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.

Chaos in the East: Weekend Preview

Brendan Fox '17 is the only consistent weapon right now on a Bates team trying to make its third straight playoff appearance. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Brendan Fox ’17 is the only consistent weapon right now on a Bates team trying to make its third straight playoff appearance. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

It might sound crass to say it so early in the conference season, but Wesleyan, Amherst and Tufts are all going to make the playoffs. I feel very confident saying that, though I hope that somebody proves me wrong. If that is the case, the most intriguing part of the regular season is seeing who gets that second spot out of the East. Bates has grabbed it the past two seasons, but both years they did it with a less than sterling 7-5 record. So who is it going to be in the second spot in the East this year?

This weekend will go a long way towards sorting that out with the four East Division teams besides Tufts meeting in conference series. Trinity (2-1 in conference) travels to Maine to play Colby who has yet to start their conference slate. Bates (0-2) and Bowdoin (1-2) meet in games that could almost eliminate the series loser from the playoff race. Projecting these two series is difficult, but that is what makes it fun.

As always, keep an eye on the weather too. The fields have taken a beating this week, and while the skies look fairly clear for the weekend, play today could be slightly disrupted.

Three to Watch

1. 1B Chad Martin ’16 (Bowdoin): That Polar Bear offense sputtered against Trinity as Bowdoin lost two of three. Martin has to get on track as the star in the middle of the lineup if Bowdoin is going to do well. He has an OBP. below .300 and a slugging percentage less than .400 so things have not gone for the All-NESCAC Second Teamer. The one silver lining is that he has two home runs, and that is a sign that he is still hitting the ball hard at points. My best guess is that he is trying to do too much righ now because he knows how much Bowdoin relies on him. Soooo, maybe not a good idea to put even more pressure on him, especially since I’m a Bowdoin fan. Ehh, whatever. I believe in Martin, and so should you.

2. IF Connor Reenstierma ’16 (Bates): Another offense that sputtered last weekend: that would the Bates Bobcats. What is killing Bates is not that they don’t have one guy doing great. Brendan Fox ’17 is having a fantastic junior season and is batting well above .400. The problem is that every single other guy is hitting well below their capabilities. Reenstierma is a guy that is great at getting on base. Though his batting average is usually much lower, he excels at working the count. Getting on-base alone might not be enough for Bates to get a good offense this weekend, but it would certainly help a lot. Bates is going to have to grind for everything they get all season, and this is the weekend when the grinding has to happen a lot.

3. P Ethan Rode ’17 (Wesleyan): I’m not paying any attention at all to the West, but there is the potential for one of the underdogs in the West to pull a fast one. Wesleyan is HOT right now winning their past seven games. One of the reasons for that is that Rode has gotten back on track. Things went as bad as they could in his first two appearances. Since then, he has delivered three dynamite starts for the Cardinals. In those three starts he has a 1.28 ERA. That should make other NESCAC teams very worried. Wesleyan’s offense has not fallen off from last season, and the possibility of Rode and Peter Rantz ’16 forming a formidable top of the rotation could spell game over.

Colby vs. Trinity Preview

The Bantams series win last weekend has them thinking playoffs, but Trinity won two of three last year against Bowdoin and still finished well outside the playoff race so don’t put too much stock in that. The Mules have struggled mightily so far this season, and there are real questions about the depth of talent on the roster.

You should know that Soren Hanson ’16 is a two-way stud for Colby, and he has been lights out on the mound with a 0.89 ERA in 20.1 IP. The Mules desperately need somebody else to deliver a quality start . I’m also intrigued with how Colby uses Hanson. Do they start him in the nine inning Friday game or save him for Saturday? I prefer pitching him Game 1 on Saturday since it is much more likely that he is able to go all seven than all nine on Friday. Nothing would be worse for the Mules than for Hanson to throw a gem for most of the game Friday, only for the bullpen to blow it late.

Trinity will probably toss Jed Robinson ’16 on Friday and Anthony Egeln ’18 has solidified that second spot. The third starter last week was Chris Speer ’17, and he is likely to start again. The games could easily hinge on an error by either team, and that favors the Bantams. I want to put my faith in the team from Hartford given the track record of that program, but it still isn’t clear if there is a lot of young talent beyond Brendan Pierce ’18. Even so, Colby is very down this year, and I think the Bantams become the frontrunner to get that second spot.

Prediction: Trinity wins two of three

Bowdoin vs. Bates Preview

I’ve already talked a little bit about how both offenses have struggled this season. That means pitching this weekend entails making no mistakes, ala walking a lot of batters or serving up a meatball in the wrong situation.

In this type of situation I give Bates the advantage because of their more experienced pitchers, but Bowdoin is still capable of throwing two seniors in Harry Ridge ’16 and Michael Staes ’16 that have the stuff to shut down a lineup. The weather in Maine is going to be cold and rainy, and that means pitchers have the advantage. Any fly ball is going to die in the air, not to mention the discomfort hitters will experience at the plate.

Both of these programs are solid, but they have not been able to scratch above that upper-middle class status at any point recently. It doesn’t appear that this year is going to be particularly different, and the first weekends games were downright disturbing. At the same time, a lot of talent remains on both of these squads. Sombody young might step up and make the difference, but my money is on old stalwarts like Rob DiFranco ’16 or Sean Mullaney ’17 to be the biggest stars. Bates has more of those players that have been around the block, and I think they keep themselves in the playoff race with a series win this weekend.

Prediction: Bates wins two of three

Bobcats Never Say Die: Baseball Stock Report 5/6

Nate Pajka '15 won NESCAC Player of the Week Honors as Bates advanced to the playoffs. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Nate Pajka ’15 (14) won NESCAC Player of the Week Honors as Bates advanced to the playoffs. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Bates knew their task was simple going into last weekend: sweep Trinity and make the playoffs for the second straight year. Actually doing it appeared like a long shot, however. The only team in the NESCAC East that Bates had swept in the last 14 years was Colby who the Bobcats sweep practically every year. But Bates had never swept Trinity, Tufts or Bowdoin over three games.

Of course statistics like that don’t really have any impact on the actual games. The quick recap of each game of the series goes like this: Nate Pajka ’15 did something awesome and Bates won. The second game was the closest the Bobcats came to losing because Trinity starter Sean Meekins ’15 kept them scoreless for five innings. Then he ran into trouble, and after Sam Jordan ’16 came on an error allowed the tying run to score. Bates won the game in extras on a Sam Berry ’15 single. The final game came down to Will Levangie ’15 putting together the start of his career to get Bates over the top.

Once again Bates is going to the playoffs at 7-5. A year ago they ended up finishing third in the tournament with their one win coming over Amherst. They are certainly the least likely team to win the whole thing, but the presence of Pajka and Berry is enough to scare teams. To make the playoffs after losing far and away their best pitcher and top two hitters is a credit to Manager Mike Leonard and the resiliency of his players.

Stock Up

Starting Pitcher Will Levangie ’15 (Bates)

In the biggest start of his career (yes, bigger than his start in the NESCAC tournament last year), Levangie could not have pitched any better. He went all seven innings allowing only three hits and one walk. He never allowed a Trinity batter to advance beyond second or multiple Bantams to be on base at once. On April 25, in the final game against Tufts, Levangie didn’t even make it out of the first inning after allowing four walks and six runs. Just a week later the entire Bates team was mobbing him after a complete game shutout. He had two starts in the NESCAC season where he bombed out quickly, but he also had two complete game shut outs. If Bates is able to win at least one game, he will be called upon in the third game of the tournament. Hopefully, for the Bobcats, the good Levangie shows up.

Hamilton

Alright so they got swept by Wesleyan this weekend. The Continentals certainly weren’t the only team to have that happen to them this year. Two of the losses were by only one run because of great starts from Alex Pachella ’15 and Cole Dreyfuss ’16. Then on Sunday they swept their doubleheader against SUNY Polytechnic to guarantee that they will finish the season above .500 for the first time since 1990. Multiple parents of the program contacted us to inform us of this news, which just goes to show the excitement building around this program. From 1990-2014 the Continentals went 233-480-1, good for a .327 winning percentage, but Hamilton is 16-13 as of today with one game left to play this afternoon. They also had four NESCAC wins, tied for their highest total since 2001. The Continentals are nowhere close to the giants in the West, but they were a fun team to follow this year. They led the league in stolen bases in large part because of the 23 from Joe Jensen ’15. Kenny and Chris Collins ’17 also had 16 and 14 respectively. The lineup returns everyone except for Jensen and should be better overall. The key for them in 2016 will be Dreyfuss and Spencer Vogelbach ’18 reprising their stellar performanances, with the latter likely moving into a weekend starting role.

Stock Down

Trinity

The Bantams didn’t play poorly this weekend. They played right about how you might have expected them to, but were not able to come up with the hits when it mattered. Their lack of offense has been their weakness all year and ultimately why they again missed the playoffs. It hurts knowing that they went into the final day of the regular season at 4-6 but still having a chance to make the playoffs. Instead, they lost both games and ended up alone in last place in the East. Hard to imagine a larger one day swing than that. Going forward, the Bantams will have to replace Meekins as well as the middle of their lineup outside of Brendan Pierce ’18. The freshmen class saw a lot of different players like Nick Fusco ’18 get playing time, and they will be the ones who are likely to lead any resurgence in Hartford. Just don’t expect it to happen next year.

Weather

Where was all of this warm weather for the entire season? Playing baseball in the northeast is never easy, but the beginning of this season was almost wiped out because of all the leftover snow. The NESCAC was able to get through it through a combination of clever scheduling, the ability to play games at the recently opened New England Baseball Complex, and the good luck of not much rain on the weekends in April. Hats off to all of those that were able to find a way to make it all work, grounds crews, administrators, etc. The good news is that Mother Nature’s stock appears like it is about to go up. The weather report for the weekend in Nashua, New Hampshire has temperatures in the 80’s and sunny skies.

Random Thoughts for Kicks and Weekend Preview 4/31

Sam Berry '15 has emerged as a stud for Bates down the stretch. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Sam Berry ’15 has emerged as a stud for Bates down the stretch. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Before diving into a somewhat amended weekend preview, I wanted to get a couple of thoughts out there that have nothing in common with each other. Also a note on the relative down tick in articles this spring: things come up (schoolwork mostly, nothing serious) and so I have written less. Apologies, and we want to thank everybody for sticking with us this spring.

1. Tufts loves to get hit by pitches: One of the few statistics I don’t keep track of really is HBP, but it really is a skill for hitters. The Jumbos excel at it with five of the top-six most-struck players hailing from Medford. As a unit, Tufts has been hit by a pitch 82 times; Bates is the next highest at 49. What we have heard is that this fits into a more general strategy for Tufts where they tend to crowd the plate and hit the ball the other way a lot. Considering that this year will be the seventh consecutive when they lead the NESCAC in that category, it certainly makes a lot of sense.

2. Mike Odenwaelder has a shot at 100 Total Bases: Getting to the century mark is something that no NESCAC player has done since 2010 when three players broke the mark. They must have been juicing the balls or something because Trinity’s James Wood hit 13 homers but didn’t even lead the league in that category because Noah Lynd hit 15 for Bates. These were, of course, the BESR days as well. Ah, the good old days… It’s actually worth it to take a trip down the rabbit hole and look at the NESCAC Statistics Page from that year. Anyway, Odenwaelder leads the league with 78 right now through 29 games (2.69 per game). Amherst has five games left in the regular season, and then there is the NESCAC tournament and potentially the NCAA tournament as well. At his current pace he needs 8.2 games to reach 100. It could be tight.

3. Two Freshmen on Bowdoin are named Max Vogel:  Alright, so one is named Max Vogel and the other is Max Vogel-Freedman, but still pretty crazy right? We haven’t been able to figure out the exact story behind it, but you should know that both are capable ballplayers deserving of their spots on the team. One can imagine that it can be difficult for the coaching staff to talk to them. Also, one is a catcher and the other is a pitcher. I for one am rooting whole-heartedly for a Max Vogel-only battery someday.

4. Amherst gets caught stealing a lot: The generally accepted breakeven success rate for stealing bases is about 75 percent according to Fangraphs.com. Most teams are well above that success rate. Middlebury has the best success rate (7-8), but they hardly ever steal so they’re not a great example. But the Jeffs are an outlier. They are third in the league with 48 stolen bases, but where they blow everyone away is in the caught stealing department. They have been caught stealing 23 times. No other team has been caught more than nine times! A good amount of those caught stealings come from early in the season which is probably the Jeffs just testing if different guys can steal, but that still doesn’t account for the whole difference.

Huge start this weekend for Sean Meekins '15 as he tries to get Trinity back to the playoffs. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Huge start this weekend for Sean Meekins ’15 as he tries to get Trinity back to the playoffs. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Weekend Preview

Only one series matters this weekend: Trinity at Bates to decide the second playoff spot in the East. The rest of the games are basically white noise that could tell us which players are doing well and which are struggling, but they don’t matter much in the big picture of things. Just to lay it out for you: Bowdoin is 6-6, both Trinity and Bates are 4-5. Trinity gets into the playoffs if they win two or all three games, Bates gets in if they take all three, and Bowdoin gets in if Bates takes two of three. Bad news for Bowdoin is that no matter the outcome of the first two games, either Bates or Trinity will enter the final game already eliminated.

Trinity X-Factor: Starting Pitcher Jed Robinson ’16

The Bantams have leaned on their starting pitching to get into this position, but Robinson does not have a win in conference play. He owns a 4.74 ERA in conference play but has a 2.41 ERA over the course of the year. Now is the perfect time for Robinson to come up big and go deep into a game for Trinity. He has never pitched against Bates which gives him a major advantage early in the game as they try to figure out his stuff. Robinson should also eschew from chasing strikeouts and focus on pounding the zone. Six of his nine walks on the season have come in his conference starts, and he has also had more strikeouts in those starts. Better for him to keep things simple and rely on his defense.

Bates X-Factor: Third Baseman Sam Berry ’15

The senior Berry has been far and away Bates’ best hitter in conference play. He is hitting .447 and has an astronomic .816 slugging percentage. He has hit safely in his last 14 games, and half of those games have been multiple hit performances. Just last weekend against Tuft he went off and had three home runs. He and Nate Pajka ’15 supply the vast majority of the power in the middle of the lineup. The guys in front of him need to get on base and force Trinity to pitch to Berry, who is one of the hottest hitters in the league right now.

Projected Starters:

Friday 3:00 PM: Jed Robinson ’16 (Trinity) vs. Connor Colombo ’16 (Bates).
Saturday 12:00 PM: Sean Meekins ’15 (Trinity) vs. Connor Speed ’18 (Bates).
Saturday 2:30 PM: Nick Fusco ’18 (Trinity) vs. Will Levangie ’15 (Bates)

Expect a playoff atmosphere at Bates with a larger than normal crowd because Bates students are on their ‘short term’ and have minimal class commitments at the moment. That should make it a fun one to watch.

The pitching matchups in this one carry a good amount of uncertainty. Both teams will start one freshman in a big spot. Both managers will also be ready to pull one of the starters early at the first sign of trouble. In this respect Trinity might have a slight advantage because Bates was forced to pitch some of their relievers in their loss to Bowdoin on Tuesday. The advantage is pretty minimal, mind you. We have talked before of how important Sean Meekins ’15 has been for Trinity, and Connor Colombo ’16 has been of similar importance for Bates.

The Trinity offense is certainly not what one would call dynamic, but they have come through with a lot of big hits. Having Brendan Pierce ’18 back in the lineup after he had to miss five games for a suspension is big for them. He is really the only player who can say they have hit particularly well as the team has only a .244 average in conference games.

The outcome of this series will probably rest on the shoulders of the Bates offense. Even though the Bates pitching might be shaky, Trinity is not going to blow anybody out. They have not scored double digits in a game all season. Bates needs to be able to get at the starter quickly and force the Bantams into their bullpen early. The Bobcats are a patient team overall but they can’t simply wear down the Trinity starters. Rockwell Jackson ’15 at the top of the lineup has to get on early and often. Winning all three games is not going to be easy for the Bobcats.

Somewhat hard to believe that the Bantams simply need to win this series in order to make the playoffs. They were 2-5 after dropping their opening game to Bowdoin, but the morass in the East has made it possible. I don’t think this will be the prettiest series to watch, but the end result is that one team will be celebrating a playoff berth.

Prediction: Trinity wins two of three and makes the playoffs.

How the West Was Won: Stock Report 4/14

Brendan Pierce '18 has helped Trinity immensely. Note that this photo was taken in Florida if you were wondering about the man in the tanktop. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Brendan Pierce ’18 has helped Trinity immensely. Note that this photo was taken in Florida if you were wondering about the man in the tank top. (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Well folks, Wesleyan and Amherst are going to the playoffs. That is what we confirmed this weekend. The Jeffs dispatched Williams in a comfortable three game sweep to move to 6-0 and drop Williams to 3-6. Add in Hamilton winning two out of three against Middlebury while not even looking great in their two victories and the race in the West is over. We don’t say this to disparage Williams, Middlebury and Hamilton, but they are all a step below where the Cardinals and Jeffs are. Unless Hamilton figures out how to play much better than they showed – not likely – the only drama left in the West is the order of finish between Wesleyan and Amherst.

Of course, the East is the opposite of the settled West. All five teams are separated by only two games. Tufts retains their spot at the top by a hair, and Bates has momentarily climbed into that second spot. That second spot could continue to be a revolving door.

Stock Up

Relief Pitcher Riley Streit ’16 (Amherst)

The unlikely hero that made Amherst’s sweep possible was Streit, who came on in relief in the final game and tossed six scoreless innings to finish the contest. The Amherst starter, Sam Schneider ’16, got knocked out of the game after allowing four runs in the fourth inning. With many of the other pitchers tired, Streit entered the game with the bases loaded and nobody out. After allowing one runner inherited from Schneider to score on a balk, he managed to get Williams 1-2-3 hitters out in order without allowing another run. Streit struggled earlier in the year, even letting up four homers in one game against Endicott, but he allowed only one runner to reach base on Sunday.

Third Baseman Sam Berry ’15 (Bates)

Though it has been an uneven year overall for Berry, he came up big this weekend for Bobcats along with other hitters like Rockwell Jackson ’15. He went 6-12 and scored five runs including four in the rubber game which Bates won in blowout fashion, 17-0, over Colby. On the year, Berry is hitting only .286, but don’t sleep on him building off of this weekend and finishing strong. That win Sunday was a huge one for Bates to get to 3-2 in conference and still having the chance to win the head-to-head series against Bowdoin. If they win that game, then they will need to go .500 in their other two series to likely secure a berth. Yes, 7-5 is probably going to be enough to make the playoffs once again in the East.

Utility Brendan Pierce ’18 (Trinity)

For an offense without a clear star entering the year, Pierce has been exactly the type of impact freshmen that Trinity needed. He leads the NESCAC with a .548 OBP, and he almost never strikes out as he has only four on the year. On Saturday he hit his first home run of the year as the Bantams got the split in the doubleheader against Tufts. Unfortunately, on Sunday the Bantams ended up losing 16-5 against Tufts. Now, the Bantams are 2-4 and still looking for a conference breakthrough. The Bantams had a very similar series to their one against Tufts last season. Both series had one game where Trinity was routed, one that was a close Bantam loss, and one that was a Bantam win because of a big hit late.

Stock Down

Williams Defense

By far the biggest reason why Williams was swept this weekend was their failures as a team defensively. In the series opener, starter Luke Rodino ’17 pitched well but was let down by a defense that had seven errors in the game. Rodino allowed eight runs but only one earned run. In the final game on Sunday, Williams was up 4-3 entering the sixth inning, but after the Jeffs tied up the game, Williams errors in the seventh and eighth inning allowed the Jeffs to score two runs and win 6-4. The Ephs ended up committing 14 errors over the three game series. Over the past two years against Wesleyan and Amherst the Ephs have committed 35 errors in 12 games and are 1-11 in those games.

Colby

The confluence of events that led to the Mules getting smashed 17-0 in the final game was mostly random, but it hurts nevertheless. Colby appeared to be in a good spot after winning game one of the Sunday doubleheader and having Greg Ladd ’15 ready for the final game.  Then Ladd got knocked around and the bullpen was not able to keep things close. The good news is that all loses count the same. The Mules are still very much in the thick of things at 3-3 now, but they still have to play Tufts and Bowdoin and give up the playoff tiebreaker to Bates. Even though overall the Mules have only six losses, only one less than Tufts and Wesleyan, they are clearly not as complete of a team overall.

Cardinals Start Where They Ended: Baseball Power Rankings 3/25

The NESCAC conference season is starting Friday, albeit in a somewhat lesser fashion than usual because of the weather. Still, with the beginning of conference games upon us, now is a good time as ever to Power Rank the teams. You will get a good idea of our impressions for every team from this. Then check back in later today to see our predictions for how the teams will finish in the standings and who will make the NCAA tournament.

All records are from 2015

1. Wesleyan (8-4, 0-0)

A year ago we didn’t expect Wesleyan to end up winning the NESCAC, but now we will be more surprised if they DON’T win it. The offense led by Wesleyan’s all-time hits leader Donnie Cimino ’15 and CoSIDA All-American Andrew Yin ’15 is stacked across the board. Nick Cooney ’15 and Gavin Pittore ’16 anchor the pitching staff. This team only has one weakness that we can point out: pitching depth. Jeff Blout ’14, Chris Law ’14 and Jimmy Hill ’14 combined to throw 117 innings – 31 percent of Wesleyan’s total – last season. Four of the top five pitchers in terms of innings are back but after that top four there is some uncertainty. Of course, Wesleyan’s problem is peanuts compared to those that other contenders have to deal with.

2. Tufts (9-3, 0-0)

The Jumbos have gotten off to a good start once again this year. Unlike the other NESCAC schools that fly all the way south to either Florida or Arizona, Tufts travels to North Carolina and Virginia. Connor McDavitt ’15 is getting on-base at a nifty .458 OBP to get things going at the top of the lineup. The numbers for the pitching staff are gaudy which gives pause about the level of competition that the Jumbos have faced, but this is also the most accomplished staff in the league. Tufts will face off in a big series against Bowdoin starting Friday.

3. Amherst (6-6, 0-0)

The Jeffs remain somewhat of a mystery after their spring trip. Their split of a doubleheader against #4 St. Thomas is an indication of how good the Jeffs can be. Ace John Cook ’15 was excellent in that start going 7.1 innings and a solo home run was the only offense St. Thomas managed against him. However, the Jeffs also gave up twelve runs in consecutive seven inning games. New shortstop Harry Roberson ’17 is hitting the ball great with an average well above .400, but he also already has seven errors, an untenable amount at this point. This team might not be as deep as past years which could ultimately doom them in the NESCAC race.

4. Colby (6-1, 0-0)

The Mules stock has gone up the most from the beginning of the season. They are still in the midst of their trip to Florida, but the early returns have been very promising. Unfortunately, we only have the statistics for two of their games, but their scoring differential has been great. Their offense has scored above 10 runs in five of their seven games thus far. Given that this was the worst offense in the NESCAC a year ago and they lost several key pieces, that could spell great news for the Mules. We won’t see them in NESCAC action until next weekend, however.

5. Bates (5-3, 0-0)

We have barely seen the Bobcats in action over the past month, and we still know very little about how their rotation is going to shake out. Because they have had so few games, their starters have only been going a few innings before giving way to their deep bullpen. A good sign for the Bobcats’ offense is that they are averaging the second most walks per game, something that they were very good at a year ago as well. Evan Czopek ’16 has been fantastic thus far in the lineup.

6. Bowdoin (5-8, 0-0)

The Polar Bears struggled through a somewhat uneven spring break, but they also faced some injury problems as well as a hard stretch of opponents. The key for them, as we said before, is finding a way to hit all the way through their lineup. Chad Martin ’16 has hit three home runs already in the middle of the lineup and has cemented himself as one of the premier power hitters in the league. Henry Van Zant ’15 allowed five runs but also struck out 13 batters with no walks in his last outing in Florida. If he becomes a fully fledged ace, then the Polar Bears will be thinking playoffs.

7. Trinity (7-5, 0-0)

The Bantams spring trip started out great with a five-game winning streak before they dropped five out of seven games to finish on a down note. The main problem for them on the second half of their trip was the offense averaging only 2.5 runs per game in the final six games. Once again, none of the Bantams showed much power as the team didn’t hit any home runs on their trip, but the impact of freshman Brendan Pierce ’18 in the lineup is promising. Some players like Daniel Pidgeon ’15 are bound to rebound from a slow start and help the Bantam offense recover at least somewhat. Also, note how tightly-packed the 4-7 spots are. The East, behind Tufts, remains wide open and these teams are basically interchangeable at this point.

8. Williams (3-3, 0-0)

The Ephs only started their spring trip this past weekend so they are still a little behind some of the other teams at this point. Besides Jack Cloud ’17, none of the Ephs main hitters have hit well thus far, and the back end of the rotation has not looked great thus far either. The Ephs’ three wins have come against mediocre competition. Still, the Ephs can make those worries mostly go away with a dominant performance in their opening series against Middlebury.

9. Hamilton (6-5, 0-0)

We would have put the Continentals higher if they hadn’t dropped a doubleheader to Colby on Tuesday. The two games exposed the lack of quality starters for Hamilton behind Jjay Lane ’15. Cole Dreyfuss ’16 is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his two starts so far so he could end up being a critical piece for Hamilton. The Colby starters basically shut down the Hamilton lineup besides Joe Jensen ’15. Hamilton will not open their NESCAC season until April 10 when they travel to Middlebury so they will remain in the background for a little while.

10. Middlebury (0-6, 0-0)

Still searching for their first win, the Panthers have seen consecutive late inning leads slip away the last two games in their opponents’ final at bat. Dylan Sinnickson ’15 has been a fun story so far, but Middlebury is not going to see results on the field unless their pitchers start getting opponents out more consistently. The team ERA is an almost unfathomable 13.92 at this point. That number must, and certainly will, come way down. Still, Joe MacDonald ’16, who is expected to basically be an innings-eater (disclosure: Joe is the co-founder of Nothing but NESCAC) is the only pitcher with an ERA below 7.00 at this point. The good news is that the lineup is hitting better than last year with Raj Palekar ’18 enjoying a torrid start to his career, even though some of the guys expected to carry the load, MacDonald included, are off to slow starts.