Baseball headed into its three-game series with Amherst this past weekend, needing two wins to clinch a spot in the NESCAC playoffs. They got exactly that, taking the first two games before dropping the third in a disappointing but ultimately irrelevant third contest. With the victories, Wesleyan clinched first place in the NESCAC West, setting up a first-round playoff tilt with NESCAC East runner-up Trinity. Wesleyan and Amherst sit atop the NESCAC West leaderboard at 7-5 each, but Wesleyan holds the tiebreaker with its 2-1 head-to-head advantage.
On Friday, the Cardinals traveled to Amherst for their fifth consecutive road contest. Nick Miceli ’17 was given the starting nod, and worked into the ninth inning to earn his sixth win of the season. Asher Young ’17 came in to record the last two outs, and was untouched to secure the 13-5 victory.
Marco Baratta ’16 kicked off the scoring in the top of the first, slashing a ground rule double that brought home Jordan Farber ’16 and Guy Davidson ’16. Amherst responded immediately to tie the game, but the Cardinals moved back ahead in the third on back-to-back blasts by Davidson and Farber.
After a few more tallies by each side, including a Baratta home run, the Red and Black headed into the ninth with a 6-4 advantage. By the end of their half of the frame, that lead had ballooned to an insurmountable 13-4. Highlights of the rally included singles from Baratta, Robby Harbison ’17, Ellis Schaefer ’17, Andrew Keith ’19, and Davidson, a double by Matt Jeye ’18, and Farber’s second home run of the day.
Miceli allowed one run in the ninth before Young shut the door to bring the final score to 13-5. Wesleyan allowed just seven hits while tallying 17 of their own. Farber had the most notable day on offense, scoring three runs on three hits with four RBIs, two homers, and a walk. Baratta also reached base four times, and Davidson made it safely five times.
Wesleyan won its playoff-clinching game in dramatic fashion, with Will O’Sullivan ’17 sending home Farber in extra frames for a walk-off victory. The home game was supposed to be seven innings, but was tied at three after seven and was decided in the bottom of the eighth. Peter Rantz ’16 threw all eight innings for his fifth and most important win of the year.
To do so, he had to survive a rocky first inning in which he surrendered three runs to Amherst’s potent offense. Wesleyan failed to get on the board until the fourth inning, when O’Sullivan drove home Jeye for the game’s first run. Later in the inning, Miceli doubled home a pair to tie the game at three.
Both teams threatened in the fifth, but neither side could score again in regulation, gifting the Cardinal fans with free baseball. Amherst put a man in scoring position in the top of the eighth, but Rantz worked out of the jam. Farber then doubled, and O’Sullivan drove a two-out, 1-1 pitch to right for the win. Baratta was intentionally walked in the previous plate appearance. The 4-3 victory gave Wesleyan the NESCAC West and a top seed in the upcoming conference playoffs.
Ethan Rode ’17 took the mound later in the day and was handed his second loss of the season. He gave up four runs in four innings on the way to an 8-1 loss. Davidson scored Wesleyan’s only run of the game on a single by Baratta. That single was one of just three Cardinal hits on the day, with Jeye and O’Sullivan also singling. Ryan Earle ’19 had another strong appearance in relief, and Stephen Howard ’18 was also solid. Ultimately, this result was inconsequential in playoff seeding.
Michael McCaffrey ’19 commented on the satisfaction of qualifying for the playoffs against a Little Three rival.
“Our season was on the line,” McCaffrey said. “We went from not being in the playoffs to winning the division in one weekend. It’s especially satisfying to do it against Amherst.”
This week, the team travels to Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Tuesday and Western Connecticut State University on Wednesday for non-conference playoff tune-ups. Senior day is Saturday, when the Cardinals host Trinity, an important litmus test as the Bantams will also be their first round opponent in the playoffs. Wesleyan will honor seniors Davidson, Baratta, Wilson Flower, Eric Jones, Rantz, and Farber in their last regular season game on Dresser Diamond.