Bears, and Continentals, and Wildcats, oh my! With three formidable foes this past week, the Cardinals baseball team lost their first two NESCAC match-ups of the season but won their three remaining games to hold onto their second-place ranking.
The Cardinals started off their recent string of games with an exciting 13-12 victory over the Coast Guard Academy Bears. Though the Bears scored the first two runs of the game, Wesleyan did not let their early deficit scare them. The Cards went on to score 10 runs in the next four innings and led 10-5 at the end of the sixth. The Bears looked to regain their lead with a five-run seventh inning to tie the game at 10.
Nick Valicenti ’19 scored an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh to give the Cards a one-run edge, but the Bears scored off a pass ball and a sacrifice fly to center field in the top of eighth to swing the lead in their favor. Wesleyan was able to do just enough to preserve their victory in the bottom of the eighth, as Andrew Cappitelli ’20 hit a single to center field to bring home two more runs, giving Wes the 13-12 lead they would win the game with.
The Red Birds tallied 13 total hits, including three home runs. Ryan Earle ’19 started off the high scoring game with a three-run blast in the third, while Valicenti and Andrew Kauf ’20 each hit their first homers of their college careers. Valicenti powered a solo shot in the fourth, and Kauf recorded a three-run homer in the sixth.
Earle also recorded his fourth save of the season, holding off Coast Guard’s late comeback attempt by striking out the side in the ninth.
Next, the team traveled to Clinton, N.Y., to face the Hamilton Continentals in a three-game series. The Cardinals lost the first two games, 3-2 and then 5-1, before taking the third game, 9-4.
The first game was extremely close, as both teams scored twice in the fourth inning, and it was not until the bottom of the eighth when Hamilton would score again, giving Hamilton the one-run edge they needed to win.
The next two games were played in a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon. Though both teams were held scoreless for the first three innings in the second game of the series, Hamilton came out swinging in the fourth and fifth innings, hitting two doubles and a triple to score a total of five runs. Cappitelli hit an RBI single in the top of the sixth to save the Cardinals from being shut out, but Hamilton pitching held the Cards to only three hits the entire game, which was not nearly enough to overcome Hamilton’s five runs.
The Cardinals rebounded from their first two NESCAC losses of the season with a 9-4 victory later that afternoon. Alec Olmstead ’20 earned the win from the mound, giving up four hits and recording nine strikeouts. The Cards seemed to find what was missing in their earlier game, scoring often and early in the second match-up of the day. Wesleyan scored eight runs in the first three innings, including RBIs from two doubles from Capitelli and one from Matt Jeye ’18.
Hamilton countered with two runs in the bottom of the third, once in fifth with a steal home, and once more in the seventh, but the Hamilton lineup was unable to convert enough of their hits into runs. With 11 men left on base throughout the game, Wesleyan pitching staved off a productive Hamilton offense.
Most recently, the Cardinals recorded a 17-6 victory over the Johnson and Wales Wildcats at home. The game was rescheduled from earlier this month, and the Cards wasted no more time showing who was the superior team. Wesleyan scored five runs in the third inning and one more in the fourth. Johnson and Wales fought back with a five run inning of their own to make the score 6-5. The Cards were not satisfied with their one-run margin, so they tallied six runs in the bottom of the fifth and five more in the sixth to lead to the final score of 17-6.
With 15 hits total, the Cardinals clearly had little trouble hitting the ball. Sam Phipps ’21 also seemed to have little trouble with his first collegiate start, totaling four strikeouts in the first four innings of his outing. His lack of experience on the Dresser Diamond mound seemed to get the better of him in the fifth, as Johnson and Wales went on to score five runs, but he was still able to pull away with a win.
Having overcome several challenges and deficits this past week, it is clear that the team has followed Coach Mark Woodworth’s advice.
“We try to focus on each pitch as a singular event, and then move on to the next pitch,” he said. “That includes striving to be our best selves against every opponent, regardless of who they are.”
Though the unpredictable and often unfavorable spring weather has made this baseball season difficult, the Dirty Birds have fought through the rain and snow and are currently ranked second in the NESCAC, just behind Amherst. They will have a chance to challenge the Mammoths in a three-game series this weekend, something Woodworth is looking forward to.
“The Little Three games always feature such intensity, and the teams we’ve had that embrace that always shine under that spotlight,” said Woodworth.
The excitement starts on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. and finishes with a doubleheader on Saturday, with games at 1 and 4 p.m. Rumor has it the sun will come out to watch this one.
Rose Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.