Stock Report

Every Monday we will recap the weekend’s action by handing out our analysis in the form of a stock report. With the first weekend of action in the books, The ‘CAC regular season is officially underway.


Stock Up

1. Mother Nature- Nobody else had a bigger impact on this weekend’s games. Almost every weekend game was affected somehow with the rain precipitating (pun fully intended) starting times being changed and games shortened, though luckily only three games had to be postponed. Amherst and Hamilton moved the site of their series a good five hour drive south to Yaphank, New York on Long Island. They were unable to play the final game of their three game series, but a tip of the cap to the teams and athletic departments for finding an inventive way to play the other two games. Tufts and Bates only fit in the first game of their series which was moved from Bates to Tufts because of the weather causing Bates’ ‘home opener’ to become a bit of a misnomer. Bowdoin and Trinity managed to fit all three games in, but the final one was shortened to eight innings because of the rain. A glance at the forecast looks promising as this week will be filled with sun and temperatures in the 40s and 50s. The rain this weekend melted a lot of the snow and ice left on fields so by next weekend hopefully every home NESCAC field is ready to go.

2. Amherst- I was expecting Hamilton to steal at least one of their games this weekend (and it’s possible they would have if the third game had been played), but Amherst looked like a very strong team from top to bottom in the two games. Hamilton’s best chance to win was probably the first game with their ace Jjay Lane ’15 on the hill, and they managed to strike in the first against Amherst’s Fred Shepard ’14. After that the lefty Amherst native dominated going seven innings and striking out eight without allowing another run. Shepard has already thrown a no-hitter and is the owner of a not too shabby 0.93 ERA through three starts. The offense got to Lane for two runs in the first inning and added another in the sixth for a final score of 3-1. The second game was not nearly as competitive with Amherst tagging Hamilton’s Cole Dreyfuss ’16 for six runs in the second inning. Andrew Vandini ’16 and Mike Odenwaelder ’16 led the way with three hits each, Dylan Driscoll ’14 went seven scoreless striking out nine, and Amherst’s depth showed a little when leftfielder and number eight hitter Anthony Spina ’17 hit a solo shot in the third. Amherst has the big rivalry weekend coming up with Williams, and they should be confident knowing they are handing the ball to both Shepard and Driscoll again next weekend.

3. Harry Ridge ’16 Starting Pitcher (Bowdoin)- Ridge had stretches when he threw the ball very well last year as a freshman, but he has improved his consistency leaps and bounds through four starts. He doesn’t overpower you with his raw stuff with only 14 strikeouts so far, but Ridge does a great job forcing the issue with hitters, keeping them off balance, and preventing anything from being hit too hard. This weekend he shut down Trinity’s offense for six innings allowing only two hits and no runs as Bowdoin cruised in the first game of their doubleheader. Ridge’s performance has been especially critical because Bowdoin has had their three top starters from last season barely throw in 2014. Oliver Van Zant ’13 graduated, Christian Martin ’14 has yet to throw a pitch, and Henry Van Zant ’15 saw his first action this weekend in relief. His and Erik Jacobsen’s ’15 performance has helped Bowdoin off to a very good start despite all those absences.


Stock Down

1. Middlebury- We knew it was going to be tough sledding for Middlebury because of what they lost from their senior class and then the decision of Hunter Merryman ’15 and Dylan Sinnickson ’15 to not play this season in order to focus on basketball. Still, the Panthers have looked helpless at times so far including this weekend when Williams swept them with ease. Williams has a good offense, but they should not be putting up 18 and 20 runs against NESCAC teams. Middlebury is an extremely young team with only two seniors on the roster, and you have to feel bad but also be impressed with Alex Kelly’s ’14 play so far. The outfielder is hitting for a .422 average at the top of the lineup while also playing great defense in the outfield. Middlebury finished up their Arizona trip at 2-8 and will have to face a loaded Wesleyan team next weekend in Connecticut. It is likely to be a long season for the Panthers, but there are still plenty of positives able to be drawn from it.

2. Scott Huley ’15 Outfielder (Trinity)- A lot was expected out of Huley entering the season as Trinity had to replace multiple starters from last years team, and he has not been up to the task so far. He hasn’t been terrible with a .382 on-base percentage, but his .356 slugging percentage underlies how Trinity has been all season. Since hitting two doubles in Trinity’s second game against Denison, Huley has had only two extra base hits. Trinity as a team has been getting on base at a below average rate of .351, but their slugging percentage of .326 overall is abysmal. Nobody expected Huley to come out and show off explosive power given his frame, but his inability to hit doubles this year means he can’t be the middle of the lineup presence we expected him to be. Also, after pitching 18 innings with a respectable ERA, he is yet to take the mound this season despite Trinity having issues with their pitching. Why Manager Bryan Adamski hasn’t used him is unclear, and Huley’s value has suffered. He is still a player with a lot of talent, but little time to turn it around, just like Trinity as a whole.

3. Jeff Blout ’14 Starting Pitcher (Wesleyan)- Overshadowed by Wesleyan’s overall success thus far has been the disastrous pitching of Blout. His outing this weekend against Mitchell was his best of the season, but it still was far from dominant. While Blout only allowed one run in five innings, he had to pitch around four walks. On the season he has only 12 strikeouts to 11 walks which is an unacceptable ratio. Blout had a top four ERA in the NESCAC last season, and his 7.13 ERA this year is more than three times higher than his 2.06 ERA from 2013. The Wesleyan offense has been scary to pitch against for opposing teams, but the Cardinals are not going to give Amherst a serious challenge for the division crown if their pitching doesn’t pull it together. Blout has to find his stuff again because Wesleyan has nobody else who can replace him. Peter Rantz ’16 and Nick Cooney ’15 have been the most consistent pitchers, but neither of them are aces. Blout is the key for Wesleyan.

Weekend Preview

The first weekend of NESCAC conference action is set to begin. Four series will count towards the conference standings. The importance of every series in a NESCAC season can not be overstated. It is nearly impossible to make the four-team postseason with more than four losses. Last season, East representatives Tufts and Bowdoin each had four losses while Amherst and Wesleyan had three each. So if a team gets swept this weekend, it essentially have to win out the rest of its NESCAC schedule in order to make the playoffs. Of course, many of these games might not even get played. Conditions have been frigid across the northeast, and rain is in the forecast for this weekend. Nevertheless, hoping that these teams do get there games in, here is a preview of the weekend.

Marquee Matchup: Bowdoin (8-3-1) at Trinity (4-8)

The East Division was a three way race last year that ended with Bowdoin and Trinity at the top. But both squads face some tough competition this year if they hope to return to the postseason. Early on this season Tufts has looked like the best team in the NESCAC, and they are, in my opinion, the frontrunner for the East Division crown. Additionally, Bates and Colby should be better than last year, so there are not any easy wins to come by in the division. All of that makes this opening series all the more important for both teams.

Of the two teams, Bowdoin comes in playing much better baseball. The key has been the emergence of young players including a couple who are hitting everything in sight. Chad Martin ’16 didn’t record a single at-bat last season, but he won the first Player of the Week Award. His slugging percentage of .717  is absurd for anybody, and the fact that it is coming after doing nothing last year is even more impressive. Some regression should be expected especially given Martin’s 9-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. He should expect to see a lot of curveballs and other offspeed pitches early in the count from hurlers hoping that he swings away. Peter Cimini has also exploded onto the scene this spring and will hope to continue that into NESCAC play. Harry Ridge ’16 has become the team’s ace in the early going with a .98 ERA in 18.1 innings over three starts. The two top projected starters, Henry Van Zant ’15 and Christian Martin ’14, have yet to pitch this season. Their status is unclear entering this weekend, but the fact Bowdoin has done so well without them is impressive.

On the other side of things is a Trinity team that has looked the worst a Bantams squad has been in recent memory. The slugging lineup that we have come to expect has been performing far from peak level with only one home run through twelve games. Trinity has scored only 52 runs through 12 games, and 27 of those came in two games. Williams has scored 16 more runs in 6 less games so far this season. Juniors Daniel Pidgeon and Brian Wolfe have been leading the way for Trinity offensively, but Trinity just isn’t getting big extra-base hits or stringing a lot of hits together at once right now. The pitching has been solid for Trinity, but hasn’t been able to make up for the offense. Lots of different pitchers are seeing time for Trinity right now so while we expect to see Peter Burrows ’14 and Ryan Carr ’14, manager Bryan Adamski has a lot of arms to choose from. The outcome of this season will tell us whether Trinity is truly having a down year. If Bowdoin wins the series it is a testament to the program’s depth and ability to plug in players without missing a beat.

Three To Watch

1. Joe Jensen ’15 (Hamilton)- The junior outfielder has been a menace so far this season. Everybody knew that he could fly on the basepaths, and he already has eight stolen bases for the year, but it’s what he has been doing with the bat that is shocking. His OBP stands at .586 in an albeit small sample size of 25 at-bats (stats for Hamilton’s last four games are not available). Many of these hits are on grounders to the infielders that Jensen beats out with his speed. With Jensen at the top, the Continentals are off to a nice start so far at 7-4.

2. Jack Roberts ’17 (Williams)- Williams has been involved in a bunch of high scoring games so far this season. The story is the same as last year as an above-average offense can’t offset a struggling pitching staff. Roberts has been a key part of the Ephs lineup batting .444. The lefty batting freshman has shown he has power with one home run already. It isn’t likely, but if the pitching gets it figured out Williams could surprise teams. Williams and Middlebury also have the luxury of playing in sunny Arizona while the rest of the league languishes up north.

3. Wade Hauser ’15 (Tufts)- The Tufts offense is loaded from top to bottom, but Hauser still stands out. His nine extra-base hits is tied for tops in the league. An area of concern is that he already has eight errors on the season. While it isn’t likely, he could move to the outfield or even DH if he continues at this rate. Tufts has a potentially tricky weekend against Bates if the games are able to be played up in Lewiston.

NESCAC Season Predictions

Editors Note: The standings below are the composite standings of our staff at Nothing But NESCAC. Each writer made their own predictions independently.

East

Projected Finish (Conference Record)

T-1.* Trinity

9-3

T-1.* Tufts

9-3

3. Bowdoin

7-5

4. Bates

3-9

5. Colby

2-10

West

Projected Finish (Conference Record)

1. Amherst

10-2

2. Wesleyan

8-4

3. Hamilton

7-5

4. Middlebury

3-9

5. Williams

2-10

 

*Tufts will receive the number one seed from the East Division because the consensus was that Tufts will win their series against Trinity which is the tiebreaker.

Semifinals:

(1) Amherst over (2) Trinity

(1) Tufts over (2) Wesleyan

Finals:

(1) Amherst over (1) Tufts

 

The King is Dead! Long Live the King!

Full Disclosure: I was not able to watch any of Amherst-Williams game on Friday night and only caught the end of the National Championship game because I was travelling. Highlights of the championship game can be found here. Highlights of the semifinal between Amherst and Williams can be found here. As such I can’t write an in-depth breakdown of the games this weekend. This post focuses instead on the bigger picture that emerges as we enter the basketball offseason.

An incredibly entertaining National Championship ended with a flourish that unfortunately left Williams on the short end of a great game. Michael Mayer’s putback of a Duncan Robinson shot with four seconds left put Williams up one before Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quardell Young raced up the court for the winning layup with under a second left. Obviously it was a tough loss for Williams, but the Ephs’ can take solace in knowing how well they played both in the championship game and in the tournament overall. Their blowout victory Friday night over Amherst was shocking in its dominance even if some saw a Williams victory coming because of how they were playing entering the weekend. Williams’ victory over Amherst means they have taken the proverbial crown denoting the NESCAC’s top dog away, for now, from the Jeffs.

The Analogies

I thought of two analogies after Williams’ victory Friday night, but their imperfections were made even more glaring after the loss Saturday. Nevertheless, because I love extended analogies, here goes nothing. Allow me to indulge here and tease out the parallels between the Amherst-Williams rivalry for the last two years and medieval Europe. Amherst is led by King Toomey and supported by his feudal lords David Kalema, Tom Killian, and Connor Green. Williams is a rival house that enjoys considerable influence, but has been defeated many times. The leaders of Williams are Duke Taylor Epley and Earl Michael Mayer. They know that they need something else to overcome Amherst so they promise a foreigner, Baron Duncan Robinson, the crown if he gives Williams his support. The game Friday night was the final climactic battle where Williams vanquishes Amherst. Toomey is exiled because of his graduation and the new king Duncan Robinson claims lordship over the NESCAC basketball kingdom. By no means a perfect or exact analogy, but an entertaining one, at least to me.

A more relatable sports analogy to Friday night’s game is the SEC football championship game between Florida (Amherst) and Alabama (Williams) in 2009. The year before Florida won the SEC championship game before going on to win their second national championship in three years. In 2009, both teams returned undefeated entering the game. This time Alabama pulled away in the second half with a Tebow  interception in the end zone putting any hope of a comeback to sleep. Alabama had broken through, winning that National Championship and then winning again in 2011 and 2012. Both teams were supremely talented, and entering the 2009 championship game many thought Tebow would be able to will his team to victory. Toomey is quarterback Tim Tebow as the team leader who gets all the press and accolades, David Kalema is wide receiver Percy Harvin as the quick and athletic play-maker, and Tom Killian is tight end Aaron Hernandez as the Swiss army knife capable of filling all sorts of roles. Duncan Robinson is running back Trent Richardson as the supremely talented freshman who helps put the team over the top, Taylor Epley is running back Mark Ingram as the veteran player who has the moxie and ability to make all the plays, and Michael Mayer is linebacker Rolando McClain as the leader in the middle that makes everything work. Here’s hoping that these comparisons, particularly in reference to Killian and McClain, only go so far as the field.

Saying Goodbye:

The 2014 class was loaded with multiple All-Americans and talented players at different positions and schools around the NESCAC. Still, any conversation about the 2014 class has to center on Aaron Toomey. Toomey’s final performance is a disappointing end to what has been an unbelievable career. He is quite simply everything you could want in a Division 3 point guard. He combines elite shooting, court vision, basketball IQ, ball handling and leadership. Entering this year, some argued that he was a tad overrated and Amherst wouldn’t be able to repeat their success because of how much Amherst had lost from the 2013 senior class. This season destroyed any notion that he could be considered overrated given his statistics and Amherst’s record. Toomey’s career was a masterpiece to watch, despite how it ended. There are no bigger shoes to be filled next season than his.

The depth of this senior class was of the highest caliber, and probably deserves its own post. Toomey’s teammates David Kalema and Tom Killian improved every year while at Amherst to become two of the best players in the league. Williams’ senior duo of Taylor Epley and Michael Mayer enjoyed enormous success all four years. Mayer will go down as a dominant center that had skill and size not often seen in Division 3. Middlebury’s class, led by Joey Kizel, helped elevate Middlebury’s program to even greater heights. Kizel was unfortunately overshadowed by Toomey for much of his career, but his penchant for making big shots and will to win made for a great career. Though Kizel headlined the group, center Jack Roberts developed into one of the league’s best post defenders, and swingman James Jensen provided high energy every time he was on the floor and often gamely tackled the opponent’s toughest defensive match-up. Bowdoin’s trio of Andrew Madlinger, Matt Mathias, and Grant White led the Polar Bears back to the NCAA tournament. Tufts’ Kwame Firempong and Bates’ Luke Matarazzo were scoring guards and underrated players throughout their careers. Conn College’s Matt Vadas was a scoring machine throughout his career, and his teammate center Mason Lopez enjoyed a great senior season. Though there is a ton of talent coming back next year around the league for what should be a very entertaining and wide-open season, the 2014 senior class was an exceptional one that will be greatly missed.

Ultimately, the Williams-Amherst rivalry defined the 2013-2014 NESCAC season. Of course there were many other storylines like Bowdoin’s first NCAA tourney bid since 2009, the rise of young teams like Colby and Trinity, and Middlebury’s rollercoaster ride. Yet all of that is secondary to what the two teams from Western Massachusetts accomplished. The teams combined to go 18-2 in NESCAC play, faced off for the NESCAC championship, and both made the Final Four in the NCAA’s. These are two of the best programs in all of Division 3, and they proved it again this year. The jobs that Coach Mike Maker and Coach David Hixon did this year were exceptional, and to their credit what we have come to expect. Williams ended up just short of the absolute goal of a national championship, but that doesn’t diminish what the two teams achieved this season.

Who Will Win the NCAA Semifinal?

One Last Time

This post was written by Joe MacDonald, with substantial help and revisions from Adam Lamont.

It’s not often that two college basketball teams, from any division, meet four times in a single season. But that’s exactly what will transpire later tonight at 8:30 in Salem, Virginia, the site of the NCAA D-III Final Four. Amherst and Williams, the NESCAC’s two premier men’s basketball programs, will match up with a chance to play for a national title.

The History:

Over the past four seasons, Amherst and Williams have played 11 games. Each year, the schools schedule just one meeting in addition to their requisite conference game, but somehow these two seem to find one another come postseason play. Amherst has won eight of those 11 games, including the last seven and all three this season. The Lord Jeffs’ have outscored Williams by 5.5 points per game over that span, and this season have registered victories by 11, 12 and 11 points. The two regular season games were comfortable victories for Amherst, but the NESCAC championship game was close until Amherst pulled away at the end. To the Ephs’ credit, the only NCAA Tournament meeting went in Williams’ favor, 77-71, in the 2011 Elite Eight.

In that 2011 Tournament meeting, Williams’ Taylor Epley and Hayden Rooke-Ley played a total of 27 minutes, one more than Amherst’s Aaron Toomey’s 26. So besides Toomey, the players in this year’s rendition will be far different than those who met in 2011.

Combined, Amherst and Williams have won 11 of 14 NESCAC championships and three national titles, the most recent coming last year when Amherst garnered the crown. Over the past four years, the two schools have combined for seven 20-win seasons, going 197-32 (.860) overall. Since 2010, the Ephs and Jeffs have earned 14 All-Conference selections, one NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year, two NESCAC Rookie of the Years and three NESCAC Player of the Years. Both have extraordinary senior classes who have made this rivalry incredible to watch for the last four years. The two most storied programs in the NESCAC will be on the floor on the national stage  tonight.

Amherst is two wins away from back-to-back championships
Amherst is two wins away from back-to-back championships

The Players:

The match ups in this game are ridiculous at every position. The amazing thing is that despite there being five senior starters among the two teams, it is likely none of them guard each other. From Amherst’s emerging freshman center David George against All-American Michael Mayer to Williams’ NESCAC Rookie of the Year Duncan Robinson against arguably the best perimeter defender in the NESCAC, Tom Killian, each match up holds intrigue.

Any discussion about Amherst over the past four seasons has dealt heavily with All-American point guard Aaron Toomey. Toomey is the program’s leading scorer with 2,030 points, more than 300 points ahead of second-place. Furthermore, Toomey has made more free throws and three-pointers than any Jeff in history. This season, Toomey has set career highs with 20.5 points per game and 6.4 assists per game, which ranks 10th nationally, as well as field goal percentage (47.2%) and three-point percentage (40.6%). For all those numbers his value extends much further as his ability to absolutely control the pace and rhythm of games is unmatched in D-III basketball. It’s hard to overstate the value of a senior captain who plays 34.5 minutes per game, and the amount of awards that Toomey has collected merely hint at his value. He is the back-to-back NESCAC Player of the Year, the reigning National Player of the Year, a two-time NABC first-team All-American,  and former NESCAC  Rookie of the Year. Toomey could be the best player in Jeffs history which is very impressive given the caliber of players Amherst has had over the years.

Toomey runs the show, but his supporting cast is excellent. Seniors David Kalema and Tom Killian have improved every year at Amherst to become vital cogs for the Jeffs. Kalema isn’t the floor general Toomey is, but he works as a perfect complement as a slasher and three point shooter averaging 12.7 points per game. Meanwhile, if the NESCAC had a Most Improved Player award, senior Tom Killian would be one of the front runners. The rangy swingman has added muscle to his frame to help him finish at the rim, and he is another above average three-point shooter, a crucial component of Amherst’s offense. The two seniors most valuable contributions might actually be on the defensive end. They guard the best offensive threats the other team has as well as generating steals and easy buckets that change the flow of games in a hurry.

The other two important players for Amherst are Connor Green and David George. Green is a streaky scorer who makes Amherst unstoppable when he is playing well, but he could also throw up a 1-10 shooting night. George is the more intriguing player in this game as he was the backup center this year until sophomore Ben Pollack went down with a season-ending injury. Since then George has come into his own offensively and defensively. His potential is enormous on both ends, but for this game his most important contributions will come on defense.

On the other side, Williams trots out its own All-American, center Michael Mayer. Mayer began his career behind a couple of nationally-recognized big men, and was overshadowed by classmates Epley and Rooke-Ley as a freshman. As a sophomore, Mayer played big minutes, but still only started in two games. But ever since the start of the 2012 season, Mayer has become one of the best big men in D-III. Mayer racked up 17.5 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game as a junior, when he earned D3Hoops.com Third-Team All-American honors, and improved those numbers to 18.2 and 8.9 this season. Mayer is special, too, because he combines great passing (2.3 assists per game between 2012-14) with unstoppable post moves.

Mayer’s classmate, Epley, has been a standout since day one for the Ephs, registering 1,433 points (ninth in program history) in his career. During their freshman season, it appeared that Epley and Rooke-Ley would lead the Ephs for years to come, but injuries have derailed Rooke-Ley’s career to the extent that he’s played just 42 games over the last three years, and missed all of 2012-13 because of injury, for which he was awarded a medical red shirt. When he’s been healthy this season, Rooke-Ley has shown why he’s so dangerous. A 50 percent shooter, the guard averaged 11.1 points per game and 2.0 assists, and he has been a great lift coming off the bench in the second half of this season. The player who sometimes gets lost in the shuffle for Williams is junior guard Daniel Wohl, a more defense first presence who will be matched up with Kalema when he is in the game, but could see limited minutes in this game because of how well both point guards Rooke-Ley and Mike Greenman have been playing.

The Ephs would not be where they are today, despite the level of experience on their roster, without their freshman class headlined by NESCAC Rookie of the Year Robinson. The 6’7” swing man has point guard handles but power forward size. He’s incredibly efficient (55 FG%, 44.6 3PT%) and fills up the stat sheet almost every night (6.7 rebounds per game, 1.9 assists per game, 1.2 blocks per game). He’s been showered with praise by analysts and coaches around the league, and odds are he finishes his career with at least one NESCAC Player of the Year award. The other freshman are point guard Mike  Greenman and shooting guard Dan Aronowitz. Greenman has come into his own since injuries to Rooke-Ley provided an opportunity earlier in the season. The diminutive point guard has earned a reputation for his fearlessness hitting big shots for the Ephs in the NESCAC tournament. Aronowitz has seen his minutes squeezed because of others’ return from injuries, but was a starter for some games earlier in the year.

The Match Up:
With Amherst having topped Williams by double digits in every meeting this year, the odds have to be in the Jeffs’ favor. Still, Williams is playing its best basketball all season with an offense that has been unstoppable in the tournament. It’s been mostly the supporting casts doing the heavy lifting for both teams in their head-to-head games so far this season. Toomey has averaged 12.3 points per game in the three meetings this season. Robinson scored 12 and 9 before exploding for 26 in the NESCAC championship in a losing effort. Mayer has averaged 17.3 points, but only tallied 10 in the NESCAC title game. Epley has had the most curious season of all the Ephs in the rivalry, scoring 15 and 16 but also notching a goose egg on January 22nd.

How can Williams finally overcome Amherst?

In short, get the ball out of Toomey’s hands early, which is, of course, easier said than done. Despite not putting up big points in the three meetings this season, Toomey has tallied double digit assists twice. The Ephs like to switch up defenses throughout the game, which could backfire if they allow Toomey to penetrate the zone and kick to the Jeffs’ shooters. When in man-to-man, guards Greenman, Daniel Wohl and Rooke-Ley need to focus on the defensive end and pressure Toomey beyond the three-point line without getting beat off the dribble. The majority of the Ephs’ scoring should fall to the front court between Mayer, Robinson and Epley. The Ephs should look to run the offense through Mayer, both on the block and at the elbow. He has to attack early to try to get George into foul trouble because Pollack’s injury robs Amherst of their frontcourt depth. If George gets into foul trouble, Amherst’s Joseph Mussachia or whoever comes in to guard Mayer will need constant help, so Mayer will be able to find Epley and Robinson for open shots. As a team, the Jeffs hit 15 threes in the NESCAC championship game, and shot right around 50 percent from the field over the three meetings. Don’t expect the moment to get to Amherst and for them to stop launching and making threes at a prolific rate. Bottom line, Williams’ defense especially on the perimeter has to be better.

Prediction: Amherst 89, Williams 85 (OT)

Both of these teams are offensive-minded, which was obvious in the NESCAC title game when the squads combined for 175 points. Beating a team as talented as Williams four times in a row is really hard, but you have to how Amherst plays against Williams, no matter how much either side schemes to stop the other. I see Williams keeping it closer than in previous meetings, but Toomey and the reigning champs will not be denied, and will move on to the title game on Saturday.

Looking Back, Glancing Forward: West Division

Spring trips are in full swing for most NESCAC baseball teams so now is a good time to get caught up on the entire goings on around the conference as well as looking ahead a little bit.

Amherst: The Lord Jeffs encountered a (understandable) case of wrong identity as the Oswego State Baseball Twitter account celebrated a win over “UMass Amherst.”

The loss was Amherst’s first this year. The normally effective Amherst offense could only manage eight hits including three by shortstop Taiki Kasuga ’14. John Cook ’15 looked very effective for the Jeffs firing seven innings and recording 13 strikouts with only two earned runs. The loss came one day after Tyler Jacobs ’15 hit a three run homer in the top of the tenth as Amherst won in extras over Rutgers-Camden. Amherst has a bunch of games left in Florida; the biggest of which is Saturday against Southern Maine, ranked #3 in the nation. We’ve yet to see the much-anticipated debut of Mike Odenwaelder on the mound, and the second-year player has struggled out of the gate at the dish, hitting .182 but with a home run among his two hits.

Hamilton: Last Saturday, Continentals outfielder Joe Jensen ’15 was at the D3 National Indoor Track Championships. We want to say congrats to Joe on finishing second in the nation for the 400-meter dash. To top it off, on Monday Jensen led off for Hamilton in their first game, reached his first at-bat via walk, and promptly stole second. Last year Jensen had 29 stolen bases, tops in the league and 11 more than the runner-up. Hamilton’s win against Bowdoin Monday doesn’t count towards the conference standings, but is a big confidence boost especially since it was Hamilton’s first game while Bowdoin had already played seven.

Middlebury: The Panthers don’t start their season until Saturday, but as Peter Lindholm reports, Middlebury has already suffered two huge losses this year. Pair of Two-Sport Stars Hang Up Their Spikes

Wesleyan: As expected, the Wesleyan offense has been potent, but the Cardinals are only 5-4 because they are allowing way too many runs. Already Cardinal opponents have had games of eight, nine, 12 and 13 runs. Donnie Cimino ’15 has been a beast posting an on-base percentage of .524 along with five stolen bases and other guys like Andrew Yin ’15 and Ellis Schaefer ’17 haven’t been shabby with the bat either. Jeff Blout ’14 has been a disaster on the mound with a 10.80 ERA after two starts, and the only bright spot in the rotation has been Peter Rantz ’16 who has a 1.04 ERA in 17.1 innings pitched. Wesleyan has four more games in Arizona to get their rotation figure out.

Williams: The Ephs will be the last team to get underway in the NESCAC with their first game this Sunday, March 23 in Arizona at 2 PM.

Looking Back, Glancing Forward: East Division

Bates: The first team to play games up north, Bates swept their three game series against SUNY Old Westbury to improve on the season to 4-6. Seniors Kevin Davis ’14 and Griffin Tewksbury ’14 have led the way at the plate for the Bobcats. Tewksbury in particular has been raking with a .371/.463/.629 slash line highlighted by his two homeruns. The defense, which cost them some games down south, was better for Bates as they had two or fewer errors in each of the three games against Westbury. They have doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday against Salem State and Husson.

Bowdoin: Bowdoin sits at 6-2 on the season now mostly on the strength of contributions from players who saw little time last year. In particular first baseman/outfielder Chad Martin ’16 and outfielder Peter Cimini ’16 have been on fire at the plate. Combined the two have hit for a .550 avg, nine runs, and nine runs batted in. In the first meeting between two NESCAC teams Hamilton bested the Polar Bears 2-1. The game ended in dramatic fashion with the tying run for Bowdoin gunned out at home after a single by Cole DiRoberto ’15. Bowdoin finishes their Florida trip with doubleheaders Wednesday and Friday.

Colby: The Mules have to wait until Sunday to get the season started against Bard. More importantly we want to offer our condolences to the Metto family and Colby community for the tragic loss of Griffin Metto ’15. Colby Echo and Campus Mourns Loss of Griffin Metto.

Trinity: An uneven start isn’t overly shocking given the amount of turnover in both players and coaches, but an 11-1 thrashing at the hands of Western New England is cause for concern. The offense got off to a great start tallying 13 runs against Denison in the first game of the season, but has only tallied five runs in the last three games. The good news is that Peter Burrows ’14 was impeccable in his first start going six scoreless with eight strikeouts. Trinity has a lot of time to get it going down in Florida, where they will be through Sunday, and plays Endicott later today.

Tufts: The Jumbos are a perfect 4-0 so far showing that they have the capability to win both low and high scoring games. Andrew David ’16 struggled in his first start on the mound allowing five runs against MIT including four in the sixth inning, but the Tufts bats were all over MIT from the start with six runs in the first two innings. Complete coverage of Tufts exciting win in the second game of the doubleheader against MIT can be found here. The depth of the Tufts rotation is already showing as the three other starters for the Jumbos allowed at most only one run. Wade Hauser ’15 is his usual self with a homer already to go along with .381 on-base percentage. Tufts is not as far south as other NESCAC teams as they are playing in North Carolina and Virginia. We are not sure what the impact of the latest winter storm will be, but Tufts has had to already postpone one game.

Pair of Two-Sport Stars Hang Up Their Spikes

Middlebury’s prospects for the 2014 season were dealt a serious blow last week when both Hunter Merryman ’15 and Dylan Sinnickson ’15 decided not to play. The pair of swingmen for the basketball team was given a weeklong grace period after basketball suffered a NESCAC tournament loss during the first weekend of March. However, both were expected at practice on Monday, March 10. But Merryman’s decision was made clear when he didn’t show up that afternoon. Sinnickson seemed much more on the fence, coming to two practices before calling it quits. Sinnickson, having missed the 2012-13 basketball season due to injury, practiced with the baseball team all of last winter, which paid off in a second team All-NESCAC performance in 2013.

The two players tied for the team lead in hitting last year at .379, with Sinnickson additionally leading the team in steals, slugging percentage and on base percentage. He provided a powerful presence in the top third of the order for a team largely devoid of home run threats. He also provided breathtaking athleticism on the base paths and in the outfield, running down fly balls that would have been sure doubles had the centerfielder been fully human. Often his speed made up for bad jumps on the bases and mediocre breaks on fly balls. Merryman joined the team after its spring break trip to Arizona last year, after traveling with the basketball team to Salem, Virginia for the NCAA Elite Eight, but immediately proved he belonged. The ability to step in with so little practice and rake like he did is a very rare quality, and Merryman possessed that gift. He and Sinnickson seemed poised to make up a 3-4 punch this season that would rival the NESCAC powerhouses. Both cited the grind of the basketball season as the determining factor in their decision.

That begs the obvious question; how does Middlebury go about recovering from losing their two best hitters in a three-day span? How do they replace those key cogs in the machine? The short answer is, they can’t, at least not right away. Sinnickson and Merryman were too important, and the players who will be vying for the spots are too young for it to be a fair expectation. However, there is potential there. Freshmen Ryan Rizzo and Mike Yang will get the first shots at the outfield spots vacated by Sinnickson and departed captain Tom Driscoll ’13. Rizzo is another athletic specimen and two-sport player (he’s a wide receiver on the football team in the fall), and Yang also brings above-average speed. The two frosh have been among the most consistent hitters during spring intrasquad scrimmages, and optimism for their futures is high. The corner infield spots, one of which Merryman occupied in 2013, will go to Johnny Luke and Joe MacDonald, two returning sophomores. Both players have potential and have hit well in the pre-season, but will need to make major strides offensively in real games to even hope of replacing the production of Merryman. Furthermore, another promising freshman looks to factor into the mix, as California-native Jason Lock hopes to garner some at bats at 1B or DH. Lock could be the best power bat on the roster right now, but, as most freshmen do, will need to refine his approach before taking on a major role in the offense.

The loss of these two stars is a possibly devastating blow, something that no other NESCAC club has had to deal with. On paper, it seems to doom the Panthers’ season, with no hope of a full recovery.  But, to use a cliché, that’s why they play the game.

Baseball Team Previews

To make things a little easier, below are links to in-depth capsules for every team in the NESCAC. Each capsule includes our picks for the team’s Most Valuable Player, Pitcher of the Year, what the team lost from 2013, and finally the overall outlook for the season. Enjoy!

Amherst

Bates

Bowdoin

Colby

Hamilton

Middlebury

Trinity

Tufts

Wesleyan

Williams