Separation Time: Weekend Preview 4/15

Jason Lock '17 and the Middlebury lineup looks to continue their surprise start. (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
Jason Lock ’17 and the Middlebury lineup looks to continue their surprise start. (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

After two weeks of Mother Nature really just hating on NESCAC baseball, the forecast for the weekend all over the ‘Cac looks beautiful and is finally doing its part to make baseball fun again. (Knock on wood, please.)

As Adam Lamont’s latest power rankings suggest, the season so far has been filled with people getting hit by pitches (I felt your pain, Panthers—I’m sure pitches from Wesleyan’s Peter Rantz ’16 leave a bruise), some impressive upsets—Hamilton vs Amherst, Middlebury vs Wesleyan—and old powerhouse Trinity potentially crawling their way back into proper form. And then there’s Bowdoin, back near the bottom of the conference. Sorry, Polar Bears, there really is no such thing as luck in the NESCAC.

This weekend, the conference continues on its way with each team having a few more games under their belts:

NESCAC Series:
Trinity vs Tufts—Friday 3 pm; Saturday 12 pm, 2:30 pm
Bowdoin vs Colby—Friday 3 pm; Saturday 12 pm, 2:30 pm
Middlebury vs Hamilton—Friday 4 pm; Saturday 12 pm, 2:30 pm
Williams vs Wesleyan—Friday 4 pm; Saturday 1 pm, 3:30 pm

It’s difficult to pick a specific must-watch game out of this bunch—though the Williams vs Wesleyan face off is certainly the most mismatched of the group in terms of rankings, the remaining trio of games can go either way. The way this season has been going so far, it’s unlikely we will be seeing multiple sweeps this weekend.

Players to Watch

1. P Colby Morris ’19 (Middlebury)
So you know that Middlebury upset of Wesleyan? Colby Morris ’19 was on the mound for that. The rookie earned an incredible—jaw-dropping, actually—win against the reigning NESCAC champs, allowing just three runs over 6.1 innings of work with three strikeouts. Now, Wesleyan has the best team batting average at .370, so the fact that Morris (4.91 ERA) took them down is a serious show of the young arm’s potential for the Panthers. Over the next four years, he’s going to be the threat of the NESCAC.

Morris will start off Middlebury’s series against Hamilton this weekend. Hamilton has the second highest team batting average (.343) and will no doubt go full force against the Panthers to guarantee a first-game victory. If Morris builds off of last weekend’s momentum, he’ll have no problem taking control.

2. C Brett Mele ’17 (Hamilton)
Maybe I’m just standing on a soapbox, but Mele’s stats are absolutely phenomenal this year compared to his first two seasons, and he hasn’t really been given much NESCAC recognition for it. At the plate, the junior holds an awesome .442/.524/.577 slash line that places him in second, fourth, and seventh in the conference, respectively. That power is impressive. Very impressive. Clearly, Mele was playing below expectations in his first two years, but these stats convey some above and beyond effort.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that he was selected for the NESCAC All-Academic team last year. But maybe the conference can somehow highlight something else he does well this year, too.

The Run-Down

I’ll keep it short and sweet this week, as there are a lot of games to tune into in the next few days. Here’s what you need to know:

Trinity vs. Tufts
Starting Pitchers: Jed Robinson ’16, Anthony Egeln ’18, Chris Speer (Trinity); Tim Superko ’17, Speros Varinos ’18, Andrew David ’16 (Tufts)

Tufts may be holding strong, but they know that one game can change everything. That being said, the Jumbos are preparing to face Trinity full force. “Trinity is obviously playing really well. They’re a solid team,” head coach John Casey said. “They play really well defensively. We have to keep them off the bases.”

Tufts’ men on the mound will likely make the difference in the Tufts vs Trinity series—Andrew David ’16, especially, will be a battle for Trinity’s batters. David flaunts a 1.42 ERA, the second in the NESCAC; meanwhile Anthony Egeln, Jr., the Bantam’s highest-ranked pitcher, comes in at 2.93. However, Egeln has not allowed a run in his last 14 innings pitched.

The competition in the other area is evidently much closer: the teams are neck-and-neck, with Tufts and .279 and Trinity and .277 for batting and .964 and .962 for fielding. Tufts’ Harry Brown ’17 has been undeniably the most superior batter in the mix, but afterward the stats pretty much blend together. It’s likely we will be seeing some big hits from both sides this weekend unless one team’s defense really plays way above expectations

Nevertheless, Tufts is fundamentally the stronger team, as they are tried and proven. Trinity has the potential to really move up a notch in the rankings this season, but the Bantams currently lack the cohesive firepower of the Jumbos.

Prediction: Tufts wins 2

Bowdoin vs Colby
Starting Pitchers: Harry Ridge ’16, Brandon Lopez ’19, Ben Osterholtz ’19 (Bowdoin); Soren Hanson ’16, Tommy Forese ’16, Brooks Parker ’19 (Colby)

It’s Maine vs Maine this weekend in the NESCAC, and unfortunately, that means one struggling team vs another struggling team. Bowdoin started off the season strong, but proved unable to hold onto that pride and glory once the regular NESCAC season began. Harry Ridge ’16 and Soren Hanson ’16 will make interesting opponents, with commendable ERAs of 1.69 and 2.49. However, Bowdoin’s depth is much more reliable than Colby’s, and you can’t rely on just one pitcher in a three-game series. Colby’s Andrew Currier has dominated at the plate this season for the Mules, racking up nice stats of .377/.417/.434. Sean Mullaney has also made a difference on the Polar Bears, trailing behind Currier with .324/.400/.368.

At the end of the day, this will probably be the most evenly matched series of the weekend, with neither team able to move up in the rankings and really give a blowout performance.

Prediction: Bowdoin wins 2

Middlebury vs Hamilton
Starting Pitchers: Colby Morris ’19, John Bunting, Joe MacDonald ’16 (Middlebury); Cole Dreyfuss ’16, Spencer Vogelbach ’18, Dan DePaoli ’18 (Hamilton)

Both Middlebury and Hamilton stunned the NESCAC with tremendous upsets in the last two weeks, causing their peer teams to think, “Wow, they really have gotten better!” And, in case you missed all of the season so far, they have. Hamilton’s core squad of juniors (Ryan Wolfsberg ’17, Brett Mele ’17, Kenny Collins ’17 and Andrew Haser ’17) is pretty terrifying for fielders; they all stack up extremely highly in NESCAC standings. It’ll probably get even more intimidating once Chris Collins ’17 is 100 percent recovered from his spring break hamstring injury. Hamilton’s pitching rotation is also quite impressive, with Cole Dreyfuss ’16, Spencer Vogelbach ’18, Dan DePaoli ’18 and Max Jones ’19 finding more consistency as the weeks progress.

The rise of the Panthers, meanwhile, is probably the most shocking story in the NESCAC so far. After failing to really produce wins for the past few years, Middlebury got that huge win over Wesleyan last weekend 7-4. The Panthers are experiencing a youth movement that is unquestionably resulting in the team’s success: pitcher Colby Morris ’19, as already expressed, is pitching well on the bump, while Sam Graf ’19, Spencer Tonies ’19 and Phil Bernstein ’19 have been standouts in the field. And then there is Jake Turtel ’18, who currently holds the starting 2B position after not playing much at all last season as well and is hitting .333/.387/.386 at bat.

Hamilton needs to sweep this series if they want to make a major dent in the standings and increase their chances at making this year’s NESCAC playoffs. To do that, winning Game 1 is key. Vogelbach and Morris will duel it out on the mound with a shared goal of getting that first win. After that, one thing is certain: the Continentals are going to put their blood, sweat and tears into this one.

Prediction: Hamilton wins 2

Williams vs Wesleyan
Starting Pitchers: Luke Rodino ’17, Tyler Duff ’17, TBA (Williams); Peter Rantz ’16, Nick Miceli ’17, Ethan Rode ’17 (Wesleyan)

If there’s a sweep this weekend, you can guarantee it’ll happen here. The Ephs definitely have a young team this year, and that means inexperience. All things considered, Williams isn’t too shabby at the plate, averaging .310. Sure, Wesleyan boasts a .370 average, but still, it’s actually quite impressive. Pitching, however, is a completely different story. While Wesleyan has produced a slightly disappointed 4.77 ERA, Williams falls dead last in the NESCAC with a lousy 8.49. Is this better than the two-digit figures we saw during spring break? Yes. Is this going to win many NESCAC contests? No.

If Williams doesn’t improve on the bump, there is next to no chance they will be a legitimate contender against the Cardinals this weekend. Sorry, Ephs, but this one’s not happening for you yet.

Prediction; Wesleyan wins 3

April Showers Bring…Snow?: Stock Report 4/6

This is not a NESCAC baseball field, but it is what some fields looked like because of the weather.
This is not a NESCAC baseball field, but it is what some fields looked like because of the weather.

Nothing says “baseball” like six inches of snow, right? Believe it or not, it is spring in the NESCAC. Though we may be trudging through snow and having games canceled because of “inclement weather” (i.e. sudden blizzard in April?!?!), we will be able to see the field by this weekend, and there will be games played on them. The weather can only deprive us of NESCAC baseball (and MLB Opening Day games) for so long.

Braving mercurial weather conditions, the teams played their first of many NESCAC Division series Friday and Saturday (The games between Wesleyan and Colby do not count towards their conference record). While most NESCACs were delaying or postponing weekend matchups, Williams and Middlebury continued to soak up the gorgeous Arizona sun in their first NESCAC West series but have returned to NESCAC turf for the remainder of the season.


Guys making—or remaking—history

Williams’ pitcher Luke Rodino ’17 and Hamilton’s 1B Andrew Haser ’17 did more than make a good first impression in their NESCAC openers.

Rodino threw a complete-game eight-hitter without walking a single batter. Alone, the accomplishment is pretty nice, but if you consider that no other Eph pitcher has done that in 37 games (i.e. 369 days ago), it’s amazing. As a result, Williams defeated rival Middlebury 8-2, improving their record to 5-8 overall and 1-0 in the NESCAC West. And here’s a fun fact for you: the last time Williams did not walk any batters was also thanks to Rodino’s arm.

If neither his NESCAC Player of the Week nod nor his clutch walk-off have sufficiently marked him as a threat at the plate, Andrew Haser’s ’17 school-record three home runs for Hamilton on Friday will certainly do the trick. The hotshot hit his home runs in consecutive innings against the team from Central Massachusetts; he’s racked up five so far this season, just two short of the program’s single-season mark, and 10 in his collegiate career (three away from yet another school record). At this rate, the junior will have no problem shattering those records before he graduates, let alone this year. I guess you could say he’s having a pretty good start to the season.

The underdogs-of-the-underdogs

It’s time to stop thinking about Middlebury as the team that comes in last in NESCAC standings each season and to start applauding their achievements as they come. The Panthers beat Williams in the final two games of a three-game NESCAC West series this weekend, first by virtue of a 2-1 crazy walk-off and then by a 11-4 tally in Saturday’s nightcap. The team has demonstrated noticeable improvement across the board. John Luke ’16 is Middlebury’s comeback kid: he seems to be making up for three years of mediocre hitting, as he now leads the team and most players in the NESCAC with his .432/.462/.595 slashline. Meanwhile, Jake Turtel ’18 has developed his skills all around, earning the starting 2B position after not playing much at all last season and racking up a .325/.372/.375 combination at bat. Former 2B Brendan Donohue ’18 has proven himself to be quite a wild card, moving around the diamond to LF and even to pitcher and maintaining his hitting reliability with a .320/.393/.400 slashline. Middlebury only committed two errors in three games (compared to Williams’ seven), and that solid command of the field is no doubt a result of diligent team growth.

Middlebury should really be excited by their arsenal of talented rookies. With speed and a strong arm, Sam Graf ’19 is an asset to the outfield with  only one error in 12 games, while Spencer Tonies ’19 is making a big impact at shortstop (.441/.474/.559). Behind the plate, Phil Bernstein ’19 has been a great defensive force in the weekend’s games. Their progress may not mean that much right now, but in the long run, investment in the younger players will result in a more competitive team. No, the Panthers aren’t going to take the NESCAC West anytime soon, but if they keep up the good work, they may break free from their cycle of disappointment. Here’s looking at you, kids.

P Cole Dreyfuss ’16 (HAM)

Taking the mound after Hamilton’s 18-8 defeat against Amherst, Cole Dreyfuss ’16 ruled all seven innings of Saturday’s Game One.  His imposing two-hitter force not only surprised Amherst but also made them visibly nervous. The senior captain held Amherst hitless for one stretch of 5.2 innings. With this victory, Dreyfuss earned his team-leading third win of the season, which raises his career record to 12-8 (third place on the team’s career wins list).

Although Amherst came out on top in the weekend’s series, winning two of the three games—albeit that the last one stretched into extra innings—Hamilton definitely showed both the flustered Jeffs and the entire NESCAC that the Continentals won’t be beaten without a hard fight. And most of that tenacity this weekend can be credited to Dreyfuss’s fantastic pitching.


Bowdoin’s pitching

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Polar Bears’ early success was due to either hidden talent or mediocre competition, and right now, it’s looking like the latter. There’s no denying that Ben Osterholtz ’19 (0.66 ERA), Connor Rooney (1.13 ERA), and Harry Ridge (2.18 ERA) are good pitchers; Michael Staes ’16 (3.71 ERA) isn’t throwing poorly either. But as a team Bowdoin has only managed to secure a 4.28 ERA and a concerning 5.16 K/G, and when it comes to the NESCAC, that’s just ok. The power we saw—or thought we saw—during spring training has simmered out: it was all relative to the competition the Polar Bears’ faced rather than the competition they would ultimately see in conference games. Luckily, the team has a solid group of pitchers to continually develop over the season.


No one expects a bottom team to suddenly play a super competitive game against reigning champions, but the Mules had nothing in their favor during their brutal 21-1 loss to Wesleyan on Saturday.

The Mules are hardly poor hitters; with a .312 AVG, they are relatively average in the NESCAC and actually have fewer strikeouts than any other team. At the end of the day, the team just had the misfortune of going up against Peter Rantz ’16 and Nick Miceli ’17, so their failings at the plate are understandable. Determining the efficacy of their defense is more nuanced. In the first game of the DH, Colby had three errors compared to Wesleyan’s zero; in the second, the Mules had six errors compared to the Cardinals’ one. Considering that their .956 FPCT is identical to Amherst’s, it’s hard to say that sloppy defense is the sole culprit for the Mules poor start. Regardless, allowing 21 runs in nine innings—11 in one inning alone—isn’t the work of a stable squad.

Why did Colby give up so many hits? Last weeks’ Pitcher of the Week Soren Hanson ’16 put in a solid 6.1 innings in Game One, holding the Cardinals to just three runs. However, Game Two was basically a pitcher party to which seven different guys showed up. Right now, the team has a collective 9.35 ERA, and when you’re going down the roster for teammates to pitch in your game, you’re not looking at a drastic improvement. Put that ERA up against the most dangerous hitters in the team, and you’ve got Game 2. And that’s just ugly. The Mules can unquestionably improve their work both at the plate and in the field, but their efforts won’t make up for poor pitching. Putting together a more reliable rotation behind Hanson—one that will get your through DH weekends—needs to be Colby’s focus right now.

Amherst’s music selection

You know something’s really bad it the NSN announcer is making fun of it. In this case, he was begging Amherst to turn off the music. Sir, I feel your pain.

My tastes may be limited to 90s rock, but I can say without hesitation that whoever made the playlist for the Amherst-Hamilton series was completely out of their mind. Why would you ever switch back and forth between bubble-gum country and EDM? Or better yet, why would you ever—EVER—play “Let It Go” from Frozen during a baseball game? What happened to good old-fashioned Jock Jams?

Amherst DJ, I have quite an expansive knowledge of said Jock Jams and appropriate pump-up music and would be happy to be of assistance to you. But seriously—what were you thinking?


Mother Nature

Amherst-Hamilton’s nightcap was delayed due to torrential rainfall. All of Sunday’s games were postponed due to inclement weather. And the last two days I’ve woken up to snowfall.

Get your act together, Nature. Spring is for baseball, not building snow forts.

Lions and Tigers and Polar Bears: Stock Report 3/22

Sean Mullaney '17 and the Polar Bears are the big early season surprise. Bowdoin is 7-0. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Sean Mullaney ’17 and the Polar Bears are the big early season surprise. Bowdoin is 7-0. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

While you’ve been at home crying over your destroyed March Madness brackets, NESCAC baseball teams have swarmed to warmer climates to start their seasons. Players have already been hard at work with practices and games for weeks – and a month, if you’re Bates -, but it’s these crucial games during break in which coaches and teams determine starting lineups for many home openers set for this coming weekend. Teams may just be trying to find the right lineups, but the stats and results can’t hide from the official record.

While the makeup of Wesleyan’s roster may be different than in previous seasons, its potential for success has hardly diminished. Nevertheless, the Cardinals continue to excel thanks to veteran players like OF Jordan Farber ’16, P Peter Rantz ’16, P/C/2B Nick Miceli ’17, and SS Guy Davidson ’16. Davidson’s spring break run has clinched his position as one of the best hitters in the NESCAC: during the two-week period, he hit .444/.500/.685 as he went 24-for-54, driving in 19 runs and scoring 16 times.

Like the Cardinals, Amherst has continued to dominate the diamond, despite also losing the team’s star, current-MLB player Mike Odenwaelder ’16. Yet, Amherst is currently boasting an 8-1 record and shows no signs of slowing down going forward into the season, especially with the starting outfield of Yanni Thanopoulos ’17, Anthony Spina ’17 and Ariel Kenney ’18 hitting an outrageous .371 through nine games. Kenney himself has gone 16-for-35 and currently leads the team in batting average (.457), on-base percentage (.500), and slugging percentage (.657). Pitcher Jackson Volle ’17, who on Monday was named the NESCAC Pitcher of the Week, opened the season strong, claiming two wins in his first two starts to help Amherst secure their exceptional 8-1 overall record. Volle wrapped up spring break with a tidy 0.64 ERA.

Perhaps the greatest surprise in the early going has been Bowdoin’s brilliant winning streak. They’ve opened the season 7-0 on the strength of some great pitching to the tune of a 2.68 team ERA through the first five games (yesterday’s stats vs. Greenville were not available at the time of this posting).

Now for the first stock report of the what is going to be a very interesting season.

Stock Up

  1. P/C Nick Miceli ’17 (Wesleyan)

Throughout the Cardinals’ first 12 games, Miceli has proven that on the field, he’s a man for all seasons: already he’s stood out in the conference for stellar pitching, hitting and fielding. He’s the ultimate NESCAC Triple Threat.

The junior, having already thrown in five games, is ranked in second in the conference with a 16.2 IP, 8.54 K/G and ERA of 2.16. Miceli’s strength on the mound was clear in Wesleyan’s second game against Bethany Lutheran College on March 7. Bethany Lutheran scored six runs in the first two innings, thanks in large part to some shoddy defense, giving them a generous 6-2 lead heading into the third. The two teams were almost even in hits, with Bethany Lutheran only outhitting Wesleyan by one. During innings 3-6 Miceli was nearly untouchable, allowing four hits but no runs with no walks and five strikeouts. He then impressed in relief on March 11 against Marian University, allowing one run on three hits with four strikeouts in five innings. But that’s not all: Miceli boasts a .474/.500/.632 line in 38 at bats while seeing time mostly at second but also catcher and DH.

In short, Miceli is good. Really good.

  1. Fresh Pitching Faces

Around the NESCAC plenty of youngsters have shown some great potential on the mound in the early going.

After graduating Elias and Cooney and losing Pittore, Wesleyan hasn’t missed a beat on the mound. Miceli has looked good throwing the ball, and Peter Rantz has picked right back up where he left off, but Mike McCaffrey ’19 has shown some potential, too. His first outing was disastrous, to say the least, but so was everything else for the Cardinals in their season-opening 29-14 rout at the hands of Hamline. McCaffrey improved in his second outing, and then shined in his third appearance, a complete game victory over Carleton when he allowed four hits and one walk while striking out 10.

Hamilton’s Spencer Vogelbach ’18 first made a name for himself as a first-year at the beginning of last season. In the Continental’s spring break game against Alfred State, his 11 strikeouts were the most by a Hamilton baseball pitcher in a single game in five years — an accomplishment that should not and cannot be ignored. Vogelbach pitched in three of Hamilton’s seven wins last week, striking out 11 batters and racking up a 14.0 IP with just one walk. The rookie was sixth in the NESCAC with a 2.25 ERA and a 4-1 record last season. Clearly, his rookie season was just a preview of what is to come for Hamilton’s pitching rotation. Dan DePaoli ’18 has also impressed on the bump; he went 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two starts that covered 11 innings. In Hamilton’s 7-1 win at Bard on March 12, DePaoli only allowed one unearned run on two hits in six innings of work. Then, in Friday’s 17-6 victory against Lawrence, he gave up three runs on four hits, struck out six and didn’t walk a batter in five innings. He also handled four chances in the field without an error.

Two freshmen started on the bump for Middlebury in their season-opening doubleheader against Bates. Colby Morris ’19 spun a complete game gem but was let down by his offense in a 2-1 loss. In the second of the twinbill, Jack Bunting ’19 was dominant through three innings before a pair of mistakes resulted in a three-run inning and one long left center field homer that was aided by a windy day that saw three balls leave the yard. Bunting finished with 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 K and 1 BB. In relief three members of the formerly beleaguered Middlebury staff, including newbie Conor Himstead ’19, combined for five scoreless innings.

  1. Walk Off Victories

It’s hard to tell what the Continentals love more: actually winning with a walk off or showing off the swagger of the moment on social media (as a loyal Continental, I’m personally a fan of both, but I confess I’m biased).

On March 14, the walk-off homerun of OF Kenny Collins ’17 won Hamilton’s first game against Minnesota-Morris by a narrow margin, 3-2. You have to love Collins’ elaborate helmet toss, shown towards the end of the video shared on Hamilton Baseball’s Twitter. I’m pretty sure hurling your helmet into the air is frowned upon by NCAA regulations, but in this situation, how could you not?

Andrew Haser ’17, the NESCAC Player of the Week, built off of Collins’ momentum ending Hamilton’s first game against Allegheny. With bases loaded in the seventh inning, Haser laced a homerun that freed the Continentals from a tied score (and this comes just two days after his grand slam contributed to Hamilton’s 17-6 victory against Lawrence). Haser currently leads the Continentals with 10 runs, seven extra-base hits, 13 RBIs, five doubles and a .706 slugging percentage. The junior is hitting .382 (13-for-34) and has only made one error in 54 chances at shortstop.

The Continentals cheered that they couldn’t believe they managed to escape defeat twice this early into the season? Neither could we.

It’s not just Hamilton walking off in style these days, though. In the second game of the doubleheader between Middlebury and Bates on Saturday, both teams threatened to score in extras of the originally seven-inning ball game. It was all ended with one swing though, when rightfielder Sam Graf ’19 notched his first career hit by smacking a long no-doubter to left field. The Panthers did a solid job of celebrating in their own right.

  1. Bowdoin: 7-0

Starting pitcher Henry Van Zant ’15 was unquestionably Bowdoin’s pride and glory last season, tying the program’s single-season record for wins by going 7-1, including a 5-0 mark in conference games. The stats don’t lie: he was the primary reason Bowdoin kept swimming throughout the season, even if he alone couldn’t launch the Polar Bears into the playoffs. Without him, Bowdoin has to redesign its entire pitching structure, to find a way to be victorious without their star.

In spite of pre-season doubts, Bowdoin really has come out on top, winning all seven of their games so far. And it’s worth noting that only two wins were by a narrow margin — in five of the Polar Bears’ wins to date, they have defeated their opponents by five or more runs.

Seniors Harry Ridge ’16 and Michael Staes ’16 impressed on the mound in Bowdoin’s sweep of Utica on March 15, pitching 5.2 and 7.0 innings, respectively. Ridge earned Bowdoin’s win on the mound while allowing just six hits and two earned runs. He struck out eight with only one walk. Staes turned in a complete seven inning performance in game two, allowing nine hits and only one run to earn the win. He struck out four Pioneers with no walks. Rookie Brandon Lopez ’19 earned his first collegiate win on the mound on March 17 against Dickinson, going six innings and allowing four hits and as many runs. Lopez struck out six and walked a pair.

Offensively, Chad Martin ’16 is clearly building upon his past success at bat. His .311 AVG last season placed him in the middle of NESCAC ranks, but he shows potential to outperform himself in the games ahead. Peter Cimini ’16 added ferocity to the Polar Bears’ deep offense, batting .400 with a .733 slugging percentage through the first five contests, collecting three extra base hits and six RBIs.

Stock Down

  1. Tufts’ 3B Tommy O’Hara ’18

Last spring training, rookie O’Hara was the wiz kid on the Jumbos, developing a .564 OBP in 42 at-bats with six walks during spring break. Throughout the season, the freshman infielder led the team’s offense with a .405 ABG, .518 OBP and .603 SLG. And let’s not forget that he also hit a team-high 14 doubles while registering four home runs, 42 runs scored and 42 RBIs.

The Jumbos may have seen only five games at this point, but their 2-3 record and poor showing at the plate are cause for concern. In his first 16 at bats, O’Hara has amassed a .188/.435/.188 line. That OBP is nice, and is carried by six walks, but he also has seven strikeouts already. O’Hara struck out 25 times all of last season for a 14.9% K rate. Right now he’s walking back to the dugout 30.4% of the time. It’s very early, still, but let’s hope the sophomore isn’t putting too much pressure on himself.

2. Trinity Pitching 

The Bantams are 4-6 to open the year, but it’s pretty obvious that the biggest hurdle they will have to climb this season is replacing SP Sean Meekins ’15, he of the 2.01 ERA a year ago. The experienced and usually reliable Jed Robinson ’16 has gotten knocked around in two starts to the tune of a 5.84 ERA, and the other pitchers with two starts already – Anthony Elgein, Jr. ’18, McLane Hill ’18 and Nicholas Fusco ’18 – have ERAs of 3.97, 5.87 and a ghastly 10.38. The bright spot for the rotation so far has been newbie Erik Mohl ’19, who shut down Plattsburgh St. in his one start, throwing six scoreless innings, but his 2:4 K:BB ratio over 7.1 IP does not bode well for the future.

Speaking of Plattsburgh St., the 37 runs that Trinity posted on the Cardinals during their doubleheader last week may be bolstering the team’s .314/.410/.433 slash line, but I’d bet more heavily on the Bantams’ offense than pitching staff right now.


3. Live Stats

I have many bones to pick with the stability of live stats programs this week. It’s hard enough trying to follow a baseball game using play-by-play stats rather than a video stream. A live stats program that continues that constantly lags or repeatedly—or permanently—freezes is just torture.

Over the years, I have accumulated quite a list of grievances about these streams, and the Hamilton vs. Fredonia stats stream probably embodied them all. In the first game, the program showed the stats of Fredonia’s previous game for the first two innings; when it finally switched to the Hamilton game, it never changed the lineup and eventually froze in the bottom of the third inning. It never adjusted for the second game.

Perhaps this was the most extreme of cases, but so far, none of my experiences with live stats during spring training have been positive. Help a fan out, NESCAC! Get it together. I hope, and expect, that the ability to follow along with NESCAC games will improve once all teams return up north, as is usually the case.

4. Editors

On Thursday, March 17, Trinity lost to Rutgers-Camden 9-4 in Auburndale, FL. According to Trinity’s website, however, the team actually played against Rugers-Camden. Now, as a New Jersey native, I was extremely skeptical that “Rugers-Camden” actually existed—I even looked up “Rugers” just to confirm that it’s not a slang way of referring to Rutgers University that I’ve never heard of. But no, Trinity corrected itself in the line below the flawed headline, accurately spelling out “Rutgers-Camden.”

Yet, Rugers appeared again. And then again. And then the website switched back to Rutgers. Then back to Rugers.

I can’t condemn an occasional typo (we’ve all been there), but having exorbitant inconsistencies regarding a nationally known institution on an official college website is inexcusable. Note that the errors still remain throughout the game recap.

The Bantams may have won the game, but the college itself lost in quality coverage. Shame on you, Trinity!

I thought that was all, but then this little nugget was brought to our attention. As noted above, Middlebury walked off on Bates 4-3 in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday, March 21. According to the NESCAC Weekly Release, however, “Bates def. Middlebury, 4-3”. They have the records right in the Team Standings category, but we couldn’t help backing the Panthers on this one.


Why You Should Care about NESCAC Baseball in 2016

Peter Rantz '16 will try to fill the gaping whole left in the Wesleyan rotation. (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Peter Rantz ’16 will try to fill the gaping whole left in the Wesleyan rotation. (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Editor’s Note: Our baseball coverage this spring is not going to be as comprehensive as in the past two seasons. Blame senior spring and most of our writers also being baseball players.

Every year February sneaks up on me because I’m busy not freezing to death while being caught up in the excitement of NESCAC basketball. So every year Bates begins their season and I’m blindsided. Players have been hard at work getting in practices either late at night or early in the morning. The season really gets going this Saturday with five NESCAC teams playing games, but the NESCAC regular season doesn’t begin until April 1 so you (and us too) have plenty of time to get up to speed.

The 2015 baseball senior class was a loaded one, and the additional loss of the two most talented underclassmen (more on them later) to Major League Baseball makes the returning talent pool even smaller. A lot of new names are going to make a major impact on this season, and it is unlikely the predictability of last season holds again. Wesleyan has reigned supreme for the past two years. They dominated last season going undefeated in the regular season and winning the NESCAC tournament, and they won the NESCAC tournament in 2014 as heavy underdogs.

Brief aside: we began this site in the spring of 2014 with coverage of baseball. For some reason, I had illusions that when we started the blog that it would spread quickly and our readership would quickly develop. That didn’t quite happen, and it took us a LONG time just to get 100 Twitter followers. I was a little discouraged by the end of the spring, but then something happened after Wesleyan won the NESCAC championship. I had been writing all spring about how I didn’t think the Cardinals were that good and had picked them to lose early in the tournament. After they won, one of the Wesleyan players (I’m pretty sure they’ve deleted their Twitter since then) tweeted at the blog handle saying something to the effect of, “How you like us now?” A ton of other guys on the Wesleyan team retweeted and favorited it, and that was when I knew that things were going to be all right.

Back to this year. Wesleyan is going to look a lot different this season. They have already started their season in Arizona, and boy did things go badly in the first game Sunday. Wesleyan went down 24-0 after the third inning in a game that was an unmitigated disaster. You shouldn’t read too much into it, though. The first game of a baseball season, especially for a team that has barely been able to practice outdoors because of the New England weather, is notoriously fickle. Trips down south count on the official record, but they are still viewed as glorified spring training games by most. Anyways, Wesleyan swept a doubleheader the next day.

Wesleyan loses Donnie Cimino ’15 and Andrew Yin ’15, their two hitters at the top of the lineup, and three other positional starters. That doesn’t hurt as badly as the losses in the rotation where Sam Elias ’15, Nick Cooney ’15, and Gavin Pittore ’16 are all gone. That trio threw basically all of the high leverage innings a season ago, and the rotation is a mystery behind Peter Rantz ’16 who threw 60.2 innings with a 2.97 ERA in 2015. The good news is that slugging shortstop Guy Davidson ’16 is back and is mashing the ball so far. Guys like Robby Harbison ’17, who had a great freshman year but didn’t play much last year, and Marco Baratta ’16 need to have huge years offensively. Their best bet for winning a third consecutive NESCAC title is by mashing their way there, a very different story from their first two titles.

The two teams most likely to knock Wesleyan from their perch are Amherst and Tufts, traditional powers that also lost a good amount from last season. The loss of Mike Odenwaelder ’16 a year early is a major blow to Amherst, but they return a lot of other pieces in their lineup including Harry Roberson ’18 who is looking to build on a freshman year when he had an OBP of .429. The rotation was young a year ago, and guys like Sam Schneider ’18 have the chance to be cornerstone pieces now. Amherst pushed Wesleyan all the way to extra innings in a winner-take-all NESCAC championship game, and I think the presence of Odenwaelder overshadowed some of the other phenomenal players on the team.

The Jumbos meanwhile are in a similar spot with the loss of some big lineup pieces like Connor McDavitt ’15 and Bryan Egan ’15. That hurts, but the duo of Tim Superko ’17 and Andrew David ’16 gives them two legitimate frontline starters to trot out every weekend. In a wide open league, that is a luxury. The possibility of strikeout wizards Speros Varinos ’17 or Zach Brown ’18 replicating that ability over a larger amount of innings is intriguing. The other playoff team from the East, Bates, has a chance to be very good on the mound. Guys like Connor Colombo ’16 and Rob DiFranco ’16 have proven themselves to be above-average pitchers. I’m worried about the lineup because their three best hitters are all gone, but I had the same worry last year and guys stepped up then.

When looking for a team that could jump into the playoffs, no single team jumps out, honestly. The East was so even last year with every team having at least four wins that you would expect one of those teams to jump out. The problem is Trinity loses their three top hitters and ace, Sean Meekins ’15, leaving some big gaps to replace. Then Bowdoin has to find a way to win games without Henry Van Zant ’15 pitching them to it. A strong senior class featuring Chad Martin ’16 and Harry Ridge ’16 gives the Polar Bears hope, but like so many others, freshmen and sophomores have to step way up. Colby has nobody primed to replace Greg Ladd ’15 or Scott Goldberg ’15 in the weekend rotation, but their lineup should be improved.

Williams has a chance to make a big jump behind their young bats, but getting over the two giants in the West is so hard to do. The pitching for the Ephs was better a year ago, but it coincided with a drop in offensive production. Hamilton and Middlebury both look to be deeper than they were last season, but I think it’s a long shot for one of them to make such a big jump.

Overall, the season has a lot of uncertainty. The junior class is a weak one overall (more 2018 grads than 2017 grads made All-NESCAC teams last season), and that is the primary reason why so many young players are going to see playing time. I expect the talent bases of the elite teams to be strong enough to keep the status quo in place. But again, it’s March 9, and not even coaches really know what they have.

I’m still a few weeks away from being able to watch NESCAC games in person, but I’m excited for when I do get to watch some baseball. A NESCAC doubleheader can be over in a brisk four hours, and the large college rosters makes for a lively atmosphere even if not many fans besides parents show. We will get there eventually folks, just hang in there.

You Come at the King, You Best Not Miss: Weekend Preview 3/3/15

Williams and Wesleyan will play all three of their games at Andrus Field. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Williams and Wesleyan will play all three of their games at Andrus Field. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

After the slight miscarriage that was opening weekend in the NESCAC, we actually get a full slate of weekend series, though there are still some more cosmetic changes because of the weather. But still, it’s baseball! For real! Alas, no games in Maine yet. One can only dream.

With Tufts having the weekend off, the remaining four East Division teams are tangling in series that will start the process of figuring out where exactly where each of them stands relative to each other.

The biggest series is out west with Williams taking on Wesleyan. The Ephs swept Middlebury to once again at least appear to have a shot at challenging Amherst or Wesleyan for the second playoff spot. A year ago with the Ephs at 4-2 in league after taking one game from Amherst, the Cardinals put their foot down and swept Williams to take control of the West and end the playoff chances for the Ephs. This year, Williams is hoping for at least one win against the Cardinals. However, beating this Wesleyan team is one tall task.

Three to Watch

1. Shortstop Guy Davidson ’16 (Wesleyan): We love two sport athletes, and Davidson is one of the many at Wesleyan right now. However, not many athletes boast squash and baseball as their two sports. After spending the winter as the number one for the squash team, he has transitioned seamlessly to baseball. In his junior year he has elevated his game to another level at shortstop. A year after hitting only .273 with one homer, Davidson has mashed three home runs on his way to a team high .415 BA. Davidson combines with Andrew Yin ’15 to make one of the best double-play combos in the NESCAC.

2. Starting Pitcher Scott Goldberg ’15 (Colby): Colby fans should not be too concerned at all with his 6.23 ERA. He dominated in his first two starts in Florida before having one very bad start. I put more stock into his 5 inning, 10 strikeout start against Hamilton than his 3 inning, 8 earned runs one against Castleton State. He is striking out a ton of hitters so far too which is good news. Goldberg should get the ball this afternoon in the NESCAC season opener against the Bantams. Last year against Trinity he didn’t make it through five innings, but Colby got the win in his start.

3. Left fielder Yanni Thanopoulos ’17 (Amherst): The sophomore is building on a very productive freshman year that saw him get on-base at .375 clip and steal 13 bases. Now after hitting only one extra base hit in 2014, Thanopoulos has two home runs and six extra-base hits total to date. On Wednesday in Amherst’s tuneup game against Bates, he went 2-4 and stole two bags to confirm that he is still very much a threat on the base paths. Mike Odenwaelder ’16 is going to continue to steal the headlines, but Thanopoulos has proven that there are two very capable outfielders with four syllable last names in the Jeffs outfield.


Middlebury (0-9, 0-3) at Amherst (7-6, 0-0). Games played at Auburn High

Friday 7:00 PM: Eric Truss ’15 vs. John Cook ’15. Saturday 3:00 PM: Cooper Byrne ’15 vs. Keenan Szulik ’16. Robert Erickson ’18 vs. Jackson Volle ’17.

Not too much to say here. Hard to pick in favor of the Panthers until we see them win a game. Truss against Cook is a clear mismatch in the first game, but in the other two the Panthers will have a shot. Dylan Sinnickson ’15 is a game decision for this one. Amherst has looked a little shaky so far, and their 10-9 win over Bates wasn’t too reassuring. They committed four errors (three by their middle infielders) to allow five unearned runs to score. They can overcome those types of errors against Middlebury.

Amherst sweeps series.

Colby (9-3, 0-0) at Trinity (8-5, 0-0)

Friday 3:00 PM: Scott Goldberg ’15 vs. Sean Meekins ’15. Saturday 12:00 PM: Greg Ladd ’15 vs. Jed Robinson ’16. Saturday 2:30 PM: TBD vs. Chris Speer ’17

Two teams who we have not heard too much from to this point are certainly feeling that they have a chance at the playoffs in the East. The rotation for the Bantams has been amazing with the four pitchers with the most innings pitched all having an ERA below 1.00. The bullpen has been much more of an adventure which has held the Bantams back a little bit. Meekins and Robinson have matured into a very good duo. For the Mules, Goldberg and Ladd are missing their running mate Soren Hanson ’16 who was injured earlier in the year.

The weakness of both teams is their offense so expect a low scoring series. In the end, the loss of Hanson for Colby swings things just enough for the Bantams who will win their first NESCAC series since 2013.

Trinity wins two of three

Bates (5-5, 0-0) at Bowdoin (6-10, 1-2): Games played at Franklin Pierce.

Sunday 1:00 PM: TBD vs. Henry Van Zant ’15. Sunday 3:30 PM: TBD vs. Harry Ridge ’16

The final game of this series is being postponed for later which might benefit Bates in the short run but Bowdoin in the long run. The Bates staff is still very unsettled with a bunch of arms still clamoring for innings. Expect a lot of different pitchers to throw multiple innings as manager Mike Leonard will not allow the Bowdoin hitters to see pitchers multiple times. In the long run, Van Zant can now start two of the games in this series for Bowdoin depending on when the final game is rescheduled for.

Winning at least one game is a must for Bowdoin to stay near .500 in conference. Bates must be itching to play this weekend after only playing four games since February 21. These are two very familiar foes who have to travel to an unfamiliar locale in Franklin Pierce.

Teams split the doubleheader

Series of the Weekend: Williams (6-5, 3-0) at Wesleyan (9-4, 0-0)

Friday 4:00 PM: Thomas Murphy ’15 vs. Nick Cooney ’15. Saturday 1:00 PM: Luke Rodino ’17 vs. Gavin Pittore ’16. Saturday 3:30 PM Dan Smith ’16 vs. Sam Elias ’15.

All three games will be played in Middletown because there is still some snow in Williamstown, but the change of venue is not a big one as the Saturday doubleheader was already planned for historic Andrus Field.

A good deal of players for Wesleyan have yet to hit their stride. Neither Cooney nor Pittore boast a spectacular ERA, but some of that is because of the caliber of teams they pitched against earlier in the year. Meanwhile Donnie Cimino ’15 has not looked like his usual self in his first baseball action since breaking his jaw last summer. He should get back on track as he gets more at-bats. That a good deal of Wesleyan stars are not playing great but the team is still playing well is not a surprise given the depth of talent. Remember too that a good deal of this team played some high level baseball this summer in the Cape Cod league and beyond.

Williams feels confident after managing to sweep Middlebury, but they needed a walk-off win in the first game to make it happen. As mentioned in our season preview, the Eph hitters were shut down against Wesleyan in 2014. A repeat of that spells doom for them. While Jack Roberts ’17 is smoking the ball, Jack Cloud ’17 and Luke Pierce ’15 are both mired in slumps that are keeping the Williams offense from working on all cylinders.

Something tells me that Wesleyan is ready to show the NESCAC just how good they are going to be this weekend. The Ephs will play well, but their best chance of winning is Murphy throwing a gem on Friday. Against a lineup as deep as Wesleyan’s that is very difficult.

Wesleyan sweeps series

Baseball Starting Nine: What You Have Missed Thus Far

Baseball returns to New England this coming weekend. Get ready. (Courtesy of Tufts University)
Baseball returns to New England this coming weekend. Get ready. (Courtesy of Tufts University)

Been too busy watching basketball and avoiding the snow to remember that NESCAC baseball is in full swing at this point? You certainly were not alone. It has been easy to lose sight of everything going on down south, but we kept close tabs for you. With the NESCAC conference season starting Friday, get ready for our season predictions and other analysis coming later this week. In the meantime, here are nine things you need to know about.

1. Wesleyan has experience for days: A quick perusal of the Wesleyan statistics tells us very clearly that freshmen are not going to see much playing time. Through twelve games, the only stats accrued by freshmen are four at-bats. Besides that a returning player has played every pitch and at-bat. That ability to have exclusively upperclassmen separates the Cardinals from every other team that has to rely on some freshmen to fill crucial roles. The returning champions have every reason to be confident.

2. Cardinals have impressed: Sticking with the defending champions for our second point. As we mentioned in our season preview, Wesleyan played a challenging spring trip schedule, and overall they showed they belong with the best. Their 8-4 victory over #7 Cal Lutheran was a high water mark that brought them to 5-0 for the season. Ace Nick Cooney ’15 started and won that game for Wesleyan. Wesleyan stumbled a bit near the end of the trip and is now 8-4, but they still are the most impressive team to this point. Guy Davidson ’16 has a slashline of .395/.477/.684 to lead the offense. Wesleyan probably hasn’t hit their stride yet, and they are already pretty scary looking.

3. Dylan Sinnickson ’15 is bashing baseballs: The return of Sinnickson to the diamond is a big reason why there is a sliver of hope around the Middlebury team, and he wasted no time making an impact. In the Panthers opening doubleheader Saturday, Sinnickson went 5-9 and hit THREE home runs. Then he hit another in the Panthers first game on Sunday to tie for the league lead after only three games. The team’s pitching against him probably had no idea who he was and he likely saw some fat fastballs that he was able to eat up, but still, not many players in the NESCAC can do hit four homers in three games. To take a year off from baseball and come back hitting like that is incredible and shows the type of athlete he is.

4. Bowdoin and Trinity struggled: The two East Division teams both have their sights set on returning to the playoffs, but they need to improve on their play quickly. Bowdoin went 5-8 on their Florida trip while the Bantams went 7-5. The Bowdoin staff saw nobody pitch well and the team had a 5.58 ERA. The front of the rotation guys like Erik Jacobsen ’15 and Harry Ridge ’16 pitched decently while Henry Van Zant ’15 started only one game. Meanwhile Trinity’s problem of hitting for no power carried over to this season. As a team the Bantams slugged .357 in their 12 games and had nobody hit a single home run. The good news is that their top two pitchers Sean Meekins ’15 and Jed Robinson ’16 looked fantastic.

5. Tommy O’Hara ’18 big for Tufts: The weakness of Tufts is their lineup, but O’Hara looks like he is going to solve a good deal of that problem single-handedly. The freshman third baseman was Tufts’ best hitter on their trip to Virginia and North Carolina. He had a ridiculous .564 OBP in 42 at-bats. With a 1:1 K:BB ratio, he should be able to carry over that type of hitting to the conference season. Don’t expect him to finish with an OBP above .500, but the Illinois native will be a huge bat in the middle of the Tufts lineup that appeared a bat or two away from being elite before the season started.

6. Amherst pitching is unsettled: The big reason why the Jeffs went only 6-6 on their trip was a pitching staff that saw a lot of players auditioning for a starting role. Six different pitchers started games for the Jeffs, and John Cook ’15 started only one game in part to let others get a chance to show their stuff. Drew Fischer ’18 flashed his massive potential with 15 strikeouts in only 8.2 innings. The problem is that he also walked nine batters. He will have to do a better job of trusting his fielders and not simply trying to strike everybody out. Jackson Volle ’17 had two solid starts and might have won the third rotation start because he appears to be more consistent than the flashy Fischer.

7. Rob DiFranco ’16 emerging for Bates: The transition from reliever to starter is going well for DiFranco so far with two starts and two wins. Granted, the first start he only went two innings. He has allowed only one run in eight innings so far, and he has yet to walk an opposing batter. DiFranco only went five innings in his longest start so far so we have not seen whether he can go deep into games yet, but the early returns are promising. Combined with Will Levangie ’15 thus far, and the Bobcats rotation has been solid.

8. Hamilton sophomores stepping up: Joe Jensen ’15 has been fantastic like you would expect him to be, and the Continentals are hitting better behind as well. Chris Collins ’17, Kenny Collins ’17, Ryan Wolfsberg ’17, and Andrew Haser ’17 are all hitting .333 or better. Haser in particular has been impressive after having an OBP below .300 in 2014. Having this core group of sophomores be consistent threats in the lineup makes Hamilton a much more dangerous team to pitch against. The Continentals will get the chance to see whether it stands up against Wesleyan this weekend.

9. Remember the sample size caveat: Do not get carried away with all the results so far. Statistics tells us that through random probability some players will get hot  A lot of things are going to change as we go forward. When assessing the worth of early season statistics, keep in mind Bayes’ theorem. While the idea is sort of complicated, the idea is lend more weight to events that confirm what we thought already and give pause to events that contradict what we thought. So for example, we can trust that Jensen hitting above .500 is not a fluke because we knew already that he was really freaking good at baseball.

Bevy of Seniors Look to Bounce Back: Bowdoin Baseball Season Preview

Peter Cimini (#25) will be a big part of the Bowdoin lineup this season. (Courtesy of
Peter Cimini (#25) will be a big part of the Bowdoin lineup this season. (Courtesy of

2014 Record: 18-16-1 (5-7, Fourth in the NESCAC East)

Postseason Outcome: Missed NESCAC Playoffs

Returning Starters: 9 (6 Position Players, 3 Starting Pitchers)

Projected Starting Lineup (Stats are from 2014)

2B Aaron Rosen ’15 (.331/.396/.496, 0 HR, 19 RBI)
LF Cole DiRoberto ’15 (.301/.358/.376, 1 HR, 10 RBI)
CF Peter Cimini ’16 (.279/.367/.404, 1 HR, 20 RBI)
DH Chad Martin ’16 (.333/.362/.496, 4 HR, 30 RBI)
3B Sam Canales ’15 (.304/.368/.363, 0 HR, 13 RBI)
1B Erik Jacobsn ’15 (.277/.358/.349, 1 HR, 11 RBI)
C Chris Nadeau ’16 (.196/.327/.217, 0 HR, 3 RBI)
SS Sean Mullaney ’17 (.180/.349/.180, 0 HR, 6 RBI)
RF Joe Gentile ’18

RHP Henry Van Zant ’15 (1-2, 1.95 ERA)
RHP Erik Jacobson ’15 (3-3, 4.09 ERA)
LHP Harry Ridge ’16 (4-2, 2.87 ERA)

Offensive Overview:

The offensive core returns for Bowdoin as six of the top seven OBP performers from last season are back. The bad news is that this group sputtered in conference play finishing with the second fewest runs scored. The top of the lineup should be very good with Aaron Rosen ’15, First Team All-NESCAC in 2014, getting things started. Peter Cimini ’16 and Chad Martin ’16 will look to build off of their breakout sophomore campaigns. Those two were two of the biggest positives from last season. They will need to provide most of the power for this lineup.  Sam Canales ’15, Erik Jacobsen ’15 and Cole DiRoberto ’15 are line drive hitters who will be very solid cogs for Bowdoin. The bottom of the lineup is a big question mark. Both Chris Nadeau ’16 and Sean Mullaney ’17 played occasionally last season and hit below the Mendoza line. Joe Gentile ’18 is the frontrunner to grab the final outfield spot and has above average speed, but freshmen regularly struggle to adjust to collegiate pitching. The bottom of the lineup needs to be serviceable while the guys who have proven themselves must be special.

Defensive Overview:

First of all, we lack the advanced stats or the extensive scouting that allow us to break down defense like they do at the professional level. From what we know, the Bowdoin defense was neither a strength or weakness overall, but they made some critical errors in conference that cost them. Cimini will have to replace speedy centerfielder Kyle LeBlanc ’14, and he is flanked by DiRoberto and Gentile, two players who are question marks defensively. The infield should be a strength with the duo of Rosen and Mullaney a potent double-play combination. Nadeau only threw out three of the 18 base runners who attempted to steal against him. That percentage must, and should, go up by a lot. The defense is unlikely to be a game-changer for Bowdoin, but they should be more sure handed and commit fewer errors than last season.

Pitching Overview:

The strength of Bowdoin is a pitching staff that was very good despite injuries to their presumed top two starters. Now the staff that had the second best overall ERA behind Tufts returns their top four starters and closer. Ace Henry Van Zant ’15 was only able to pitch near the end of the season, but he looked great tossing a casual 1.95 ERA in 27.2 innings. Harry Ridge ’16 and Erik Jacobson ’15 both return after posting solid though not remarkable numbers. Jon Fraser ’15 emerged as a legitimate weapon out of the bullpen with an eye-popping 0.76 ERA to go with a 11.03 K/9 rate. Michael Staes ’16 also pitched very well and looks to be the first guy up if someone in front of him stumbles or gets hurt. Finally, keep an eye on freshman Logan Simon ’18, a freshman from recent baseball powerhouse Harvard-Westlake in California. He will get innings early on in Florida to get a good look at what he can do.

Storylines to Watch

1. How much do they steal?

Though Bowdoin doesn’t lose a lot of production from last year on offense, a good deal of their 40 steals from a year ago are no longer on the roster. Rosen is the only significant threat to steal a base, and even he only stole eight times in 2014. Cimini has good speed, but Manager Mike Connelly might be loathe to let him loose if Martin bats behind him. If the back end of the lineup gets on base more, Connelly might set them loose in order to create havoc on the base paths. On the other hand, the Polar Bears might choose to simply eschew stealing for the most part and instead concentrate on smart, safe base running.

2. Does SP Harry Ridge ’16 wear down again?

In each of the past two seasons, Ridge has started the season off by pitching a few games beautifully before seeing his numbers dip significantly in the second half. This might make sense if Ridge was a power pitcher unused to throwing so many innings, but he is actually a control pitcher who strikes few guys out even when he is pitching well. Why he has struggled so much in the second half is somewhat of a mystery, but the third time might be the charm. One of the problems for Ridge was the defense behind him committing a lot of errors with him on the mound. Some of that is because pretty much everybody puts balls in play against him, but he should have better luck this season.

3. Can the entire lineup hit?

This is probably the biggest question for the Polar Bears. The bottom three hitters in their lineup do not project to hit very well. That impact is huge as pitchers are able to relax and pound the zone for a couple of hitters. The best hitters for Bowdoin will not see as good pitches because opponents will depend on getting Bowdoin hitters out with runners on base. Big innings become very hard also. The best NESCAC teams have threats at every spot in the lineup.  The Polar Bears don’t need Mullaney, Nadeau and company to hit like rock stars down there, but they need to at least put the ball in play and make the defense get them out. Bowdoin was near the league lead in strikeouts last season.

Biggest Series: At Bates April 3 and 4.

The good news for Bowdoin is that the second spot in the East behind Tufts looks wide-open, and they probably have the most returning talent of any of the remaining four teams. Bowdoin opens the NESCAC season against Tufts, but their series the next weekend against Bates will tell us whether this team is capable of returning to the playoffs. Taking two out of three will go a long way towards getting Bowdoin to the top of the heap. Last season Bates took two of three from Bowdoin in what turned out to be a huge series for the Bobcats. Also, we would be surprised if these games happen at Bates on schedule given all the snow still on the ground.

Stock Report April 21

The playoff picture is beginning to solidify in both Divisions. In the West, Wesleyan and Amherst know that they will be playing tournament baseball this May, and the regular season West crown will be decided this weekend when Amherst travels to Middletown, CT. As for the East, the Jumbos remain on top, though with five games still to play in conference a slump would drop Tufts from the number one seed. Everyone but Trinity is still afloat on the East side of the ledger. We have one full weekend of NESCAC play remaining, and here we discuss who’s hot and cold heading into the final week of conference play.

Stock Up

1. Bates (13-11, 4-3) – No team had a better weekend than the Bobcats did. They took two out of three against Trinity to take care of business, but more importantly saw Colby lose three tight games to Tufts. Bates cruised in game one behind another great start from Brad Reynolds ’14, and won game two by mashing their way to 12 runs. Griffin Tewksbury ’14 hit his conference leading fifth homer of the season as well. The Mules and Bobcats will meet next weekend in a series that should finally decide who will get the second spot in the East. I say “should” because Bowdoin could surprise Tufts and win multiple games to give them a chance. Bates also has two games still to play against Tufts which have been rescheduled to May 3. This has the potential to be a huge help to Bates because Tufts will most likely have nothing to play for. They could rest a bunch of their regulars, or at least not play them the entire game. Even if they ended up losing both games to Tufts, Bates can all but assure a playoff spot if they win two games against Colby. 6-6 might be all it takes to make it in the East.

2. Nick Cooney ’15 Starting Pitcher (Wesleyan) – Hamilton had a hard time figuring out the junior southpaw as Cooney had 12 strikeouts on the way to his fifth win of the season. Last week he won NESCAC Pitcher of the Week, and his performance this week was just as impresive. He has put an uneven start behind him in conference play with three great starts against Middlebury, Williams and Wesleyan. The in-season improvement by the entire staff has been the big difference in the Cardinals’ play in conference. Cooney has emerged as an ace and workhorse by leading the conference in innings pitched this season.

3. John Cook ’15 Starting Pitcher (Amherst) – We admit that we wrote Cook off a little bit when he let up 11 runs to Southern Maine in the beginning of the year. Since then the junior has rebounded in a big way, but he saved his best for last weekend. Middlebury was keeping Amherst on the ropes with a great pitching performance by Eric Truss ’15, but Cook matched him every step of the way, holding Middlebury to one run as the game went to extras. After a Tyler Jacobs ’15 homer put the Jeffs up by one in the tenth inning, coach Brian Hamm showed his confidence in his pitcher by sending Cook back out to start the bottom of the tenth. Cook calmly delivered, going three up three down. Considering Cook allowed 11 runs in one game, his 2.83 ERA is almost a miracle, and a testament to his recent dominance.

Alex Kelly '14 was among the few bright spots for Middlebury against the Amherst staff, going 6-13 in his last NESCAC series atop the Panthers' lineup. Courtesy of Rachel Frank
Alex Kelly ’14 was among the few bright spots for Middlebury against the Amherst staff, going 6-13 in his last NESCAC series atop the Panthers’ lineup.
Courtesy of Rachel Frank

Stock Down

1. Colby Offense – First we should give credit to Soren Hanson ’16 and Greg Ladd ’15 for stepping up big time and giving the Mules a chance to win the last two games of the series after Tufts managed to rough up ace Scott Goldberg ’15 in the first game. The offense, however, could not get anything going which is why the weekend ended without any victories for Colby. Yes, Tufts has some of the best pitching in the league, but Colby missed two golden opportunities to grab a game. Their best chance was in the top of the sixth in the second game when a double left runners on second and third with one out. On a groundball to second Jason Buco ’15 was thrown out at home trying to score the go-ahead run, and a Tyler Starks ’16 strikeout ended the inning with two runners still on base. The offense needs to regroup before the weekend for Colby to reach the playoffs.
Check out this amazing catch by catcher Nick Cutsumpas ’14 that helped the Jumbos sweep the Mules.

2. Hamilton’s Supporting Cast – Again, we don’t intend to single out a certain player on Hamilton for their poor play, but we draw attention to this in order to shed light on Joe Jensen’s ’15 play. Over the weekend Jensen was his usual havoc-wreaking self with five stolen bases in three games. Hamilton has faded in conference play after we highlighted them as a potential spoiler in the West, but it hasn’t been because of Jensen. He now sits at 18 stolen bases and a .512 OBP on the season. With nine games remaining he has a chance to match the 29 he had in 2013. The problem is that he just hasn’t gotten any backup from his teammates. He has ten more hits than anyone else on the team, and Hamilton has nobody in the middle of the lineup hitting for extra bases that would move Jensen quickly around the bases.

3. Harry Ridge ’16 Starting Pitcher (Bowdoin) – Since he started conference play with a gem against Trinity, Ridge has struggled to be the number one starter Bowdoin needed him to be because of the injuries to Henry Van Zant ’15 and Christian Martin ’14. Against Bates and Colby, Ridge couldn’t manage more than three innings in each game, and while he pitched six innings against Williams, he allowed five runs (three earned). His ERA sits at a respectable 3.00, and it is true, like we wrote last week, that his defense has let him down. Still, whether it is fair or not, Bowdoin needed him to be more than that in order to contend. His season is sadly reminiscent of last year when he went through similar stretches of uneven pitching. All that being said, don’t count him out to have a rebound this weekend as Bowdoin prepares for their last stand against Tufts.
You can catch the highlights of Saturday’s Williams-Bowdoin doubleheader here, courtesy of Bowdoin athletics:


Mid-Season Awards

With a few weekends left before the season draws to a close we thought now was a good time to put forth our awards for the year thus far. We took into account the entire season, but weighted conference performance above all.

West Division

Courtesy of Amherst Athletics
Courtesy of Amherst Athletics

MVP – Mike Odenwaelder ’16 Outfielder/Pitcher (Amherst) – Odenwaelder wins by a thread over many other deserving candidates. Odenwaelder is thumping the ball all over the place with a .447 average and top-notch .697 slugging percentage. He leads Amherst with 21 RBIs and is tied with Connor Gunn ’16 with three homers. All that being said, what puts him over the top is his mound dominance. The sophomore is so talented that he has pitched 20.2 innings for a team loaded with pitching. His 1.74 ERA is the sixth best mark in the NESCAC and he has held opponents to a .123 average. The only runs he has allowed were in his first appearance of the season. Odenwaelder is not one of the weekend starters (yes, Amherst is that talented), but his arm is one of the most electric in the league.

Honorable Mention- Joe Jensen ’15 (Hamilton), Donnie Cimino ’15 (Wesleyan), Alex Kelly ’14 (Middlebury) and Matt Kastner ’14 (Williams)

Courtesy of Amherst Athletics
Courtesy of Amherst Athletics

Most Valuable Pitcher – Dylan Driscoll ’14 (Amherst) – Amherst garners another award because one of the main reasons Odenwaelder isn’t starting is the performance of the Jeffs’ other starters, Driscoll in particular. The only team that has gotten to Driscoll is Williams, who roughed up the righty for six runs. Besides that, Driscoll has allowed one run in four starts which all lasted at least seven innings. A 1.50 ERA through 36 innings is nothing to scoff at. He barely walks anybody, yielding only four free passes on the season, but he still strikes batters out at a 8.50 K/9 rate. The senior is the leader of a staff that is deep in experience and talent.

Honorable Mention- Jjay Lane ’15 (Hamilton), Nick Cooney ’15 (Wesleyan) and John Cook ’15 (Amherst)

Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics
Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics

Most Improved Player – Joe Jensen ’15 Outfielder (Hamilton) – Last season Jensen was a stolen base savant who got on-base at an about league average rate of .347. This season, however, the Hamiltonian lead-off man has morphed into an on-base machine still capable of wreaking havoc on the base paths. A big reason for his .514 OBP is that he doesn’t strike out often while also drawing a lot of walks. He has as many walks, 10, as strikeouts. That, coupled with speed that earned him a second-place finish in the 400m final at the March NCAA Indoor Championships, Jensen maximizes his chances of getting on-base even when he doesn’t connect with the ball well. He has been carrying the Hamilton offense for most of the season.

Honorable Mention – Andrew Vandini ’16 (Amherst), Luke Pierce ’16 (Williams) and Max Araya ’16 (Middlebury)

Courtesy of Williams Athletics
Courtesy of Williams Athletics

Rookie of the Year – Jack Cloud ’17 Outfielder (Williams) – Wesleyan’s Robby Harbison is making a strong push for this award right now, but Cloud’s body of work is better at this point. An OBP of .459 and slugging percentage of .600 would be exceptional for a senior, and to do it as a freshman is almost unheard of. After only striking out only once in his first 11 games, Cloud has been rung up 10 times in his last six contests, but he is still getting on-base, having hit safely in five of those last six. He has not kept up the torrid pace he established at the beginning of the season, but those numbers were almost impossible to continue.

Honorable Mention – Robby Harbison ’17 (Wesleyan), Ellis Schaefer ’17 (Wesleyan), Kenny Collins ’17 (Hamilton) and Jason Lock ’17 (Middlebury)

East Division

Courtesy of Colby Athletics
Courtesy of Colby Athletics

MVP – Jason Buco ’15 Outfielder (Colby) – This pick might come as a surprise to some. Nobody in the East sticks out from the crowd, but Buco gets the nod over a number of others. A case could be made that teammate Kevin Galvin ’14 is having a slightly better season offensively. His OBP of .469 is 50 percentage points better than Buco’s, more than making up for Buco’s 48 percentage points advantage in slugging percentage. One big difference is that Buco’s defense has been much better. Galvin plays a more demanding position in third base, but his fielding percentage of .806 is still far too low. Buco’s four home runs is tied for tops in the league. Also a star on the football team, Buco is helping to turn around two programs at Colby that are hitting new heights.

Honorable Mention – Kevin Galvin ’14 (Colby), Chad Martin ’16 (Bowdoin), Kevin Davis ’14 (Bates), Griffin Tewksbury ’14 (Bates) and Max Freccia ’14 (Tufts)

Courtesy of Tufts Athletics
Courtesy of Tufts Athletics

Most Valuable Pitcher – Kyle Slinger ’15 (Tufts) – No award is easier to hand out than this one. That is saying a lot considering that the top four and nine of the top 11 league leaders in ERA pitch in the East. Despite that, no pitcher can touch Slinger’s dominance so far. To quickly reiterate what we wrote on Monday, Slinger has a 0.66 ERA and .136 opponents’ batting average for the season. He strikes out one batter an inning and hasn’t allowed a run in his last three starts. The only wart on his resume is the 19 walks he has handed out thus far, but the walk issue is the equivalent of punctuation error in a Pulitzer Prize novel. Slinger has been so good that he garnered consideration for MVP of the East. A plethora of other pitchers are throwing great this season, but nobody can match the Tufts ace.

Honorable Mention: Scott Goldberg ’15 (Colby), Tim Superko ’17 (Tufts), Brad Reynolds ’14 (Bates) and Harry Ridge ’16 (Bowdoin)

Courtesy of Colby Athletics
Courtesy of Colby Athletics

Most Improved Player – Scott Goldberg ’15 Starting Pitcher (Colby) – When Goldberg got off to a fast start this season some questioned his ability to maintain it given how much he struggled last season. And yet, Goldberg has actually gotten better as the season goes on. He stumbled a bit against Trinity before tossing a gem against Bowdoin going eight innings while allowing two (unearned) runs. A season after posting a 5.50 ERA, he is the justified owner of a mark five times as low: 1.05. Goldberg is also striking out batters at a prodigious rate of 10.52 per nine innings. This award could just as easily have gone to fellow Mule Kevin Galvin ’14, who is enjoying a huge bump in production as well.

Honorable Mentions: Peter Cimini ’16 (Bowdoin), Brian Wolfe ’15 (Trinity) and Kevin Galvin ’14 (Colby)

Courtesy of Tufts Athletics
Courtesy of Tufts Athletics

Rookie of the Year – Tim Superko ’17 Starting Pitcher (Tufts) – If it wasn’t for how well Slinger has been pitching, Superko would be neck and neck with Goldberg for best pitcher in the East. For now he has to be content with being seen as the understudy to Master Slinger. Keep in mind, he is no slouch of an understudy, the owner of a 1.04 ERA and eye-catching 11.77 K/9. His two wins undersells the impact he has had for the Jumbos as a freshman. Last weekend the bullpen blew a lead after Superko threw five innings of one run ball. One knock of him is that he has only pitched 26 innings while never going more than six in a start. As Tufts takes any restrictions off him, Superko will only continue to improve. As an aside, the East is definitely lacking in impact freshmen overall when compared to the West.

Honorable Mention – Ryder Arsenault ’17 (Colby) and Tom Petry ’17 (Tufts)


Tell us what you think, where we went wrong and who we missed in the comments section.

East Power Rankings April 9

Two weekends of conference of play have gone by, and the East Division looks increasingly muddled. We knew entering the season that Bates and Colby would be improved, Bowdoin and Trinity had lost a lot of talent, and Tufts probably had the most potential in the division. All of that has held true, and it has made the first two weekends unpredictable. Without further ado, here are my rankings of the East so far this season.

1. Tufts (17-1, 1-0) – Putting Tufts first is an easy choice given their dominance so far this season. Yet they have only played one conference game because they were off this weekend and had their doubleheader against Bates postponed two weekends ago. Centerfielder Connor McDavitt ’15 has been outstanding at the top of the linep with a .449 OBP and seven stolen bases without being thrown out once. The Jumbos have great balance on offense and rival Amherst for the best staff in the league. The only possible wart they have shown thus far is their propensity to allow a lot of walks. Ace Kyle Slinger ’15 especially has given out a lot of free passes with 16 walks in 32 innings. Besides that Tufts doesn’t seem to have any weaknesses. Tufts has proven beyond a doubt that they are the best team on paper, but we still aren’t sure how they will look in conference play. Even if they sweep Trinity to go to 4-0 in conference it probably tells us more about Trinity than Tufts. Still, given their talent level, any finish below first in the East will be a surprise.

2. Colby (10-4, 2-1) – This has been the NESCAC’s surprise team so far this season, but people should probably wait a weekend before piling onto the bandwagon. The Colby-Bowdoin series on Friday and Saturday will show if Colby will be in it for the long haul. Right now the Mules are riding high after taking two of three from Trinity. Jason Buco ’15 made us look pretty smart for highlighting him on Friday when he hit two homers the first game of the weekend to up his season total to four. Scott Goldberg ’15 was chased in the fifth inning by the Trinity bats, but Lucas Geoghegan ’14 was superb in relief going 4.1 scoreless innings for the win as Buco’s second homer in the seventh proved to be the difference. Colby couldn’t complete the sweep when Trinity broke a 4-4 tie in the eighth of the finale, but they are still happy with the weekend’s results. Geoghegan (1.76 ERA) has rebounded to his 2012 performance after he saw limited action last season, and both Greg Ladd ’15 (2.50 ERA) and Goldberg (1.53 ERA) have taken a big step forward. All of this has helped Colby’s pitching be much better than last year. If that pitching continues then Colby will prove they aren’t a fluke.

3. Bowdoin (11-6-1, 3-3) – Wait didn’t Bates just beat Bowdoin in two out of three games this weekend! Look, Bates played great and gave Bowdoin trouble, but I am not going to overreact to one weekend of games even if they were head-to-head. Bowdoin is still rounding into form on the mound with Christian Martin ’14 making his first appearance of the year and Henry Van Zant ’15 making his third relief appearance. Bates knocked around both Erik Jacobsen ’15 and Harry Ridge ’16 in the first two games, but the two should rebound. Ridge had been spectacular so far until he allowed six runs in only three innings on Saturday prompting some to worry he will see a repeat of last season when he struggled in some starts while looking great in others. Outfielder John Lefeber ’14 has really struggled in the six league games going 2-22 at the plate. He and Aaron Rosen ’15 (.276 AVG) have yet to bust out at the plate, but have done a good job drawing walks to get on base.  Expect those two to show up big in the next few weekends. The good news is that Jay Loughlin ’14 came up huge on the mound in the final game to give Bowdoin the win in the finale, and Bowdoin can reclaim control of their destiny by winning this weekend against Colby.

4. Bates (8-9, 2-2) – They showed why some thought that the Bobcats were primed for a surprise run this season this past weekend against Bowdoin. Our other player to watch heading in to the weekend, Brad Reynolds ’14, won NESCAC Pitcher of the Week after he went six innings, allowed only one (unearned) run, and struck out ten. Kevin Davis ’14 went 8-13 and had an impressive 10 RBIs over the three games. There are a lot of positives right now for Bates, but they are still below .500 on the season. Number two starter Chris Fusco ’14 got knocked around in the second game though the offense was good enough to overcome his lackluster start. Will Levangie ’15 probably solidified his status as the third starter with his performance in the final game, but that was really his first good performance of the season. Behind Davis and Griffin Tewksbury ’14 the offense has been very lackluster. Bates needs those two to continue to rake and others to step up in order for the offense to offset some of the questions about the pitching behind Reynolds.

5. Trinity (7-12, 2-4) – By far the biggest disappointment to-date in the NESCAC in head coach Bryan Adamski’s first season, the Bantams have shown flashes, but at this point it is looking more and more unlikely that they will be able to make a playoff push. The question is exactly how far they have fallen. An optimistic view says they are good enough to steal a game from Tufts and could easily win or even sweep their series against Bates. A pessimist says we are judging them off of past success and they really aren’t that good. The pessimistic view also suggests that we are overrating Colby and Bowdoin for their series victory over the Bantams. The starting pitching this weekend against Colby was very good in every game, but in the first two games the bullpen faltered. The offense was pretty much dormant until it exploded for five runs in the final inning of the second game. The rally fell short by one run, but showed Trinity is not going to go quietly into the night. Brian Wolfe ’15 and Scott Pidgeon ’15 have been carrying the offense, and they need others to step up. With three games still remaining against Tufts, Trinity is in position to force a rise through the rankings if they can put the pieces together.