pittore said. “I felt really comfortable on the mound. I’ve been changing my windup a little bit, so that felt great out there. I had all three pitches working for the most part. It’s hard to beat when you have all those working, so it was good.”
Things got a little interesting after Captain Jimmy Hill ’14 (2-0, 0.66 ERA) was called for a balk in the eighth, putting Trinity runners at second and third with only one out.
“I don’t think so,” Hill said when asked if he thought he had balked. “The umpire made a call. You just kind of roll with the punches. Deal with it.”
The senior dealt with it and did what he has done all season, getting out of the jam to preserve the big lead and help give the Cardinals an 8-0 victory on Senior Day.
“A lot of it comes with preparation,” Hill said about his success this season. “You come to the field every day and you just prepare like you’re going to be the guy out of the pen.”
When Hill was asked if it felt good to take a win home on Senior Day, you could sense the nostalgia in his voice.
“Absolutely,” Hill said. “It’s a little crazy that this is my last time playing on this field. So, it is what it is. It’s nice to come out with a win, though.”
Woodworth recognized the terrific careers of the three senior captains: Hill, Jeff Blout, and Chris Law.
“They have this legacy now of two Little Threes and being the top seed in the NESCAC tournament, and that is a credit to them,” Woodworth said. “They have been great to coach. They’ve been standouts on the field. They’ve been standout leaders. And I’m so super proud of them.”
Next up for Wesleyan is the NESCAC tournament, which starts on Friday, May 9 at Tufts. The Cardinals, who earned the top seed in the West, will take on Bates (19-15, 7-5 NESCAC), the second seed from the East.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” Woodworth said. “And we’ll just keep playing until they tell us to stop playing.”
Wesleyan has never won a NESCAC tournament. The winner will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.
“We got a big week of practice ahead of us,” Cimino said. “We’re just excited to be where we’re at right now. And we’ll see how far we can go.”