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:
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.
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