The Beat Goes On: Football Weekend Preview 9/23

Week Two features several games that could go either way, making for an exciting week of football. The schedulers continue their support of the Williams resurgence, giving the Ephs another game against the lower tier of the league. Hamilton gets another chance for a signature win, taking on the Mammoths in the close runner up for GAME OF THE WEEK. And the winner of that race, Tufts @ Wesleyan, promises to be a terrific matchup featuring two rivals who played in hard fought matchups in Week One.

Middlebury (1-0) @ Bowdoin (0-1)

Bobby Ritter
Bobby Ritter ’19 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

The Panthers looked like the Patriots for the first three quarters of their opener against Wesleyan, and then the Browns for the fourth quarter. They led the Cardinals 30-13 with 7 minutes left, then surrendered two touchdowns in a four minute span before a game saving pick by Bobby Ritter ’20 ended the comeback. For Middlebury, the first three quarters should be the biggest takeaway. They made an elite defense look tired, as Jared Lebowitz ’18 spread the wealth between several receivers before Conrado Banky ’19 got involved at the end. And defensively, they held Wesleyan in check before running out of gas. They were particularly effective in stopping the run, as Defensive Player of the Week Wesley Becton ’18 put up 11 tackles and forced two fumbles. Middlebury has weapons on both sides of the ball, and should get better at playing all four quarters as the season goes along.

Bowdoin fell victim to Williams’ youthful energy, losing 28-14 in a game that wasn’t even that close. The Polar Bears struggled on offense, only gaining 220 yards total for the entire game. They did show signs of life on defense, with LB Latif Armiyaw ’20 spending most of the day in the Williams backfield, but the offense simply couldn’t do enough to keep them off the field. This won’t get better against the Panthers.

Predicted Score: Middlebury 38, Bowdoin 6

Williams (1-0) @ Colby (0-1)

Colby had the misfortune of running into Trinity in Week One, so it’s hard to get a read on how the Mules look this season. However, they scored 0 points against the Bantams, so it’s safe to say that the offense could stand to improve. Luckily, Williams’ defense is certainly not on par with Trinity’s. Look for Colby to try to establish RB Nate Richam ’18 and the running game early and often against the Ephs, who, being a young team, might struggle with a long road trip.

This picture, Frank Stola ’21 running away from a defender, basically sums up Williams’ week one match up with Bowdoin.
(Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Williams put on a terrific offensive display against Bowdoin, thanks almost entirely to a pair of first years. QB Bobby Maimeron ’21 threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns, and 168 of those yards, as well as both touchdowns, were to receiver Frank Stola ’21. Of course, this is a blessing and a curse for the Ephs. They have a bonafide weapon now, but Colby knows exactly who to focus on. They will focus their solid secondary, and particularly DB Don Vivian ’18, on Stola. This will be a test for these two phenoms, and I think they pass it.

Predicted Score: Williams 21, Colby 9

Amherst (1-0) @ Hamilton (0-1)

Both teams looked great in their season openers, with Amherst slaughtering Bates 41-17 while Hamilton narrowly lost to Trinity, 35-28 in overtime. Hamilton receiver Joe Schmidt won offensive player of the week honors after recording eight receptions for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Linebacker Tyler Hudson shared the defensive player of the week honors with Middlebury’s Wesley Becton. Hamilton sported the top three tacklers in week one with Cole Burchill and Colby Jones recording 13 and 11 tackles respectively. The Amherst Mammoths may not have any league leaders, but Ollie Eberth’s 210 passing yards and Andrew Sommer’s 10 tackles are still impressive.

Hamilton lost 34-0 at Amherst last year in the teams’ season opener. Hamilton has a long way to come to beat Amherst, but the Continentals looked much improved at Trinity and will need this home win to break into the top half of the conference. With the offensive performances last week, this game could turn into a shootout and might even come down to the last play.

Predicted Score: Hamilton 35, Amherst 31

Trinity (1-0) @ Bates (0-1)

Max Chipouras
Max Chipouras ’19 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Not a lot to say about this one. Trinity is far and away the best team in the league, having won 12 in a row at this point. They pasted Colby 35-0, and didn’t even play that well. The offense turned the ball over three times, something uncharacteristic of both QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 and RB Max Chipouras ’19. That was to be expected with the shortened preseason; they will probably tighten it up going forward.

Bates has to be a little disappointed in their Week One performance. Senior QB Sandy Plashkes struggled mightily, going 7-19 with an interception against an Amherst defense that, while solid, is not quite on the level of, say, Trinity or Wesleyan. Bates was forced to run the ball a great deal, which they did fairly effectively, but not nearly well enough to give the defense a chance to breath. And that tired defense looked very tired, giving up four touchdowns to unknown first year QB Ollie Eberth ’21. Trinity should do everything Amherst did to the Bobcats, just far worse.

Predicted Score: Trinity 49, Bates 3

GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts (1-0) @ Wesleyan (0-1)

Ryan McDonald ’18 will try to lead the Jumbos to a 2-0 start.
(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Overview:

The biggest match-up of the week is basically a must win for Wesleyan if they want any hope of competing for a title. There’s a chance that Trinity or one of the other contenders will lose one game, but they certainly won’t lose two. And Wesleyan already has their loss, falling to Middlebury on the road in Week One. In that game, they discovered that QB Mark Piccirillo ’18 (432 yards) is ready for prime time, but their offense was one dimensional. Middlebury shut down their rushing attack very effectively, forcing them to throw their way back into the game. Of course, the Panthers were surprised to find that they could.

This bodes well for their matchup with Tufts. The Jumbos squeaked out an overtime win in a classic against Hamilton. But over the course of that game their pass defense was certainly exposed. They gave up 365 passing yards to Hamilton QB Kenny Gray ’20, and 214 yards and four touchdowns to receiver Joe Schmidt ’20. Piccirillo and Mike Breuler ’18 are more experienced versions of those two, so Tufts may be susceptible to the same fate as last week.

Key for Tufts: Establishing the Run

Tufts QB Ryan McDonald ’19 was one of the stars of Week One, throwing for 267 yards and rushing for 92 more. He accounted for three touchdowns on his own, including this #SCtop10 candidate. But with all due respect to Hamilton (whom I think it’s clear that we’re high on this season,) Wesleyan’s defense is a bit of a different story. McDonald will not be able to throw all over the Cardinals, and they’re certainly experienced enough to not let him break free for long runs. Tufts should work early on running the ball to set up play actions and bootlegs for McDonald.

Key for Wesleyan: Controlling the Pace

The way that Middlebury was able to attack Wesleyan’s vaunted defense was by tiring them out. The Panthers are one of the best teams in the league at running no huddle, and Wesleyan’s defense looked gassed an confused several times during Week One. This was supported by several very short drives by the offense in the first three quarters, keeping the defense on the field. To prevent Tufts from following Middlebury’s game plan, Wesleyan needs take some time on their offensive drives.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 27, Tufts 24

(Almost)Taking the Head Off the Jumbo: Week 1 Power Rankings:

1: Trinity (1-0)

Trinity now runs its winning streak to 10 games going back to 2015 following a blow out win over Colby. They were expected crush them and played nearly flawlessly, but still could improve. QB Sonny Puzzo’s INT should’ve come as a shock to the Bantams, but other than that, they played great football. Max Chipouras decimated the Colby defense and this team looks primed to blow out Bates in week two. The secondary looked great following the graduation of many All-NESCAC players, and that was the biggest hole. There’s honestly not a whole lot else to say, the Bantams are rolling.

2: Middlebury (1-0)

Jared Lebowitz and the Panthers couldn’t have started off 2017 in better fashion as they knocked off a top tier team, learned about numerous first year weapons, and didn’t totally screw up on special teams. Without RBs Diego Meritus and Will McKissick, Peter Scibilla ’21 took the reins on the ground and was serviceable, but not great. Once the other running weapons return (Meritus should be back this week), the ground game will drastically improve, making Midd even more dangerous. Their receivers are the best in the league and that isn’t open for debate. Not player by player necessarily, but between Maxim Bochman ’20 who went off on Saturday in his first year shot, 2016 breakout Conrad Banky, athletic freak three sport college athlete Frankie Cosolito, and All-American track runner and special teams player of the week Jimmy Martinez, there are so many options for the already established Lebowitz. Opposing secondaries, watch out.

Middlebury’s Ian Blow downs a punt at Wesleyan’s one yard line last Saturday.

3: Amherst (1-0)

There are still some questions for the Mammoths despite their win over the weak looking Bates team last weak. When will Reece Foy come back and how good will he be when he does? If he isn’t healthy, is Ollie Eberth ’21 the real deal? Why am I so bummed that Mike Odenwaelder didn’t have a bigger role? Granted, not all of these questions are bad, and Amherst has an answer to all of them, resulting in their placement barely below Midd on these rankings. Foy was in uniform last weekend and should be back in week two, but even if he doesn’t start, Eberth looked good and had a real connection with Craig Carmelani in the air. Odenwaelder is still raw as a football player and played on special teams, although I still hope he breaks out as a tight end. Jack Hickey was great in his limited action (5 carries, 9.4 yds/carry) and should see more time against Hamilton. I would like to see a better rush defense from the Mammoths as they allowed two TDs to Bates, but Hamilton’s game isn’t running. They should outlast the Continentals and will only get better from here.

4: Wesleyan (0-1)

Some Jumbo fans might be mad that the Cardinals are in this spot, but they simply played a better team in Middlebury and had a solid game. Mark Piccirillo didn’t get off to a fantastic start with two INTs but still threw for four TDs and 432 yards. Dario Highsmith performed poorly in his limited sample size, but the large deficit in the first quarter leading to a passing offense was not a product of him. The Panther receivers simply dominated the Cardinal secondary and while no team is arguably as deep in their receiving core as Midd, Ben Thaw and Elias Camacho will need to pick up the slack against Tufts. We learned last year not to read too much into Wesleyan’s week on result after they lost to Tufts, so I’m going to stick with them as my favorite against the Jumbos, but they are in a must win scenario.

5: Tufts (1-0)

While they were manage to pull out the win in week one, it seemed pretty flukey. Backup QB Ryan Hagfeldt entered the game on the final drive in a tie game in the fourth quarter after an injury to starter Ryan McDonald and landed on his own fumble to score the game winning touchdown. McDonald had a solid game with 26 completions and two TDs and 92 yards rushing, but his status for week two against Wesleyan is up in the air. Their linebackers and DBs didn’t play well and will need to step it up against what is a better QB in Mark Piccirillo. Their ‘bad’ game was as much a product of their own poor play as it was Hamilton’s breakout game, and the Continentals deserve a lot of credit. Tufts will be fine and still found a way to win which is what good programs do. The Jumbos could still be a top tier team this year, but they still lack a Chance Brady. They simply aren’t the same team as last year simply as a product of not having an all world RB, and Dominic Borelli is not even close. Andrew Sanders will be the X-Factor in week two as he has the biggest play potential. Whether it is Hagfeldt or McDonald, the QB won’t be a big issue as the two were in competition to begin the year anyways.

6: Hamilton (0-1)

At the end of the day Hamilton is still winless, however, they made a big challenge to move towards the top tier of the conference in week one. An OT finish after a furious fourth quarter comeback, led by an incredible performance from QB Kenny Gray (370 yards passing, 4 TDs, 0 INT) would have resulted in glory if not for Tufts QB Ryan Hagfeldt recovering his own fumble in the end zone for a TD on fourth down. The Continentals were on the Jumbo’s seven yard line in OT before turning the ball over to end the game, but should still be epically proud of their performance. As a win/lose game goes, no team is happy with a loss, but Hamilton prove to be the real deal if they can manage a close game or win this weekend against Amherst.

7: Williams (1-0)

I’m sure some Ephs fans are upset that they are so far down the rankings after an undefeated start, they did play a weak opponent. Nobody is awestruck that Williams pulled out a win, especially Pete, who called it. There were a host of positives for this team though as they found their first win in over a year, found a QB in Bobby Malmaron ’21, a top receiver in Frank Stola ’21, and saw a breakout performance from RB Connor Harris who had the best game of his college career. Malmaron even kicked off once and Stola returned the punts, showing that this two headed monster, if they are the real deal, should roll over the Colby Mules on the road this weekend. A 2-0 start for the Williams Ephs? When was the last time we predicted that?

8: Bates (0-1)

I’ve always liked the way Coach Harriman runs and recruits the Bates offense as they are the only team so run oriented and with so many slot players. They have a lot of play action passes to open things up, but showed that too few play making receivers leads to a lack of big play potential. QB Sandy Plashkes is in his second year as the starter and was able to find just nine yards for his biggest completion and just 44 in the air total. While he was able to make a dent in opposing defenses by breaking off some big runs in 2016, he rushed for a total of zero yards on twelve tries last Saturday. Ouch. Sure, not all of them were designed runs, but he’s got to make a big play in one area of the offense. Matt Golden’s one completion of 33 yards nearly matched Plashkes’ total, and that should scare the junior signal caller as he needs to step it up against Trinity or he could lose his job. RB Tyler Baum was one of the lone positives as he was able to break off a 42 yard rush at the end of the first half, and could see more carries this week. The Bobcats did play a tough opponent in Amherst, but without their starting QB, and got roughed up by a first year who found the end zone four times as new DB starters Coy Candelario and Jack Maritz were not able to fill the big holes left by Sam Francis and Mark Upton from 2016’s secondary

.9: Bowdoin (0-1)

Losing to one of the teams that didn’t win in 2016 isn’t the start the Polar Bears were looking for. While the Ephs did look much improved, Bowdoin still allowed 439 yards on defense and flat out were beaten. Noah Nelson tried to salvage his lackluster passing day with his two rushing scores, but was still only able to tally 111 yards in the air, with Nick Vallas’ 46 receiving yards the tops on the team. They weren’t able to score fast enough with their style of play and allowed two Williams’ first year players to smoke them on defense. Ejaaz Jiu, Nick Vallas, and Bo Millet were my favorite offensive playmakers for this team heading into the season and as a result of Nelson’s paltry passing, none were able to make a big impact. Look for Vermont high school legend Griff Stalcup ’21 to see some more snaps this weekend, especially if they get down early, and hopefully he will find the diamonds in the rough in the receiving core. Chris Markisz looks to have successfully lost the starting RB or 1b rushing role as he managed just 1.8 yds/carry, putting the ball in Nate Richam’s hands more this week. The offense might look different this weekend against and they need to find small victories in what is likely to be a blow out against Middlebury.

Williams’ Frank Stola makes a Bowdoin defender miss and heads towards yards after a catch.

10: Colby (0-1)

While the Mules did face the league’s toughest opponent in week one, since they didn’t score a point I didn’t have much choice in this rank. Obviously they have some work to do as their defense was torched on the ground by Max Chipouras. This is as much a credit to Chipouras as it is a lack of credit to Colby’s run D. The top two Bantam backs averaged almost nine yards per carry on Saturday, and the Mules had just four tackles for losses. They had several bright spots though as they managed to recover two fumbles and Patrick Yale ’20 was able to pick off Puzzo. Their offense was no better though as they were just 1/15 on third down conversions, and threw for 119 yards in the losing effort. Their run game was OK as Jake Schwern’s 4.5 yards per carry weren’t a huge issue, but 73 yards passing from the starting QB is. They need to figure out how to find some completions to move the chains on third down and then they will have a better chance against the weaker teams.

Please Don’t Take Offense: Week One Stock Report

A lot of experts predicted that the Ninth Games would be defensive affairs, filled with turnovers and sloppiness. Well, a lot of experts were wrong. Week One was more offensive than Steve Bannon’s existence, and there were several tremendous performances, more than can be included in this Stock Report. Here are a few of the things that we noticed from Week One, both positive and negative.

Stock Up:

Hamilton-

A loss doesn’t usually land you on the coveted Stock Up list, but this was Hamilton’s most important performance in years. They hung tough with Tufts, on of the elite teams in the league, and even could have won had they tried to go for two instead of settling for the tie (more on that later.) They had the Offensive Player of the Week in WR Joe Schmidt ‘20, who tore the Jumbos apart to the tune of 214 yards and four touchdowns. And as if that wasn’t enough, they also had the Co-Defensive Player of the Week in LB Tyler Hudson ‘19, who had 19 tackles. Hamilton has weapons galore right now, and don’t be surprised if they break out this year.

Jimmy Martinez
Jimmy Martinez ’19 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Middlebury WR Jimmy Martinez ‘19-

Middlebury’s WR situation right now is a disaster on paper. They graduated two of their biggest threats in James Burke and Ryan Rizzo, and junior stud Conrado Banky ‘19 hasn’t looked himself all preseason. But Jared Lebowitz ‘18 had plenty of guys to throw to against Wesleyan, and Martinez was one of the biggest targets. He had 5 catches for 66 yards and a touchdown, but his biggest impact was on special teams, where he a returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. Assuming Banky finds his way, Middlebury is still loaded with weapons thanks to Martinez, as well as sophomores TE Frankie Cosolito ‘20 and WR Maxim Bochman ‘20.

Williams Offense-

Frank Stola ’21 is a budding star for the Ephs.

It’s been a while since the Ephs had legitimate weapons on offense, but they certainly do now. WR Frank Stola ’21 had 7 receptions for 168 yards and two touchdowns, but the real revelation was first year quarterback Bobby Maimaron ‘21. Quarterback play has been arguably the biggest reason for Williams’ struggles, as they turned the ball over constantly last season. Maimaron threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns, and most importantly threw all his passes to Williams players. These two first years have Williams football rapidly back on the up and up.

Pete’s Predictions-

Damn you, Hamilton! If the Continentals had pulled off the upset, I would have been a perfect five for five. In any case, look at the actual scores versus my predictions.

Pete’s Prediction Actual Score
Middlebury 31, Wesleyan 28 Middlebury 30, Wesleyan 27
Williams 27, Bowdoin 10 Williams 28, Bowdoin 14
Amherst 28, Bates 17 Amherst 41, Bates 17
Trinity 40, Colby 10 Trinity 35, Colby 0
Hamilton 17, Tufts 14 Tufts 35, Hamilton 28 (we can’t win em’ all)

Not a bad start! This is how you get to be editor, folks.

Stock Down:

Wesleyan Defense-

The group that terrorized NESCAC last year lost two key members in Jordan Stone and Justin Sanchez, but they still return a great deal of talent. However, against Middlebury the Cardinals looked like they were feeling those losses. They gave up 20 points in the first quarter, and although they made a furious fourth quarter comeback to pull within three points, the defense didn’t look nearly as threatening as the 2016 iteration. Although QB Mark Piccirrillo ‘18 had a huge game while he tried to throw them back into the game, Wesleyan is not really equipped to win shootouts. The defense will have to improve fast, as they play Tufts next week and the suddenly-threatening Hamilton offense the week after.

Middlebury’s Fourth Quarters-

With all that said about Wesleyan’s defense, they still had a shot at pulling off a miraculous comeback in the fourth quarter. However, it is just as valid to blame Middlebury for letting them back into it as it is to credit Wesleyan for coming back. The Panthers defense, which had been stringent for the rest of the game, allowed two touchdowns in a five minute span, and the offensive line began letting Wesleyan’s linebackers into the backfield, forcing Lebowitz into rushed throws. Given the early start to the season, this can be partially attributed to conditioning, and Middlebury has Bowdoin and Colby over the next two weeks to get in shape for Amherst. And based on this game, it looks like they’ll need to.

Mike Breuler ’18 and Wesleyan almost pulled off a comeback against Middlebury.

Hamilton’s Dillon Panthers Impression-

I’ve already given a great deal of credit to Hamilton in this article, but there’s one thing that is stuck in my mind about their game. They scored their final touchdown with four minutes left, and instead of going for two and taking the lead, they opted to kick the extra point and tie the game. This is, of course, the smart and correct thing to do. As I’m reminded pretty much daily by email or Twitter DM by readers, I don’t know anything about football. But Coach Eric Taylor does, and in a similar situation during season three of Friday Night Lights, he went for two. This was during the state playoffs, no less! Hamilton was closing in on the most important win in the program’s recent history, so all I’m saying is that I, and Coach Taylor, would have thrown caution to the wind.

 

The Ninth Games: Weekend Preview 9/16

Here we are, NESCAC football fans. Not only is this opening weekend (always exciting) but it is also the first opening weekend of the Ninth Game era, something that fans and players have wanted for a while. I would caution you to take your excitement with a grain of salt, however. This season starts a week earlier than usual. That means a week less practice time for teams to get ready for game play. I would expect these games to be somewhat sloppy, and potentially fairly low scoring. Some grizzled, older fans like my father would like that “smash-mouth football style,” but I like offense. We will see how well teams have adjusted to this new schedule. However, if it means we get to watch football earlier, I’ll gladly accept some sloppiness.

Bowdoin @ Williams, 12:00 PM, Williamstown, MA

The first kickoff of the season features two teams that are looking to put 2016 in their rearview mirror. This can only happen with a good start in 2017, so both sides should be very motivated. All eyes will be on who starts at quarterback for Williams, although sources are telling us that it will most likely be John Gannon ‘18, who is returning from missing last year with a torn ACL. A fair amount of rust is to be expected (from everyone, not just Gannon,) but if he can get into a rhythm then he has the weapons to really explode. TE Tyler Patterson ‘19 is a beast when healthy, and experienced receivers Adam Regensberg ‘’18 and Kellen Hatheway ‘19 give him a lot of options to throw to. Bowdoin’s defense wasn’t exactly world-beating last year, allowing the most rushing yards AND passing yards per game last year, but they return two stellar linebackers Latif Armiyaw ‘18 and Joe Gowetski ‘18 and will be looking to make a statement. However, I think Williams is ready to start trending upwards, and this game is the start of that.

Final Score Prediction: Williams 27, Bowdoin 10

GAME OF THE WEEK: Wesleyan @ Middlebury, 1:00 PM, Middlebury, VT

Jared Lebowitz ’18 is the most dangerous offensive force in the league, but needs a good o-line performance to top Wesleyan.
(Courtesy of vpr.net)

It’s not every year that a Week One game could have championship implications, but this game might. Wesleyan and Middlebury both have the returning talent to make a run at the championship, but one of them is also starting off the season 0-1. With Trinity’s level of talent and easier opening matchup, one loss might be too many to win the league outright. Therefore, we can expect both teams to be extra-fired up entering this one. Middlebury has been excellent at home over the last few years, but Wesleyan is well equipped to attack the dynamic Panther offense. The only way to beat Middlebury is to get pressure on QB Jared Lebowitz ‘18. If he has enough time, he will pick your defense apart. But when under pressure, he is prone to rushed throws and turnovers. Wesleyan’s defense is certainly athletic enough to get through the young Middlebury offensive line.

However, the Cardinals offense can be inconsistent. They lost two of the major weapons from their running attack last year in WR/RB Devin Carillo and RB Lou Stevens. Therefore, they either have to use Dario Highsmith ‘19, the new starting RB, in a much larger role or reinvent themselves as a more pass-heavy offense. If their offense struggles, Middlebury’s no-huddle offense will wear down the defense, and eventually Lebowitz will get the time he needs. And at that point, it’s game over.

Score Prediction: Middlebury 31, Wesleyan 28

Hamilton @ Tufts, 1:00 PM, Medford, MA

This game has by far the highest upset potential of any this weekend, and I’m jumping on it. Hamilton returns a great deal of their much-improved offense from last year, including quarterback Kenny Gray ‘20, who impressed many with his poise as a first year last season. The defense is far newer, but they benefit this week from facing a Tufts team that graduated most of their offense from last year. Of course, that offense came in the form of one man, RB Chance Brady, who dominated the league like Tecmo Bo Jackson last year. It will take a great deal of work for Tufts to adjust to life without Brady. I think they’re up to the task, but the shortened preseason will cost them here in Week One.

Final Score Prediction: Hamilton 17, Tufts 14

Bates @ Amherst, 1:00 PM, Amherst, MA

Jack Hickey ’19 might well be the next star NESCAC running back in Amherst’s renewed offense.
(Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

This game features the return of Amherst QB and POY candidate Reece Foy ‘18, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. And not only do the Mammoths get Foy back, they return red zone weapon Jack Hickey ‘19 at running back. Hickey scored seven touchdowns last year, and seems poised to break out as a star this year in a wide open race for First Team RB. Amherst also returns star WR Bo Berluti ‘20. The Mammoth’s offense is ready to break out after struggling at times last season, and a strong defense puts Amherst back towards the top of the preseason rankings. Bates returns a great deal of talent as well. QB Sandy Plaschkes ‘18 has been solid for years, but has to raise his game in this game, and this season, if Bates wants to compete with teams like Amherst. Bates has the talent to make it a game, but Amherst is back and there’s nothing the Bobcats can do about it.

Final Score Prediction: Amherst 28, Bates 17

Colby @ Trinity, 1:00 PM, Hartford, CT

There are teams that have a chance to take Trinity down this season, and games in which they could struggle. Colby is not that team, and this is not that game. Trinity brings back QB Sonny Puzzo 18, RB Max Chipouras ‘19 and WR Bryan Viera ‘18. In other words, they bring back arguably the best in the league at three skill positions. This bodes well for Trinity’s offense. Colby, on the other hand, lost their biggest weapon in Sebastian Ferrall ‘19. They do return a great deal of talent on defense, especially in the secondary and at linebacker. If everything goes perfectly for the Mules, they put up a great performance on defense and only lose by one touchdown. Unfortunately, the team that beats Trinity this season will have to beat them in a shootout, not a defensive battle.

Final Score Prediction: Trinity 40, Colby 10.

 

Chasing the Ephs: 2017 Women’s Soccer Previews

Editor’s Note: We recognize that the season is well underway, so for those who haven’t been paying attention here are the current standings, updated for 9/11/17.

While I may have played varsity soccer in high school before my days on the Middlebury Baseball team, I only played for one season and was a keeper, so I’m just being honest when I say that I don’t have a great feel for the game. If I use the wrong jargon, terminology, vocabulary, or grammar don’t take it too seriously. I, however, do take improvement seriously, and will be in London, studying the EPL (English Premier League; See I’m not a complete idiot) and why Arsenal is doomed for a terrible season all of my fall semester just to prove my haters wrong. So look for these pieces to get increasingly accurate as the year goes on. Here goes:

Hannah Guzzi
Hannah Guzzi ’18 led the league in goals last season with 19. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Amherst (8-1-1, 17-3-1)

Senior forward Hannah Guzzi ‘18 leads Amherst following a NESCAC Championship and her Third Team NSCAA All-American honors. Last season the formerly Purple and White ended up losing in the NCAA round of 16, and star player Guzzi led the team and the conference in points (43) and goals (19). She found the back of the net in 14 of Amherst’s 21 contests and scored seven game-winning goals with five assists. She tallied goals in all three of Amherst’s NCAA Tournament games to finish 2016 as the program record holder for points and goals in a season. Also returning for the Mammoths are All-NESCAC honorees, attacking midfielder Delancey King ‘18 (First Team) and defensive midfielder Caleigh Plaut defense ’19 (Second Team).

Olivia Amdur
Olivia Amdur ’19 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Bates (1-8-1, 5-9-1)

The Bobcats were only able to muster two results in league play last year, missing the postseason despite ending the season on a 3-1-0 run. It was a lost season in terms of their points, however, they had bright spots with their younger stars developing on the pitch. They return center-mid Hannah Behringer ‘18 who was second on the team with four goals, tied with forwards Olivia Amdur ’19 and Riley Turcotte ‘20. Despite flaws in their attack, resulting in shutouts in nine of 16 matches, they have several pieces who can do damage to put Bates in a position to get points. Their most glaring need is a stronger back line and keeper as they allowed the most scores in the league (30). Keeper Sarah McCarthy ‘18 had a significantly down year, allowing nearly one goal more per game than in 2015, pushing me to think the defense was the main source of the problem. Five incoming first year players are slated to see time at either right, left, or center back and in the midfield, putting more depth in front of McCarthy than a season ago.  

Bowdoin (5-4-1, 9-6-1)

Bowdoin finished in a tie for fifth with Conn College and Tufts and played Middlebury in the first round of the playoffs, resulting in a quick exit. Despite beating Middlebury 1-0 earlier in the season, stud goalie Rachel Stout ’18 was unable to match her earlier shut out in the playoffs. Behind a stellar defense the Stout, the Polar Bears allowed the fewest goals in the league, although they did play less games than the NCAA tournament teams. For a more comparable stat, they allowed seven goals in league play, good for second place behind Williams’ three goals allowed. Morgen Gallagher ’20 was named to the Second-Team All-NESCAC as a forward and led the team in her first year with four goals. Nikki Wilson ‘18 was also named to the Second-Team All-NESCAC as a defender and is joined by seven other full time returning players. Only two consistent senior starters graduated, leaving few holes, and if Bowdoin can develop their offensive game, their defense should put them in great positions to end many games in a 1-0 advantage.

Samantha Rizzo
Samantha Rizzo ’19 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Colby (1-9-0, 6-9-0)

Despite a tied for last place finish in NESCAC play with a 1-9-0 record, the Mules lost four games by a score of 1-0 in league matches and were a perfect 5-0 out of conference. While everybody knows the only real games are in conference as their out of conference games were against worse teams, their overall record was still not indicative of the way their season went. Forward Laura Arnold ’18 leads the returning players with three goals and 11 points from last season and Hannah Brozdowski ‘19 will likely be right behind her after starting at center-midfielder and tallying seven points. Samantha Rizzo ‘19 is one of the stronger keepers in the league after saving 98 shots on her own, good for second in the conference despite still allowing the fourth most goals. Their defense is an issue and Rizzo can’t stop every shot, and five or six defensive minded first year players should aid Colby in a resurgent 2017. They will have a good shot at making the playoffs, and while they won’t knock off any of the top teams, they might be able to muster some results and eventually compete in the postseason.

Connecticut College (5-4-1, 10-6-1)

The Camels who were ranked 22nd nationally in 2016 at one time, will rely on the foot of midfielder Caroline Kelleher ’18 for depth during the season while wingers Alex Baltazar ’19 (Second Team All-NESCAC) and Michelle Medina ’18 provided 12 of the team’s 22 assists and scored the most goals on the team to boot. Baltazar led the team with 10 goals while Kelleher and Medina each added three. Kelleher will look to transition into a more consistent role this year after scoring a hat trick against Hamilton, but not finding the back of the net in any other games. Conn College started off the NESCAC regular season with a 3-0 record last season but ultimately fell down the rankings to seventh place, despite making a nice run at the end of the year. They received an at large bid to the NCAA tournament and made it to the second round after a PK win against Scranton. The Camels have a solid attack and if others can join Baltazar as leaders on offense, they will be hard to stop.

Katie Kreider '18, Women's Soccer
NbN Alum Katie Kreider ’18 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Hamilton (2-7-1, 5-8-1)

The Continentals snuck into the NESCAC playoffs last year despite scoring the fewest goals (13) and points (35) in the league. They do return eight starters on the pitch, including several seniors and four year starters in Emily Dumont ‘18, Katie Kreider ‘18, Amanda Becker ‘18, and Katja Dunlap ‘18. Kate Whiston ‘18 is the returner with the most goals from a season ago at three, and will need to increase that for Hamilton to get more results in league play. They lack weapons offensively and will need to be more successful in their combinations to get better looks and more shots on target. They were not overly strong on defense either, but the glaring hole was in total goals, and as everybody knows, the best defense is a good offense.

Middlebury (7-3-0, 15-5-0)

Despite losing All-American Katherine Hobbs ‘17, the Panthers should still have a great shot at going deep into the NESCAC playoffs and get an NCAA tournament berth. Despite a loss in the conference semis to Amherst, they made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament, losing to Messiah who went on to beat Williams in the quarterfinals and lose in the finals. They return just six starters though, including their top two scorers the players with the three highest total point totals. Senior midfielder Emma Shumway ‘18 and attacking midfielder Amanda Dafonte ‘19 will need to bear the brunt of the scoring load as they had found the back of the net nine times between them. Keeper Ursula Alwang ‘20 came on strongly at the end of 2016, eventually taking over as the starter and tallying back to back clean sheets in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament. Looking to step up as breakout players for Midd will be Virginia (Jinx) Charman ‘20 bringing depth to the midfield, shifting up front on the attack as well and Clare Robinson ‘19, a transfer from D1 Wofford who made her D3 debut in 2016. Robinson and her younger sister Eliza ‘21 have NESCAC glory in their family as their sister Hannah ‘16 won the NESCAC POY in 2015.

Julia Pitino
Julia Pitino ’18 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Trinity (7-3-0, 11-5-4)

The Bantams return a solid corp from the team that shocked Williams in PK’s in the semi-finals last season. 2016 NESCAC First-Team honoree midfielder Taylor Kirchgessner ‘19 is a contender for POY as a junior. Sarah Connors ’18 provides stout senior leadership, but Trinity’s real strength lies in their keeper. Julia Pitino ‘18 was by all measure the best keeper in the league last year leading the league in total saves with 105 and save percentage at 87%. Between Conners and her, teams should have trouble scoring against Trinity. However, scoring goals themselves might be an issue. Kirchgessner is one of the biggest scoring threats in the league, but their second and fourth leading scorers (Laura Nee and Andi Nicholson,) both graduated, leaving a void in the Trinity offense. One potential solution is Tricia Pollack ‘20. With four goals as a first year, she could be poised for a breakout season.

Tufts (5-4-1, 7-6-3)

Tufts is looking to rise out of the middle of the pack this season. However, the loss of Robin Estus will not make that easy. A Second Team All League midfielder, Estus was adept at facilitating the Jumbo’s offense. WIthout her, Tufts will need some new faces to step up as offensive threats. One of those faces is Taylor Koscho ‘19. With one goal and four assists last year, she is a natural replacement for Estus’ production. Mariah Harvey-Brown ‘18 had four goals last season, and will likely be a major player in the offense this season as well. Defensively, Tufts could really use a star turn from keeper Emily Bowers ‘19. She was impressive as a sophomore last year with .98 goals against on average. However, with the losses on offense, Bowers could have far more save chances this year.

Wesleyan (0-7-3, 3-9-3)

I think it’s safe to say that last year didn’t go quite as the Cardinals hoped. They finished the year at 3-9-3 overall and 0-7-3 in the league, which was obviously the worst record in the league. Their problems were most apparent on offense. They only had three goals in league play. This put a lot of pressure on their defense, as opposing teams were constantly on the attack. And to make matters worse, they graduated their best goal scorer in Sarah Sylla ’17. It’s reasonable to expect Wesleyan’s offense to struggle again this year, therefore the defense will have to step up. The Cardinals alternated between two first year keepers in keeper Zoe Cassels-Brown ’20 and Claire Coyle ‘20, but it looks like Cassels-Brown will be the starter. 

Alison Lu
Alison Lu ’20 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Williams (9-0-1, 18-1-1)

From the basement of the league we go to the ceiling. Williams dominated NESCAC in the regular season last year, finishing at 18-1. However, they have to be a little disappointed in how the playoffs turned out. They rolled to the semifinals as expected, and then lost in penalty kicks to fourth-seeded Trinity. Of course, they then advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, so perhaps they weren’t so disappointed. Anyways, Williams certainly lost some of the talent that made them such a dominant force. The two biggest losses from the offseason were undoubtedly Kristi Kirshe and Audrey Thomas. The two of them made up possibly the best forward duo in the country, as both were named All-Americans. However, the Ephs are more than able to weather those losses. Alison Lu ‘20 was the second leading goal scorer in the league as a first year, and enters this year as the rare sophomore POY candidate. Alongside her is Second Team forward Kristina Alvarado ‘18, and fellow first year phenom Kristi Kirshe, who had eight goals last season. They return Second Team goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill ‘19, and standout defenders Danielle Sim ‘18 and Evan Gancedo ’18. The Ephs are certainly the favorite to win the league this season, but as they saw last year, a lot can happen in the postseason.

 

One Step at a Time: 2017 Hamilton Football Preview

2017 Record: 3-5

Projected Record: 4-5

Projected Offensive Starters: (*Four Returning), 11 Personnel Pro Style

QB: Kenny Gray ‘20*

RB: Marcus Gutierrez ‘18*

WR: Joe Schmidt ‘20*

WR: Alec Waugh ‘18*

WR: Eli Saucier ‘18

TE: Trevor Pinkham ’19

LT: Sam Palomaki ’20

LG: A.J. Cantarella ’20

C: Mike Cantarella ’20

RG: Stephen Kelley ’19

RT: Micah Balogh ’19

Projected Defensive Starters: (*Four Returning), 4-3

DE: Alec Boyles ’20

DL: Michael Friedman ’19

DL: Will Rothschild ‘19

DE: John Martisch ’20

OLB: Sean Tolton ’19

MLB: Tyler Hudson ’19*

OLB: Cole Burchill ’19*

CB: Preston DeLaurentis ‘18

FS: Colby Jones ‘19*

SS: Rory Merklinger ’18

CB: Justin Leigh ’20

Projected Specialists: (*Two Returning)

K: Zach Altneu ’18

P: Billy Wagner ‘20*

KR: Joe Schmidt ’20 and Colby Jones ’19

PR: Sam Robinson ’20

Summary:

Image result for hamilton college football 2016 marcus gutierrez
Senior Tailback Marcus Gutierrez ’18 could be due for a breakout season.

Since hiring coach Dave Murray who is now in his fourth season at Hamilton, the Continentals have steadily improved, going from 0-8 in 2014 to 2-6 in 2015 and 3-5 in 2016. The goal this year will be to get at least one more win in the nine game schedule. Hamilton returns eight starters from last year including a trio of star skill players on offense. After a strong freshman season in which he passed for 903 yards, sophomore quarterback Kenny Gray ’20 will attempt to link up with last year’s second place receiver and fellow sophomore Joe Schmidt ’20, who caught 28 passes for 301 yards. They will miss graduating senior Charles Ensley at the wideout position, but Alec Waugh ’18 is ready to fill that role. Hamilton’s offensive line is young and untested, with all of last year’s starters graduating. They will be thrown into the fire against Tufts’ defense on Saturday. Despite his small 5’5” stature, senior tailback Marcus Gutierrez ’18 racked up 419 yards on the ground last year, averaging 3.5 yards per attempt. If he can up that total to 4 yards or more per carry, Hamilton will easily be able to move the ball down the field and into the end zone. On a team that only scored 95 points last season, offensive improvement is by far the most important thing. The Continentals totaled 66 points in their three wins, but only 29 points in their five losses.

The defense returns four starters including second lead tackle Cole Burchill ’19 at linebacker. However only four returning starters means seven former backups will move into starting roles this season. This means a defense that already ranked third to last in the NESCAC could certainly face some early growing pains. It doesn’t help that they face last year’s runner up Tufts in the first game of the season. Tyler Hudson ’19 is the biggest blitzing threat with four sacks last season and was not far behind Burchill with 47 tackles. Despite the strength upfront in the base 4-3, Hamilton’s secondary is lacking, only returning one starter from a defense that ranked second to last in passing yards last season. The goal of course will be to limit the big passing plays and get the opposing points’ total under 20 to keep the offense in each game. The Continentals allowed a total of 177 points or 35.4 in losses last season compared to just 38 or 12.7 per game in wins. Of course, the two units must work together over the course of the season. If the offense continues to go 3 and out, it will be tough for the defense to keep their stamina and limit the points against.

Hamilton’s 2017 schedule starts off tough with a trip to last season’s runner up Tufts, but they could get their first win as early as week 2 when middle of the pack Amherst travel to Steuben Field. Home games against Colby and Bates are also winnable games and you have to give the Continentals a chance in their road trips to last year’s winless teams Williams and Bowdoin. The team has not won the Rocking Chair Classic against their closest geographic rival, Middlebury, in 21 years and can’t really expect a win in Vermont this year either. The home game against Wesleyan and the trip to Trinity also do not seem possible. Given the above constraints, a 4-5 or 5-4 record is a reasonable prediction for this year’s Continentals and would be a continuation of steady improvement under Coach Murray.

Offensive MVP: QB Kenny Gray ’20

Kenny Gray
Kenny Gray ’20 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

It is cliche to pick the quarterback as the offense’s most important player, but Hamilton’s strength is its passing game. That will depend on improvement from the sophomore who threw more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (3) last season. He has experienced wide receivers around him to make plays; he just has to get the ball to the right place. If Gray can play like he did in the end of season against Bates, completing 15 of 25 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, Hamilton will score points and could even be hard to stop on offense. Joe Schmidt, Alec Waugh, and Eli Saucier should continue to support him in the passing game while Marcus Gutierrez gets it done on the ground. Despite his small stature, Gutierrez will be an important every down back because of his speed.

Defensive MVP: OLB Cole Burchill ’19

Cole Burchill
Cole Burchill ’19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

As the leading tackler among returners, Burchill will anchor the defense along with converted defensive end Tyler Hudson at middle linebacker. Many NESCAC teams focus on the ground game so linebacker play is crucial to minimizing the other teams’ yards and points. This becomes even more important with a young defensive front and an unpredictable secondary. Look for Burchill to make the bulk of the tackles and be in on a lot of defensive plays this season. After finishing 16th last season, he could certainly challenge for the top five tacklers in the NESCAC.

Biggest Game: September 23 vs. Amherst

As Coach Dave Murray mentioned, Hamilton must play perfect football to steal an away win at Tufts this Saturday. The same is true of their games home against Wesleyan and at Trinity on September 30th and October 7th. Therefore an early home win against middle of the road team Amherst is crucial for a strong start to the season. Hamilton lost 34-0 at Amherst last season, but the Mammoths’ 4-4 record last team means they are a team the Continentals ought to beat if they want a winning season.

Best Tweet:

 

Return of the ‘CAC (Sports Blog): General Welcome Back and The NESCAC Ninth Game

The first order of business here is to welcome all of you back to another great year of NESCAC sports! The offseason always feels long for us, and this one was made even longer by the departure of our fearless leader Rory Ziomek. You can read his farewell article here and we want to thank him again for continuing what Adam and Joe started and making NbN into what it is today. We wish Rory all the luck in the world as he moves onto his next position; the elephant poop collector in a traveling circus.

But seriously, we’re really excited to bring you another year of NESCAC coverage. We’ll of course keep up with football, basketball and baseball, but will be trying to continue to grow our women’s soccer and basketball coverage, as well as men’s soccer and hockey. The NESCAC is founded on the idea of inclusivity, so it stands to reason that the sports coverage should as well. To that end, if you’re reading this and think, “damn, I can write better than these jagweeds” or “damn, my buddy can write better than these jagweeds,” feel free to email nothingbutnescac@gmail.com. We’re always looking for new voices and perspectives, particularly in those newer sports.

Now it’s time to kickoff the NbN year with the beginning of our football coverage. We’ll be rolling out previews for each team – mixed in with league previews for men’s and women’s soccer – starting this afternoon, but for now here’s a quick explanation of the biggest NESCAC football story of the off-season; the addition of a ninth game to the schedule.  If you’re looking for a more in-depth analysis here’s a good one from our friends at d3football.com, but basically games that were previously viewed as scrimmages will now count towards the NESCAC standings. These games begin next Saturday, September 16th.

The reasons for the change are very straightforward. Firstly, it allows each team to play each other team in a game that counts towards the standings. There have been too many years in the past in which a team has “won” the league record-wise while having avoided playing a team that could potentially have beaten them, and this rule change eliminates that possibility.

Secondly, it supports the NESCAC’s recent focus on player safety. The league has specific guidelines on how often a team can practice with full contact in game preparation. Switching the scrimmage to a game subjects the matchup to those rules, lessening the number of full contact practices. The earlier start does offer less time for teams to train, so I’d expect those new games to be a little sloppy, but at first glance the pros definitely outweigh that con. I’m sure you’re all as excited as we are to find out for ourselves.

So Long, NBN

It’s been just over a month now since my baseball career and college career came to an end. While I haven’t written a blog in a few months (as Pete happily pointed out towards the end of the semester), I enjoyed watching from arm’s length as Pete and Devin handled NESCAC baseball coverage this spring. Now that I’ve taken some time to digest the fact that I don’t have many days left before I enter the grueling grind of nine to five, I’ve come to realize the fact that one of my favorite parts of college has been writing for Nothing But NESCAC. It might seem a bit corny to write about NESCAC football and basketball games as if they were nationally televised SEC and ACC contests, but for me it has served as a chance to shine some light on the successes of my fellow Division III athletes.

I first heard of NbN my freshman year at Tufts when my roommate, Tim Superko, started cracking up in our dorm room and called me over to his computer. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw Adam’s equation demonstrating that Superko is a mashup of Paul Konerko and Superman. That kept me reading, and as I enjoyed keeping up with the site throughout my sophomore year, I decided to go out on a limb one night on Twitter and slid into the DMs of the NbN account to ask if I could write for basketball season. To my surprise, Joe responded almost immediately, and just like that, I was on board.

During that first basketball season (my junior year), I was just trying to get my feet wet. I went to every Tufts basketball game (spoiler alert: I’m a Tufts basketball superfan, always have been, always will be) and had grown up at Amherst college basketball games, so I felt like I knew quite a bit about NESCAC hoops. As it turned out, I had a lot to learn about the league, and a lot more to learn about journalistic writing. Regardless, I had a blast that winter. Writing weekly blogs, conducting interviews, and watching NESCAC basketball became my hobbies outside of academics and baseball. Soon enough, the remaining spare time that I had was replaced with editing and arguing with Pete over game predictions and All-NESCAC honors.

I would say the highlight of my blogging career came in the aftermath of posting my predictions for offensive/defensive POY at the beginning of football season this year. An Amherst football alum took exception to the lack of Amherst players on my list, and soon enough we were in a twitter war. That’s the kind of stuff that makes blogging fun – interactions with our readers. Though we do our best to keep up the facade that we know everything there is to know about NESCAC athletics, this is simply not true. It’s great to know when our readers agree with our opinions, but it’s also fun when you challenge us on our points. So please, give Pete hell next fall. People forget that a commenter once referred to him as the Skip Bayless of NESCAC blogging.

While I can’t take credit for starting NbN like Adam and Joe, it has been a privilege to run this blog. A huge thank you goes out to both of you for getting me on board and then convincing me to take the keys to the castle when you guys graduated last year. As I chatted with Adam at halftime of a Tufts basketball NCAA tournament game during my junior winter, I remember thinking “absolutely not” when Adam first mentioned that I should take over the blog for them. Well, as the weeks passed I realized that I was much more into the idea in May than I had been in March. I sit here writing this with a feeling of satisfaction knowing that I made the right choice when I told Joe over the phone last summer that I would accept their offer. Thanks for everything fellas.

I also can’t thank Pete enough for running the site with me this year. Throughout the fall and winter he was constantly coming up with ideas, writing and editing, all while managing his own bundle of extracurriculars. Pete is awesome to work with. He brings energy to the site and always make sure to keep me grounded, evidenced by the shots he takes at me in every other article. I will not soon forget our passionate text arguments regarding power rankings, game predictions, and most memorably, our conversation when he found out that I had picked Ed Ogundeko as my Player of the Year rather than Matt St. Amour. I know that Pete will continue to do a great job with NbN in the fall.

Finally, I’d like to thank all the NESCAC athletes out there. You guys are what makes this site fun and unique. While Division III does not receive the same glory that Division I does, the passion that Division III athletes — and especially NESCAC athletes — play with is just as noteworthy. As a NESCAC junkie that has grown up immersed in this terrific conference, I can say with great certainty that there is no conference quite like the ‘CAC.

One last quick plug, if you have any interest in writing for the site, no matter what sport you’re thinking of (even if we don’t yet cover it!), please reach out on either Facebook, Twitter, or to our email, nothingbutnescac@gmail.com. You can have any sort of commitment level that you like – it’s truly up to you. NbN really is a lot of fun, and speaking from experience, you won’t regret your decision to join us. I’ve had a blast writing about NESCAC sports, and I look forward to reading NbN in the future as it continues on.

The End Is Nigh: Power Rankings 4/27

Before we start these rankings, I just need to call everyone’s attention to Rory’s profile on the Tufts website.

“Listen to music” is a very original tradition! Rory is quirky like that

Pretty bold claim to call yourself the “lead writer” of a blog when you haven’t written anything since basketball season, but hey, that’s just, like, my opinion man. Anyway, there are several crucial series for playoff standing in this final weekend, so let’s see where each team stands.

Tufts

Don’t worry Jumbos fans, you’re not in danger of losing your number one spot. But it is time for us to talk about Tufts’ inability to sweep a series. Despite being pretty undisputedly the best team in the league for this entire season, in each of their league series they have dropped a game, including to weaker teams like Bowdoin and Colby. I know that seems like a champagne problem (plenty of teams in the league would kill to take two out of three in every series,) but Tufts is simply too good to be dropping games to Bowdoin. Let’s delve deeper into Tufts’ losses. Obviously, none of them have come in games started by ace starter Speros Varinos ‘17, who is 7-0. RJ Hall has two of those losses Tim Superko ‘17 has one. Both of those starters have ERA above 3.4, with Superko sitting at a pedestrian 4.23. Tufts seems to have some problems in terms of depth in the starting rotation. This will not be a problem in the regular season, but in the playoffs it might manifest itself in an ugly way.

Bates

Bates’ Cinderella carriage hit a classic New England pothole last weekend against Trinity, as the Bobcats dropped two out three games. One of the reasons that Bates’ 7 game league winning streak was remarkable is that they were doing it in spite of a relatively impotent offense. Bates only hits .246 for the season, and in league play that number drops to .234. Obviously, Bates’s pitching has been making up for lack of offense so far this year. Bates’ ERA in league play is 2.25, which is nearly a full run better than Tufts (a distant second at 3.21.) Connor Speed ‘18 is the ace of the staff, with a 2.52 ERA in 35 innings. But his 1-3 record reveals the problem that Bates saw exposed against Trinity. If the pitching falters for even a moment, the offense cannot back them up. They have a three game series against Tufts coming up this weekend– that’s a must watch, by the way– and then a four game series against WIlliams. These are two of the best offenses in the league, and if they can get to the Bates staff, Bates could close the league  season in the opposite way from how they started.

Middlebury

At the three and four spots we have two teams who have been steadily climbing in the standings over the last couple weeks in the Panthers and the (newly minted) Mammoths. Middlebury gets the edge because they took two of three from Amherst earlier this season. This has been a magical season for the Panthers, a program that was in desperate need of some energy. In fact Middlebury (who has clinched a playoff berth and is one Amherst loss this weekend away from the number one overall seed in the West) is the hottest team in either conference as they are riding a seven game winning streak in league play. Offensively, Middlebury relies heaviily on the senior duo of Ryan Rizzo ‘17 and Jason Lock ‘17. With a .375 OBP and 14 steals, Rizzo is a classic leadoff hitter, and Lock is adept at knocking him in (27 RBI on the year.) Sophomore Sam Graf ‘19 and Justin Han ‘20 have also put up terrific offensive seasons and keep the future bright for the Panthers.

Amherst

Harry Roberson ’18 is an anchor in the infield for the Mammoths (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Amherst might be the next hottest team in the league. They have won four in a row overall and 5 of their last six in league play. Like Middlebury, Amherst is a potent offense. They have six players with on base percentages over .400, and with league RBI leader Yanni Thanopoulos ‘17 in the middle of the order, that is a dangerous proposition for opponents. But Amherst’s hot streak has been primarily due to the improvement of their pitching. They have a bonafide ace in Jackson Volle ‘17 (5-0, 1.71 ERA) but their team ERA has improved from 5.21 overall to 3.63 in league play. Amherst’s offense was always good, but now that their pitching is catching up, they are extremely dangerous.

Wesleyan

I would imagine that at the beginning of the year, Wesleyan envisioned being a little higher in these rankings than fifth. But they simply have not hit well enough to win the close games that NESCAC play often brings about. In their sweep at the hands of Middlebury last weekend, they only scored nine runs in the whole series, despite several good scoring chances. Outside of Matt Jeye ‘18, the Cardinals don’t have much in the way of power (their slugging percentage in league play is an abysmal .290.) This means that each run they give up feels like a disaster, as they will have to scratch and claw to get it back. Wesleyan has a chance this weekend to get back in the mix with a three game set against Amherst, but they’ll need a couple big hits to do so.

Williams

Williams is another team who should be somewhat disappointed to be down here at this point in the season. The Ephs have a trio of stud freshman pitchers in John Lamont ‘20, Sean Hager ‘20 and Kyle Dean ‘20 who have combined for an 8-3 record with a 2.33 ERA. They also have a possible POY in Kellen Hatheway ‘19 (.392 AVG, 1.079 OPS) and have two other excellent hitters in Jack Cloud ‘17 and Jack Roberts ‘18. And yet, here they are at 4-5 in NESCAC play, and that’s including taking three out of four from Colby last weekend. It has been their pitching that has faltered in conference play (their .303 batting average against is second worst in the league.) However, they have a three game set against Hamilton coming up. Williams should be thinking sweep there, and if they get it done, they would be at the mercy of Wesleyan sweeping Amherst to make the tournament.

Bowdoin

The Polar Bears had a pretty impressive performance against a far superior Tufts teams, grabbing a win and coming within a run of taking another. And they have a three game set against a weaker Colby team. They should be smelling sweep against the Mules, and they have the starting pitchers to do it. There may not be a player in the league who can impact a game like Brandon Lopez ‘19. Lopez is Bowdoin’s best starter at 3-1 with a 2.05 ERA, and he is also their best hitter, stroking the ball at a .342 clip with a .962 OPS. Lopez can change a game, and series on both sides of the ball. Bowdoin has two other solid starters in Max Vogel-Freedman ‘18 (2.90 ERA) and Colby Lewis ‘20 (3-2, 3.55 ERA.) If Bowdoin can somehow manage to sneak into the playoffs, this trio of starters could make them very dangerous. But they have to sweep Colby first.

Trinity

The Bantams recovered from a rough start in league play by taking two of three against East-leading Bates last weekend. They did it with pitching, holding the Bobcats (who aren’t exactly a dynamic offense, but still) to just two runs over the final two games. They have a top heavy lineup led by Alex Rodriguez ‘20 (.362 BA) and Brendan Pierce ‘18 (4 HR.) Senior Nick Dibenedetto rounds out the threats in the lineup with a .348 AVG and 24 RBI. However Trinity doesn’t get a lot of offense from the rest of their lineup, meaning that any wins they get where that trio doesn’t carry them have to be well pitched games. Against Bates, they had two of those. We will see if they get the chance in the postseason to have more.

Colby

Colby honestly just does not have the talent to win NESCAC games, but they have shown the heart to compete. Their offense lacks punch (only three home runs on the year) and their pitching has been generally horrific with a 6.23 overall ERA. However, they have grabbed two wins against superior teams (Wesleyan and Trinity,) and all three of their losses to Williams were by one run. Colby has been playing for little other than pride for some time now, and their heart as a team has shown through the losses.

Hamilton

The Continentals may be the team who has underachieved most in league play. Despite being near the top in overall offensive stats, in NESCAC games every one of their team numbers is near the bottom They have a solid pitching duo in Finlay O’Hara ‘17 and Dan DePaoli ‘18, and on paper have an excellent lineup. But they seem to have jacked up their stats a bit against a weak non-conference schedule and have been unprepared for the jump to better competition. They have a series against Williams that matters for nothing but pride. It is a good chance to honor their seniors and leave a good aftertaste in an otherwise disappointing year.

Game Changers: Key Players for the Final NESCAC Weekend

As the final weekend series approach, the races for playoff bids are tightening up. Bates and Tufts battle for the top rank in the East while Amherst and Middlebury currently sit atop the West. Wesleyan, however can get back in the running for a spot in the postseason with a series win. Some seniors will say goodbye to NESCAC play and others will continue to fight for a championship. Check out the key players to watch for in this final NESCAC regular season weekend.

Bates @ Tufts

Bates: Connor Speed ‘18

Connor Speed ’18 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Speed’s record does not even come close to representing the impressive season he has put together. Bates, despite a Division leading 7-2 record, have failed to give Speed the run support he deserves, resulting in a 1-3 record for the Bobcats’ number one starter. Speed has thrown a team high 35.2 innings in 7 starts. In these appearances, he has allowed only 10 earned runs for a 2.52 ERA. He has also struck out 33 batters, which stands at 6th in the league. The junior has compiled a solid season thus far, but his biggest start of the year is this weekend against the strong Tufts team only one game behind Bates in the standings. Speed looks to reproduce his outing against Bowdoin in which he went 8 innings strong giving up only 2 earned runs. His start will be critical for the Bobcats if they want to maintain their number one seed for the postseason.

Tufts: Ian Kinney ‘18

Ian Kinney ’18 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

The Tufts pitching staff has been highlighted by reigning Pitcher of the Year Speros Varinos ‘17, who is likely to defend his title this spring. Behind him are pitchers Tim Superko and R.J. Hall, who have also put together solid seasons. However, a major key in the Jumbos success, is reliever Ian Kinney. He has consistently come out of the bullpen whenever needed and pitched well. Tied in 5th with 12 appearances, only one behind the league lead, Kinney has solidified himself as one of the best closers in the NESCAC. In these 12 appearances, Kinney has put together 4 saves, also one behind the league lead. He has pitched 18.1 innings with a 2.95 ERA and 21 strikeouts giving an outstanding 10.31 K/9 ratio. In this highly competitive weekend series, Tufts will need their number one reliever to continue his success. With much on the line, look for Coach Casey to use Kinney in tough situations and to close out tight games.

Colby @ Bowdoin

Colby: Ryder Arsenault ‘17

Ryder Arsenault ’17 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

In a lineup that has only hit .257 as a team, the Mules are looking for any bat to get hot. Arsenault, leading the team in at bats, has the potential to be that bat. Having reached base in six consecutive games, the lineup looks toward their senior leader to continue his streak in the series against Bowdoin. While his stats so far this season don’t necessarily pop out to the naked eye, Arsenault has shown his versatility throughout the year. His 109 at bats not only lead the team, but is second in the Conference, showing his durability. Additionally, while hitting a modest .275, Arsenault also stands second in the league for Sacrifice Flies. Also, even with all his plate appearances, the center fielder has only hit into one double play. Overall, Arsenault has done a little bit of everything for this struggling Colby offense. If he can pick it up, the Mules may be able to rally around their senior and score some runs against Bowdoin.

 Bowdoin: Sawyer Billings ‘18

Sawyer Billings ’18 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Billings has quietly put together a solid year at the plate despite the team hitting .259. Having played in 21 of the team’s 26 games, the utility player has hit .313 in 64 at bats. From those plate appearances, he has scored 9 runs, one behind the team lead as well as team leading 8 doubles. The Polar Bears hope that Billings can replicate his performance against Trinity this upcoming series against Colby. The junior went 5-9 with 4 runs and 5 RBI’s against the Bantams, while hitting 4 of his season total of 8 doubles. These at bats contributed heavily in the Bowdoin sweep over their opponent. A similar trend occurred against Tufts; if Billings hits well, the Polar Bears come out victorious. In their two loses, he went 0-5, but in the team’s win, the utility player went 2-4 with a run scored. Bowdoin hopes that Billings has himself a big weekend as they look to win the series.

Williams @ Hamilton

Williams: Jack Cloud ‘17

Jack Cloud ’17 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Kellen Hatheway has gotten all the attention after his Rookie of the Year performance last season and now his bid for NESCAC Player of the Year. However, Cloud has been nothing short of excellent all season as well. The outfielder in his final season has put together 89 at bats in the two-hole resulting in a .337 average. He has scored 25 runs, or 15% of the teams total this season. For in-conference games, his 13 runs lead the league. Cloud has also shown speed on the base paths, with team leading 7 steals and 2 triples. He has shown consistency too, as the outfielder has reached base in 20 of the 22 games he has appeared in this season, getting at least one hit in 17 of them. Despite being eliminated from playoff contention, Williams looks to win the final NESCAC series of the year. If Cloud’s success continues, they should be able to do so. In terms of extra motivation, the senior will look to put his final stamp on NESCAC play this weekend against division opponent Hamilton.

 Hamilton: Finlay O’Hara ‘17

Finlay O’Hara ’17 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Finlay O’Hara has put together an impressive year, proving that he and fellow starter Dan DePaoli ’18 are one of the most dominant starting duos in the NESCAC. He has eight appearances with six starts totaling 36 innings exactly on the season so far, showing his versatility as a key arm for the Hamilton staff. For instance, he made a relief appearance in game 1 against Amherst in last weekend’s series, and then made the next day. His six starts have resulted in only a 3-2 record, but his ERA is a low 2.50. Not a strikeout pitcher, O’Hara has used his defense to get him out of jams. Without any chance for a playoff bid, Hamilton will play the rest of the season for seniors such as O’Hara in this upcoming series. In his last season on the bump, the senior looks to continue his success in his final NESCAC weekend start.

Amherst @ Wesleyan

Amherst: Zach Horwitz ‘20

Zach Horwitz ’20 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Amherst is currently tied for first in the tough NESCAC West Division and can claim sole position of the one-seed with a sweep of Wesleyan. However, if they are swept, the team loses any shot of a bid and eliminated from contention. And the key player for this team is a freshman. Horwitz, despite being a rookie, has stepped up this year for Amherst. The team was looking for arms after successful veteran Jackson Volle ’17 and Horwitz did just that. Having pitched 26 innings (second to Volle), Horwitz has gone 2-0 in two starts with nine total appearances. The lefty has gained the trust of Coach Hamm, who will need him in this crucial weekend. Horwitz has done more than just pitch though. Also a first baseman, he has compiled 30 at bats and including a homerun and a triple. The rookie has proven he can contribute to the team in multiple ways, all of which will be needed this weekend. Horwitz’s success can drive this Amherst team right into the postseason.

 Wesleyan: Matt Jeye ‘18

Matt Jeye ’18 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Wesleyan’s offense has failed to live up to expectations this season. After dominating NESCAC pitchers last season and returning key bats, the Cardinals have only hit .283 this spring. However, Matt Jeye ’18 has consistently given power to the heart of the lineup. In 102 at bats so far, Jeye leads the team in both triples and homeruns. His homerun total is second among NESCAC hitters. However, what stands out most is Jeye’s ability to knock in runs. His total of 28 RBI’s is team leading by 8 and 3rd in the conference. Pitchers must be careful with Jeye at the plate as he easily has the power to get in scoring position or send home a run. The outfielder has accumulated 32 hits total which gives him an average of .314. His slugging percentage has risen to .480. Wesleyan needs to win the series this weekend to still have a chance to earn a postseason spot. To do so, the Cardinals will have to rely on Jeye’s bat to lead the offense against a tough Amherst squad.