The Cards swung into their conference season this past Sunday with a doubleheader against Hamilton. The day started out easy for the Red and Black. With excellent pitching from Mike McCaffrey ’19, Wes shut down Hamilton 4-0 in a crisp seven innings. The Blue and White came back strong, however, managing to break through the Birds’ strong defense. The teams battled long into the afternoon on Andrus, carrying through the ninth tied at 9-9. In the bottom of the eleventh, the Cards’ Ryan Earle ’19 stepped to the plate to drive a liner into centerfield, clinching Wes’ second win of the day with a walkoff RBI. Unfortunately, the Cards struggled to carry this momentum into their non-conference away match against Johnson & Wales University on Wednesday, stranding a man in the top of the ninth and losing 4-3. The team will face Williams this weekend, first playing away on Friday and then returning to Andrus for a doubleheader against the rival Ephs on Saturday.

This week of excitement comes after the team’s long trip to the Southwest over spring break. The Cards fared well under the sun, going 9-3 as they traveled from Arizona up through California. The series of games ultimately helped to solidify the team’s lineup and pitchers heading into the ’CAC.

This preparation certainly showed itself in Sunday’s first match. Will O’Sullivan ’17 proved murderous at the plate in this game, following a run in the third inning and three-run RBI double in the sixth. On the mound again was McCaffrey, who struck out seven that game (marking 23 for the season) and let up only three hits. Earle came out to pitch for the last three batters to maintain the shutout.

Pitcher Asher Young ’17 saw the wins as only the tip of the team’s great potential this season.

“Mike McCaffrey is a stud and he came up huge for us in that first game, totally shutting them down,” said Young. “We didn’t bring our cleanest performance as a team in either game, but our bench was loud and our hitters did a great job of putting some pressure on their defense and hitting in clutch situations. In a way, it’s a confidence boost winning both games when you know you weren’t playing your best. We know how good we can be, but it’s also clear how much room we have to improve, and that’s exciting.”

For his stellar performance over the weekend, McCaffrey earned NESCAC Pitcher of the Week. McCaffrey emphasized the team’s depth in helping sweep the doubleheader.

“Sunday was a pair of good team wins where we had a lot of guys contributing in different roles,” said McCaffrey. “That was really awesome to see because moving forward you never know who is going to have to step up in order for us to be successful.”

Nick Miceli ’17 opened the second game against Hamilton on Sunday. Miceli struck out even more than McCaffrey with nine Ks over six innings, but he did allow three runs from only five hits. Ethan Rode ’17 came to relief in the sixth and pitched exceptionally well, with Hamilton only scoring one unearned run for the remainder of the game, clearing the way for Earle’s walkoff in the 11th.

Head coach Mark Woodworth ’94 sees the team’s pitching depth as essential to make up for the poorer performance at the plate.

“Our pitching has been outstanding, with great performances against Hamilton,” said Woodworth. “Against Johnson & Wales, Stephen Howard [’18] and Dylan Millhouse [’18] kept us in the game, allowing us to have a shot down to the last out.”

Against Johnson & Wales University on Wednesday, the Cards took a quick lead in the top of the first, scoring two off a passed ball and an RBI double by Miceli. Johnson & Wales fired right back, though, driving in two runs at the bottom of the first. The innings teetered on and each team plated another run. In the bottom of the seventh, Johnson & Wales cracked an RBI single that would ultimately seal the 4-3 win.

“We’ve been on a great run this season, and the energy and commitment of the team to do great things has been amazing,” Woodworth said. “While we didn’t quite do the job against Johnson & Wales, we are looking ahead to our next practices and games.”

The Cards will face a ready Williams this weekend as the Little Three rival is coming fresh off a three-game sweep against Middlebury. Following Williams, the Cards will play away at Salve Regina University and Coast Guard Academy on Tuesday, April 11 and Wednesday, April 12, respectively.

“We have shown steady improvement every day since we started in Arizona, and the guys are focused on continuing that going forward,” Woodworth said. “They have been incredibly hard workers, and that is certain to keep yielding dividends.”

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