Baseball took two out of three games from conference rival Hamilton last weekend, proving its legitimacy as a contender in the NESCAC West. The Cardinals currently sit second in the division with a conference record of 5-4, second to 6-3 Amherst. Meanwhile, Tufts sits atop the NESCAC East with a record of 8-0, with 7-5 Trinity set to secure the East’s other playoff spot.
Wesleyan has just three divisional games remaining, all against Amherst, and can clinch a spot in the NESCAC tournament with a win in two of those games. Alternatively, it needs to win just one game if Williams loses two of three to Hamilton this weekend. To reach the NESCAC tournament, it must place at least second in the West. Amherst and 6-6 Middlebury represent the Cardinals’ biggest threat to doing so, but Williams could also sneak into the playoffs.
“[We’re] in control of our own destiny, and that’s really all we can ask for,” said Asher Young ’17.
Young has been an integral part of Wesleyan’s newly stifling bullpen.
The past weekend’s trip to Clinton, N.Y. was crucial in Wesleyan’s quest for a berth. It did not, however, get off to an auspicious start, as Red and Black bats struggled to rattle Hamilton ace Cole Dreyfuss in a 5-2 loss. Dreyfuss and Peter Rantz ’16 of Wesleyan each threw a complete game in the seven-inning contest, but Hamilton made more of its opportunities.
In the bottom of the second, Will O’Sullivan ’17 tied the game at one with his first and only hit of the day. Later in the inning, Marco Baratta ’16 came around to score on a fielder’s choice to give Wesleyan what would be a short-lived 2-1 lead. Hamilton third baseman Dean Rosenberg went yard in the bottom of the frame to tie the game back up. The Continentals added another run in the fourth and two more in the sixth to set the final score at 5-2.
Dreyfuss improved to 5-1 on the season with the win. Rantz, meanwhile, dropped to 4-3 in one of his weaker starts. Wesleyan’s five hits were its smallest total of the season. Typical stalwarts Andrew Keith ’19, Guy Davidson ’16, Jordan Farber ’16, and Matt Jeye ’18 combined to go 0-14 with five strikeouts at the leadoff through cleanup spots in the lineup. Baratta’s second-inning double was also Wesleyan’s only extra-base hit of the day.
Later in the day, workhorse Nick Miceli ’17 took to the mound in a nine-inning contest. While Miceli couldn’t secure what would have been his sixth win of the season, the Redbirds were still able to grind out a tight 6-4 victory in extra frames. Ryan Earle ’19, who threw the 9th and 10th innings in relief of Miceli, picked up the first win of his collegiate career.
Miceli and opposing starter Dan DePaoli each stayed untouched through three innings. In the top of the fourth, scoring commenced with a bases-loaded walk by Danny Rose ’19. Ellis Schaefer ’17 put another across with a sac fly to center, scoring Baratta. Hamilton got on the board in the bottom of the fifth, opening up a 3-2 lead on a three-run blast by Ryan Wolfsberg. Two innings later, Jeye drove home Eric Jones ’16 to tie the game at three.
Hamilton put another on the board in the bottom of the seventh, where the score held until Keith scored in the top of the ninth on a Farber single. The Cardinals almost put another across, but O’Sullivan bounced into a double play to end the inning. Earle came in for the bottom of the ninth, where he needed just three batters to send the game to extras.
In the 10th, AJ Ferrara ’18 came in to hit for Rose and quickly slashed a single to right field. With one out, Jones sent an offering from first-year reliever Brett Sandford over the left field wall. Earle set down the side in order to secure the split of the doubleheader.
Ethan Rode ’17 got the starting nod, but was roughed up in the first inning and was removed after walking home a run in the fourth. With his team trailing 4-3, Earle entered the game and quickly worked out of the bases-loaded jam.
In the subsequent half-inning, Farber doubled home a run and was immediately sent home himself on a Jeye round-tripper. In the sixth, the Cardinals struck for six more, highlighted by Jones’ second homer in as many days. With Earle working four and two-thirds strong innings and potent offense, Wesleyan coasted to a 15-6 victory.
Earle picked up his second win of the weekend, allowing two runs in about half a game of work. Wilson Flower ’16 came in and threw a scoreless ninth to affirm the inevitable win. Farber, Jeye, Jones, and O’Sullivan led the charge in one of the team’s most impressive offensive displays of the season, combining for 4 homers, 8 hits, 3 walks, and 11 RBIs.
The upcoming weekend’s clashes with Amherst are undoubtedly the most important games remaining on the Redbirds’ schedule, but Jones says that the team is paying equal attention to each remaining contest, starting with a mid-week tilt against Wheaton College.
“[We] just have to take things game by game,” Jones said. “We have to take care of Wheaton before thinking about Amherst. That will prevent us from getting overwhelmed and trying to do too much in each game.”
Rantz is the likely starter for Friday’s tilt at Amherst. The teams then travel back to Middletown for a Saturday doubleheader where Miceli is set to work the seven-inning contest, while Rode is in line for the nightcap.
“Nick’s been pitching great,” Young said.
He also detailed what the team needed to accomplish over the next three weeks to adequately prepare for the NESCAC Championships.
“As a team we’re really focused on the processes we have set in place already,” Young said. “Following our hitting, pitching, and fielding plans we’ve set up has led to a lot of success, and we struggle when we get away from our fundamentals there. Most important is the Amherst series coming up though because we need to win two games to guarantee a playoff spot. We really started to gel at the end of the weekend though, so if we continue like that, we’re in a good spot. As a pitching staff we’re mainly working on getting ahead in counts and executing our pitches when we’re up with two strikes. We’ve given up way too many hits when we’re up 0-2 or 1-2, so just executing in those counts is really important.”
Calling the Amherst series important may be an understatement. The upcoming weekend will decide whether Wesleyan will contend for its third consecutive NESCAC championship, so the athletes will be fully dedicating their weekend to topping Amherst while also keeping an eye on the results of the Hamilton-Williams series.