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.

Ranking the Individual Team MVP’s Thus Far

Mike Odenwaelder '16 has thrived in his junior year. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Mike Odenwaelder ’16 has thrived in his junior year. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

When I started to put together the Power Rankings for this week, I realized something important. Not much has really changed. While we still don’t know how things are going to shake out in the East, so far things have played out predictably and we have a good idea on how good each team is. So I decided to switch things up and go back and figure out who the MVP for each team was. Then once I had those settled, I went back in and ranked each player in order of performance so far this year. Just for kicks, I put the team’s Power Ranking from two weeks ago next to it just to give you an idea of how they match up.

10. Catcher Max Araya ’16 (.317/.442/.349): Middlebury (Team Rank: 10): Admit it, you were expecting Dylan Sinnickson ’15 in this spot. However, Sinnickson has come back to earth after that earth-shattering start. He hasn’t hit a home run since Middlebury’s third game of the year and has an OBP of .286 in NESCAC games. Araya, meanwhile, has continued his year-to-year improvement and stepped into full-time catching duties with great success. Offensively, Araya leads the Panthers with 11 bases on balls (and no one else is particularly close) and generally puts the ball in play with authority. The one thing lacking from his offensive game is a bit more pop, as he has just two extra base hits on the year. But Araya really gets the nod here for his work behind the dish, where has has emerged as one of the league’s best defensive backstops.

9. Shortstop Jack Roberts ’17 (.386/.429/.542, 0 HR, 19 RBI): Williams (Team Rank: 7): As a group the Williams’ offense has taken a step back from a year ago, but that has not stopped Roberts from cementing himself as one of the better players in the league. He rarely walks, but that isn’t his role as the three hitter. Roberts fits the mold of the team’s best athlete playing shortstop given his speed has allowed him to steal five bags and propelled him to four triples, tied for the league lead. His production has slipped ever so slightly in conference, but not by an alarming amount.

8. Right Fielder Nate Pajka ’15 (.353/.434/.659, 4 HR, 15 RBI): Bates (Team Rank: 5): The fact that Pajka is ranked eighth in this list is an indication of the quality of players that are to follow. After all, Pajka is fourth in the league in slugging percentage and has 14 doubles, the most in the league. In the Bobcats’ five conference games he is getting on base at a .458 clip. There isn’t really a good knock on his play either. The only reason others are above him is that they are just a smidgeon better in a couple of areas. A hit here and there really is the difference. Pajka can hold his hat on being one of the most improved players on this list; oh and that his team has a good shot at making the playoffs.

7. Starting Pitcher Sean Meekins ’15 (2-1, 1.91 ERA, 10.36 K/9, 33.0 IP): Trinity (Team Rank: 8): Yes, we are proud of our own Nothing but NESCAC contributor, but don’t accuse us of any type of bias. I think the sub-2.00 ERA speaks for itself after all. He is striking out gobs of hitters and still working late into games, a somewhat rare and valuable combination. He had been struggling a little in his previous couple of starts before getting back on track and throwing that gem on Saturday against Bowdoin. A year ago Meekins was an average starter in what amounted to an average rotation, but in 2015 Meekins, and the staff as a whole, has raised their level of play.

6. Starting Pitcher/First Basman Soren Hanson ’16 (.326/.380/.565 and 4-0, 1.78 ERA): Colby (Team Rank: 4): Hanson get serious consideration merely for his work on the bump, and when you add in his hitting contributions it is clear how important he is to Colby. Like another pitcher we will see in a bit, all three of his team’s NESCAC wins have come in Hanson’s starts. He is hitting only .263 in conference, but he is also second in RBI over that stretch so his timely hitting makes up for it somewhat. Why don’t we see more two-way players in the NESCAC? I’m not really sure, but Hanson is the best one going this year.

5. Pitcher Sam Elias ’15 (5-0, 3 Saves, 1.94 ERA, 41.2 IP, 9.94 K/9): Wesleyan (Team Rank: 1): One of several seniors to raise his game in his final season, Elias has been pulling double duty for Wesleyan as both a starter and reliever. A year ago he started only one game but was still a big part of the Cardinals success appearing in 19 games and throwing more than 40 innings. This year he has been the best pitcher on Wesleyan, which is saying something considering Gavin Pittore ’16 and Peter Rantz ’16 have ERA’s right at 2.20. Elias, like all the other Wesleyan pitchers, certainly benefits from Wesleyan having the best defense in the league, but don’t let that diminish his accomplishments. That Elias is only fifth but Wesleyan is clearly the best team in the league to this point is just another representation of the depth the Cardinals possess.

4. Center Fielder Joe Jensen ’15 (.419/.470/.568, 1 HR, 10 RBI): Hamilton (Team Rank: 9): Jensen was the original inspiration for this list because he is the player with the most obvious disparity between his team and his own personal performance. Not that there aren’t others playing very well for Hamilton this season, but as a group the Continentals have not been able to take a step forward. Jensen has not delivered on the power that we thought would come this season after he hit a home run in his first game of the year. But he has continued to run wild on the basepaths with 14 steals which is sort of incredible when you consider that everybody knows he is going to run. Though he has come back down a little recently, Jensen is still having his finest season yet as a senior.

3. Tufts: Catcher Bryan Egan ’15 (.402/.510/.573, 2 HR, 36 RBI: Tufts (Team Rank: 3): When I was putting this list together, this was the one that I had the hardest time slotting in. Ultimately Egan landed higher than I thought he ever would. At first I thought Tommy O’Hara ’18 was a clear choice for MVP for Tufts, but then I looked again at the conference stats for Tufts and noticed that Egan had an incredible .571 AVG. Also, did I mention that Egan is a catcher who wasn’t even a starter a year ago. Even though he has not thrown many runners out, he deserves some credit for shepherding the Tufts’ staff. At the end of the day, Egan has hit his best in the games that matter the most which is why he ended up so high on this list.

2. Starting Pitcher Henry Van Zant ’15 (5-1, 1.26 ERA, 37 K, 43.0 IP): Bowdoin (Team Rank: 6): We saw a big year coming for Van Zant, but we didn’t see this type of dominance on the horizon. He leads the league in ERA, and that number gets even better when you isolate for just NESCAC games where he has an 0.82 ERA. All three of Bowdoin’s conference wins have come in games that he has started, and you can chalk up their 1-0 non-conference win over Wesleyan to his complete game shutout, too. Van Zant looks poised to follow in the steps of his older brother, Oliver Van Zant ’13 and win NESCAC Pitcher of the Year honors.

1. Center Fielder Mike Odenwaelder ’16 (.444/.521/.697, 5 HR, 23 RBI, 8 SB): Amherst Team Rank: 2): You probably saw this one coming from the beginning. Nobody else in the NESCAC has the combination of size, power, speed and whatever else it is that makes some baseball players so good. Odenwaelder is both tied for the league lead in homers and leads the league in OBP, pretty decent for a guy who has eight steals to boot. Now consider the fact that I spent 30 seconds considering putting Harry Roberson ’18 in this slot instead of Odenwaelder. Gives you an idea of the type of year that the freshman is having. Odenwaelder is a special player who you don’t see very often come through the NESCAC.

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.

Predictions

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

Balance Necessary for Ephs: Williams Baseball Season Preview

Williams starts the season today in Arizona. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Williams starts the season today in Arizona. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

2014 Record: 13-16 (7-5, Third in NESCAC East), missed NESCAC playoffs

Starters Returning: 8 (6 Position Players, 2 Starting Pitchers)

Projected Lineup: (Stats are from 2014)

SS Jack Roberts ’17 (.302/.342/.368, 1 HR, 19 RBI)
2B Beau Horan ’16 (.163/.260/.209, 0 HR, 5 RBI
LF Luke Pierce ’15 (.312/.371/.440, 1 HR, 22 RBI)
CF Jack Cloud ’17 (.402/.463/.526, 0 HR, 22 RBI)
C Phil McGovern ’15 (.276/.325/.362, 0 HR, 17 RBI)
1B Nate Michalski ’17 (.230/.293/.311, 0 HR, 16 RBI)
RF David Rosas ’16 (.306/.342/.333, 0 HR, 5 RBI)
3B Adam Regensburg ’18
DH Kirby Neuner ’15 (.222/.467/.333, 0 HR, 2 RBI)

RHP Thomas Murphy ’15 (5-2, 3.77 ERA, 5.23 K/9, 43.0 IP)
RHP Luke Rodino ’17 (0-2, 5.63 ERA, 5.62 K/9, 24.0 IP)
RHP Daniel Smith ’16 (1-2, 9.98 ERA, 10.57 K/9, 15.1 IP)

Offensive Overview:

The unquestioned strength of the Ephs a year ago was their hitting. They were first overall in the NESCAC in OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage). They will certainly miss Matt Kastner ’14 and Thomas Stephens ’14, but with guys like Jack Cloud ’17 and Luke Pierce ’15 back, they will once again be very good. Cloud hit .402 as a freshman, and it will be exciting to see what he can do as a sophomore. Fellow sophomore Jack Roberts ’17 cooled off in conference, but he still hit over .300. A lot of spots are still very much in the air near the bottom of the lineup. Adam Regensburg ’18 will open at third base, but he can also play outfield so he might move around some this season. The core guys at the top have a shot at making this a scary offense once again.

Defensive Overview:

The Ephs defense was just about average in 2014. Their 49 errors, second least in the NESCAC a year ago, is a little misleading because they only played 29 games. For comparisons sake, Tufts played 43 games and made 52 errors. Roberts is moving from second base and replacing departed senior Kastner at shortstop. He had only four errors a year ago, but obviously shortstop is a much harder position to handle. Pierce did not have a single error last year, and he and Cloud will make a nice outfield duo. Phil McGovern ’15 brings experience at the catcher position.

Pitching Overview:

Pitching was unquestionably the major weakness for the Ephs a year ago, but they were actually better than their league worst 6.46 ERA would suggest. If you look only at conference games, the staff had a 3.95 ERA which was a middle of the pack mark. They will miss Steve Marino ’14, but Thomas Murphy ’15 has a chance to be a legitimate ace at the top of the rotation. He started five of their twelve NESCAC games and had a 2.84 ERA while also pitching three complete games. Behind him, Luke Rodino ’17 was solid his freshman year, and the sophomore should improve. Daniel Smith ’16 will get the first chance at the final weekend starting spot. His 9.98 ERA in 15.1 IP is obviously scary, but a 10.57 K/9 ratio indicates that he has the stuff to be a much better pitcher. As a group cutting down on the number of walks will be a key. That is sure to be a focus for new assistant coach, Tanner McIntrye,

Storylines to Watch:

1. In what direction is the program moving?

From 2006-2010, the Ephs finished first or tied for first in the NESCAC West every single year. In the four seasons since then, they have returned to the playoffs only once when they snuck in at 7-5 in the 2012 season. The emergence of Wesleyan and strength of Amherst has made the West a much tougher division, but there is certainly room for Williams to make some noise still. Manager Bill Barrale has been at the helm for eight seasons, and his first four were much more successful than his last four. Last season was a step in the right direction finishing above .500 in conference, and this season must continue that momentum.

2. Do they solve elite pitching?

While the offense was phenomenal for the most part last year, they scuffled against Amherst and Wesleyan. In those six games, the Ephs scored only 3.3 runs per game. In being swept by Wesleyan they managed only five runs in three games. For some reason their bats went cold for those games which was the worst possible time for them. Murphy should give the Ephs a good shot in the two games he pitches against Wesleyan and Amherst, and if the bats come alive then the Ephs can start thinking about breaking into the playoffs.

3. Is Daniel Smith ’16  the answer?

Finding a third consistent starter is huge for NESCAC teams. Teams usually throw their ace on Friday and keep their lesser starters for the Saturday doubleheader. At the very least having a third starter who can go five innings and keep you in the game before turning things over the bullpen is a necessity. As said above, Smith’s ERA from last year should come way down because of his ability to strikeout hitters. How far down it comes depends on whether he can keep the ball on the ground. A few other pitchers like Arnie Capute ’16 and Eddie Kelly ’15 could also end up starting in the rotation, but Williams would really like Smith to establish himself on their trip to Arizona.

Biggest Series: April 10-11 against Amherst

No question about this one. Not only is this a meeting of the arch-rivals, but a series win would be huge for Williams’ playoff hopes. While Wesleyan is a juggernaut, Amherst is an extremely talented but more vulnerable team. A year ago Williams won one of the three games. The Ephs play Wesleyan the weekend before, but this is the one that really matters.

Don’t Mess with the Bobcats: Stock Report 12/8

Alumni Gymnasium with the student section at the far end. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics
Alumni Gymnasium with the student section at the far end. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

From the outside Alumni Gym does not look much. Once you get inside you realize that it actually is not big at all. That lack of size is, of course, the greatest strength of Bates’ home court. Only a few hundred people can fit into the gym which gives it a high school atmosphere. Classic old wooden stands extend back on both sides only eight rows deeps. On the far end of the gym behind one of the baskets enough space is available for 100 people to sit: a ready made fan section for Bates fanatics.

Thursday night I traveled to Bates along with nine friends to see our favorite team Bowdoin take on a surging Bates team. Last year a similar group traveled to Lewiston in February and watched Bowdoin dismantle a Bates team that was in the midst of a late season collapse. That game was during Bates’ winter break so most of the students were home for the game.

The atmosphere on Thursday night was completely different however. By the time the national anthem began, the student section was about three quarters full, and by the opening tip the gym was louder than most NESCAC gyms. Many other students littered the rest of the stands as well making empty seats a rare commodity. The first Bates basket brought a cascade of roars from under the basket that did not let up much causing some visible discomfort from the visiting Polar Bears.

After a back and forth first half, Bates busted open the game part way through the second. Bates was on offense going towards the student section in the second half, and the students had no problem letting Bowdoin hear it every time a Bates player made a basket. Two consecutive dunks put Bates up big and forced a Bowdoin timeout that could barely be heard over a rocking crowd.

Bates has been the most impressive team of the season thus far. While their 1-9 conference record still casts a shadow of doubt over them, that shadow keeps receding every game Bates plays. The NESCAC is far from Division 1 where students live and die by how their basketball team does, but Bates has staked their claim definitively as having the best home-court advantage in the NESCAC. One date to circle for certain on your calendars is January 9th when Bates opens up conference play against 7-0 Middelbury at 7 PM in Alumni Gym.

Stock Up

Guard Jaquann Starks ’16 (Trinity): So much NESCAC offensive success is based on the point guard’s play, and different teams require their point guards to approach the game distinctly. Starks is primarily asked to score in his role for the Bantams and leads the team with 15.1 points per game. His shooting percentages are 35.1/44.0/80.6 (in order of field goal/three point/free throw). Starks has struggled to shoot the ball well closer to the basket in large part because there is no spacing when he goes into the lane since he is the primary three point threat for Trinity. That lack of offensive weapons does not appear to be going away, but that does not mean Trinity is not a threat this season in the NESCAC. With Starks providing much of the offense recently, the Bantams have put together a four game winning streak since falling to 2-2.

Forward Marcus Delpeche ’17 (Bates): The Bobcats proved that they are for real not simply because they beat Colby and Bowdoin, but also how they did it. Last year Marcus played fewer than 17 minutes per game while serving as the backup for his brother Malcolm. This season Coach Jon Furbush has become comfortable with playing the two twins at the same time, and it has yielded great results thus far. Marcus is the third leading scorer for Bates with 10.7 points per game. Many of those points are off of offensive rebounds because opponents do not have power forwards capable of keeping him off of the boards. 49% of his rebounds have been offensive rebounds. Having Marcus and Malcolm playing big minutes together makes Bates capable of matching up against the likes of Amherst and Trinity in conference play.

Forward Hunter Merryman ’15 (Middlebury): If 2014 is “the year of the skilled forward” as Pete Lindholm asserts, then Merryman is the one most often forgotten about. After all, Merryman is not even the best forward on his team. Yet he still is having an All-NESCAC caliber season. He is averaging 17.1 points per game, most of which is because he is making an outrageous 56.4% of his three pointers. Logic tells us Merryman is unlikely to have morphed into an automatic shot maker, but is rather enjoying an extended hot streak that should end soon. Even when he slows down Merryman will continue to be a very good player, albeit not the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki.

Stock Down

Guard Bryan Hurley ’15 (Bowdoin): Last week was a terrible one for Bowdoin overall going 0-3 with the defeat assured well before the final buzzer sounded. A lot of things went wrong for the Polar Bears, but the sudden ineffectiveness of Hurley was one of the principle problems. The point guard averaged only 4.3 points per game in the three contests. Even more worryingly he  saw his assist:turnover ratio plummet. In Bowdoin’s first four games (all wins) he had a 3.5 assist:turnover ratio but managed only a 1.1 ratio in his last three games. Without Hurley making plays, Bowdoin’s offense fell stagnant for crucial parts of the second half, and their opponents were able to pull away. Hurley and the other members of the Bowdoin senior class have to return to form quickly in order to turn things around.

Amherst and Middlebury

The Jeffs and Panthers both remain undefeated, but they both have shown real weaknesses so far. For Amherst, the problem is putting all the pieces of their talented roster together into something that works as a basketball team. We have said it before, but the Jeffs simply do not look like your normal Division 3 team since they trot out two athletic 6’8″ players, two 6’5″ wings, and a 6’2″ point guard. That hasn’t kept them from having some close calls in games. Though the final score against Emerson indicated a blowout, the Jeffs held only a one point lead halfway through the second half. A huge steal from Johnny McCarthy ’18 off an inbounds pass helped spark a major run that put the game out of reach, but it took Amherst a while to put away an Emerson team that was overmatched in terms of height.

Meanwhile Middlebury escaped their first loss of the season by the skin of their teeth, coming back from seven points down in the final minute against Skidmore to win in regulation. The win would not have been possible without five missed free throws from Skidmore in the last minute. Middlebury for now lacks any type of inside presence because Matt Daley ’16 is still out of commission, and they still seem to fluctuate wildly in their level of play. Somewhat surprisingly, Joey Kizel’s ’14 absence has not been felt as much as the lack of center Jack Roberts ’14.

Both teams love to play at a high pace and thrive on their talent in the open court. However, when teams are able to slow down games then they run into trouble. The schedule of course works in the favor of both these teams as they will have a lot of practice time over winter break to help smooth out some of their issues before they jump into conference play.

NESCAC Summer Baseball Wrap-Up

The summer baseball season wrapped up a couple of weeks ago so forgive us for our tardiness. Back in mid-June we let you know where some NESCAC stars were playing. We officially close the 2014 baseball season with a look back at how some of those and other NESCAC stars managed this summer. And if you didn’t get out to a summer league game and you live in New England, consider yourself missing out. Between the CCBL, NECBL, and FCBL, New England has the best and most college baseball in the country.

Cape Cod Baseball League

Nick Cooney ’15, Wesleyan, Falmouth Commodores

Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics
Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics

The Cape Cod Baseball League is filled with Division One players and MLB draft picks, so it is hard for a NESCAC player to get consistent playing time, but Cooney managed to carve out a role on the Commodores. He started two games at the beginning of the year including a good six inning, two earned run performance against the Chatham A’s. After that he was converted to reliever and he finished the season with 19 innings pitched. Cooney struggled with his command yielding 11 walks, but he still managed a 4.26 ERA which is impressive given the competition.

Gavin Pittore ’16, Wesleyan, Harwich Mariners

Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics
Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics

The only other player who managed to get a healthy amount of playing time in the Cape League was Cooney’s teammate Pittore. The Harwich Mariners used Pittore in a long reliever role. He often threw multiple innings including on June 19 against the Chatham A’s when Pittore threw two scoreless innings and collected the win. His 6.09 ERA is greatly inflated by a later appearance against the A’s when Pittore allowed eight runs in one inning. Still Pittore had a great summer fulfilling a lifelong dream, including playing with one of his oldest friends.

A few others saw cups of coffee in the Cape League including Wesleyan teammates Guy Davidson ’16 and Donnie Cimino ’15. Bowdoin’s Henry Van Zant ’15 also pitched a few innings for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox.

New England College Baseball League

Nick Miceli ’17, Wesleyan, Vermont Mountaineers

Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics
Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics

The NESCAC champion Cardinals had the most impressive assortment of players throughout the leagues, and Miceli was one of the few NESCAC players in the NECBL. Miceli caught on with the Mountaineers later in the summer making his first appearance on July 19. After allowing two runs in his first relief appearance, he threw 8.2 scoreless innings in his final three appearances. The Mountaineers had a good season making the NECBL playoffs before losing to Sanford in the semi-finals.

 

Tim Superko ’17, Tufts, New Bedford Red Sox

Courtesy of Tufts Athletics
Courtesy of Tufts Athletics

Superko had a tough summer as a starter. He started seven games, but averaged less than four innings per start while posting a 7.39 ERA. His biggest problem was that he was incapable of drawing consistent swings and misses garnering only 17 strikeouts. Superko’s control sometimes betrayed him as he let up 20 walks. One bright spot from the summer came in a start against Danbury.  Superko threw six scoreless innings before he took the hard luck loss when he allowed a run in the bottom of the seventh. While he did struggle this summer, Superko was also pitching in a very good league at a young age. He will be back even better next year.

Futures League

Mike Odenwaelder ’16, Amherst, Torrington Titans

Courtesy of Amherst Athletics
Courtesy of Amherst Athletics

Nobody in the NESCAC had a better summer than Odenwaelder. He absolutely crushed the ball. He posted a slashline of .370/.422/.586 on his way to winning batting title and MVP honors for the Futures League. He stole 20 bases while being caught only twice. He hit two two homers in one game and had no errors in the outfield all summer. The one thing Odenwaelder didn’t do was pitch for the Titans. Odenwaelder looks like he could somehow improve on his monster 2014 NESCAC season next year.

 

Nate Pajka ’15, Bates, Worcester Bravehearts

Courtesy of Bates Athletics
Courtesy of Bates Athletics

Pajka got off to a hot start before posting a line very similar to the one he did during the NESCAC season. Of course his .255 average this summer came against better competition than the average NESCAC pitcher. The most important thing was that Pajka got a ton of at bats (153) which should help him as he gets ready for next season. Most of Pajka’s 12 steals came in the first half of the season as his bat slowed down a little as the summer went along. Still a very successful summer for a player who will have to be a big part of the Bates offense in 2015.

 

Jack Roberts ’17 and Jack Cloud ’17, Williams, Martha’s Vineyard Sharks

Jack Roberts Courtesy of Williams Athletics
Jack Roberts
Courtesy of Williams Athletics
Jack Cloud Courtesy of Williams Athletics
Jack Cloud
Courtesy of Williams Athletics

Roberts spent the summer playing for his hometown team on the Vineyard and enjoyed a steady summer. He managed to get consistent at-bats, but only managed a .252 average with only five walks. After slumping down to .229, Roberts used three straight muli-hit games to get his average back up into the .250 range. Cloud saw his playing time dwindle as the summer went along making his last appearance on July 17, but he hit .260 for the summer as well as walking 11 times to have an OBP of .387.

Mekae Hyde ’15, Bates, Old Orchard Raging Tide

Courtesy of Bates Athletics
Courtesy of Bates Athletics

The positives for Hyde this summer is that he was the starting catcher and got a lot of at-bats and had a respectable .346 OBP. The negative is that his batting average was only .232. Still he can live with that because of the five home runs he also hit. Hyde had one of his best games August 3rd against the Dirt Dawgs when he went 3-4 with a homer and three RBIs. Hyde saw his power come in bunches as he hit three homers in seven games and then two in back to back games but none others.

 

Soren Hanson ’16, Colby, Martha’s Vineyard Sharks

Courtesy of Colby Athletics
Courtesy of Colby Athletics

It took a little bit of time for Hanson to get going, but once he did this summer, he turned into one of the best pitchers in the Futures League. Hanson started the season as a reliever before starting seven games in the second half of the season. He finished the season with a 2.07 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 52 innings. He also had three scoreless starts of six or more innings. Hanson had some troubles at the beginning of the NESCAC season in 2014 as well but finished the year strong and looks primed for a great 2015.

 

Andrew David ’16, Tufts, Brockton Rox

Courtesy of Tufts Athletics
Courtesy of Tufts Athletics

David threw the fifth most amount of innings in the Futures League, but he finished with a somewhat average 3.92 ERA. His success came from barely walking anyone as he allowed only four walks over the entire season. Teams did hit him pretty hard however as he allowed seven or more hits in each of his final five starts. David was somewhat of an afterthought for Tufts in 2014 because of all the talent in their staff. His summer performance shows a capable pitcher, but one who relies heavily on the defense behind him because he doesn’t strike too many batters out.

Rob DiFranco ’16, Bates, North Shore Navigators

Courtesy of Bates Athletics
Courtesy of Bates Athletics

This was an exceptional summer for the Bates reliever. He put up a miniscule 0.82 ERA  over 32.2 innings of relief. His K:BB ratio of 8.3:1 was exceptional, and DiFranco finished with eight saves for the Navigators. DiFranco was the best pitcher for the North Shore squad and flashed the ability to go more than one inning several times. With the loss of several starters, DiFranco might be pushed into starting duty next spring for Bates. If he is not a starter, then he will be a lethal weapon out of the bullpen.

 

Kyle Slinger ’15, Tufts, Worcester Bravehearts

Courtesy of Tufts Athletics
Courtesy of Tufts Athletics

This summer was pretty much a continuation of Slinger’s impressive NESCAC season but with a few more hiccups. Despite those, he finished the season with a 2.55 ERA over eight starts and had a good 6.2:1 K:BB ratio. His best start of the summer was an eight inning outing against the Torrington Titans when Slinger allowed only one run on two hits. The run came in the first inning and after that Slinger fired seven innings of perfect ball. His 0.92 WHIP shows his ERA was no lie, and the southpaw should have another great season in 2014.

Atlantic College Baseball League

Joe Jensen ’15, Hamilton, Trenton Generals

Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics
Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics

One of the few NESCAC players to play on a team outside of New England, Jensen spent the summer in New Jersey. He could not match the gaudy stats he put up in the NESCAC, but still hit for a .269 average and made the ACBL all-star game. His play also fell off somewhat as the season went along as he had .380 OBP at points of the summer before a late season slide. His 13 steals for the season were also below the ludicrous rate he puts up in the NESCAC, but was still the fifth best amount in the league.

 

A few more NESCAC players saw a little bit of time in the Futures League and beyond but we ran out of space to feature those guys. If we missed anyone important please leave it in the comments and we will make sure to remedy our mistakes.

That does it for us in 2014 for baseball coverage. Stay warm this fall and winter and be ready for when the NESCAC returns in the spring.

NESCAC Summer Star Watch: Where Is Your Favorite Player this Summer?

Thankfully, baseball doesn’t end when the kids leave campus in May. The majority of NESCAC ballplayers continue to lace up the cleats through the sweltering heat of June and July and, if they’re lucky enough to be on a championship contender, into the dog days of August. A handful of NESCAC stars are taking the field in some of New England’s premier intercollegiate summer baseball leagues. To save you the trouble of pouring over rosters to find out who’s playing where, we’ve done that deed for you, and combed through the rosters of every team in the Cape Cod League, New England Collegiate Baseball League and Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

Cape Cod Report:

Donnie Cimino ’15, Wesleyan, Chatham A’s

Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics
Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics

After two years atop the NESCAC batting average leaderboard in 2012 and 2013 when Cimino, a two-sport stud at Wesleyan, batted .400 and .399, earning him a profile in the New England Baseball Journal before this season began, the righty slugger slumped to a measly .329 this season, good for 15th in the league (read the sarcasm here). Cimino didn’t hit for as much power as in years past, slugging .376, but still posted an impressive 16:15 K:BB ratio and swiped 15 bags in 44 games and his team made a deep postseason run after claiming a NESCAC title. Cimino landed a temporary contract with the Chatham A’s for the summer, and has played in three of the team’s first four games, but gone hitless in six at bats.
Hopefully, Cimino can start hitting enough that they’ll decide to keep him around in Chatham, but even if he’s only there for a brief stint the experience against some of the country’s elite amateur talent will help him next season.

Guy Davidson ’16, Wesleyan, Harwich Mariners

Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics
Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics

Cimino’s teammate, shortstop Guy Davidson, is also playing in the Cape League this summer, but for Chatham opponent Harwich. Davidson is from South Harwich himself, so the chance to play for the Mariners must be a thrill. Davidson was a .273/.359/.364 hitter this year for Wesleyan, his on base percentage bolstered by 17 walks.
The Mariners are 4-0 and have the best hitting team in the Cape League to-date. Davidson has only seen one plate appearance so far, in which he struck out. 

 

NECBL Report:

Tim Superko ’17, Tufts, New Bedford Bay Sox

Courtesy of Tufts Athletics
Courtesy of Tufts Athletics

Superko was dominant in his first year in the league, registering a 2.64 ERA in 58.0 innings while striking out 51 hitters.
The hurler has already taken the mound in two starts for the New Bedford Bay Sox, but neither start has gone as expected. Superko surrendered eight runs (five earned) to the Valley Blue Sox on Saturday, walking four, striking out four and allowing seven hits. That outing was better than his first back on June 6, when Plymouth roughed up the lefty for six runs (four earned) in 3.1 innings. Hopefully Superko can return to the level of dominance he displayed during NESCAC play.

Futures Report:

Rob DiFranco ’16, Bates, North Shore Navigators

Courtesy of Bates Athletics
Courtesy of Bates Athletics

DiFranco was a valuable reliever for a surprising Bates squad in 2014, leading the team in appearances (15) and K/9 (12.15). DiFranco has already gotten a good deal of work for the 3-8 North Shore Navigators. The 6’1″ righty is 1-0 over 7.0 IP in four games with a 1.28 ERA and eight K’s to go along with zero walks. DiFranco’s improved control is a good sign and an improvement over his school season when he walked 10 hitters in 20.0 innings.

 

 

Soren Hanson ’16, Colby, Martha’s Vineyard Sharks

Courtesy of Colby Athletics
Courtesy of Colby Athletics

Hanson is one of three NESCAC players on the roster for the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks. Hanson was part of a talented Colby rotation this year that will be returning in full for 2015. He, Scott Goldberg ’15 and Greg Ladd ’15 all had ERAs under 3.00 for the Mules. Hanson has only pitched in relief so far for the Sharks, and has garnered a 7.71 ERA in 4.2 innings over three appearances, although his 8:1 K:BB ratio inspires hope for a turnaround soon.

 

 

Jack Roberts ’17 and Jack Cloud ’17, Williams, Martha’s Vineyard Sharks

Jack Cloud Courtesy of Williams Athletics
Jack Cloud
Courtesy of Williams Athletics
Jack Roberts Courtesy of Williams Athletics
Jack Roberts
Courtesy of Williams Athletics

Roberts burst onto the scene this year, and was near the top of the league in hitting through the first couple weeks. The lefty ended the year with a .302 average, and along with his classmate Cloud, who ended the 2014 season with a league-best .402 average, is playing for the Sharks this summer, as well. Roberts has gotten more at bats in the early going and has taken advantage of the opportunity, going 8-24 with three extra-base hits. Meanwhile, Cloud is just 2-10, and with three starting outfielders currently hitting .350 or better for Martha’s Vineyard, he will need to hit in the at bats he’s given if he hopes to earn more playing time.

Andrew David ’16, Tufts, Brockton Rox

Courtesy of Tufts Athletics
Courtesy of Tufts Athletics

Tufts had such an incredible pitching staff this year that David almost always went overlooked, but the sophomore was pretty good, posting a 3.60 ERA in 10 games (four starts). He’ll be pitching for the Brockton Rox in the summer of 2014, and has dealt so far. After four shutout innings in his first relief appearance, David earned a start on June 12 in which he threw six innings of one run ball and got the win. David has 10 K’s in 10 IP and no walks.

 

 

Mekae Hyde ’15, Bates, Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide

Courtesy of Bates Athletics
Courtesy of Bates Athletics

The 5’10” catcher was a .312 hitter for Bates this spring, but has slumped to a 4-29 start for the Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide. Phenomenal name aside, Old Orchard has the league’s worst record so far, and the other two catchers on the roster are younger than Hyde and haven’t hit yet this summer either, so Hyde should get plenty of chances to get his bat going.

 

 

Sam Warren ’16, Bates, Torrington Titans

Courtesy of Bates Athletics
Courtesy of Bates Athletics

Hyde’s battery mate, Warren was a dominant reliever for the Bobcats this season with a 1.93 ERA in 18.2 innings. What’s more, Warren posted a .302/.388/.442 triple-slash line in 86 at bats while playing the outfield. Warren has hit just .226 so far for the Titans (with a worrisome 11 strikeouts in 31 at bats), but has been great as the Titans’ closer, allowing no hits and two walks while ringing up two batters and earning two saves.

 

 

Mike Odenwaelder ’15, Amherst, Torrington Titans

Courtesy of Amherst Athletics
Courtesy of Amherst Athletics

The NESCAC’s Player of the Year joins Warren with the Titans this summer. The Amherst slugger is off to a hot start. In 42 at bats over 11 games, the righty has 15 hits (.357 average), three doubles, one triple, one homer and six stolen bases. Don’t forget that Odenwaelder would likely be just as successful as Warren if Torrington decided to use him out of the pen. He had a 1.74 ERA in 20.2 innings for Amherst.

 

 

Kyle Slinger ’15, Tufts, Worcester Bravehearts

Courtesy of Tufts Athletics
Courtesy of Tufts Athletics

Slinger won the NESCAC Pitcher of the Year award after leading the conference in innings pitched (76.0) and ERA (1.18). Slinger’s dominance has continued with the Worcester Bravehearts, as he has a 1.68 ERA in two starts. Slinger started on Worcester’s opening day, tossing just four innings, but getting Odenwaelder to fly out and hit into a fielder’s choice in two at bats.

 

 

Nate Pajka ’15, Bates, Worcester Bravehearts

Courtesy of Bates Athletics
Courtesy of Bates Athletics

Pajka, the Bates outfielder, joins Slinger on the Bravehearts this summer. Pajka was a .261 hitter at school this spring, but has exploded for eights in 19 at bats so far for Worcester, tallying three doubles and two triples already.

 

 

 

That sums up our early season look-in to some of New England’s most competitive summer leagues. There are some other great leagues out there, of course, and plenty of NESCAC ballplayers are in leagues around the country. If we missed anyone in these leagues, or you want to let us know about a player we should keep an eye on elsewhere around the nation, please do so in the comments section.

Play ball!

Stock Report 4/7

Stock Up:

Third Baseman Kevin Davis ’14 (Bates) – Davis hit clean up all weekend against Bowdoin, and rarely does anyone fit the bill as perfectly as the 6’3” slugger did in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. Davis smacked two doubles and a home run en route to seven RBIs in a 13-7 win. On the weekend, Davis went 8-14 with 10 RBI and three doubles. Davis raised his average by 51 points and more than doubled his RBI total to 19, second in the NESCAC.

Middlebury’s Pitching – The Panthers can take away some positives from this weekend’s series at Wesleyan despite the sweep. After looking lost against Williams, it took a shutout from Jeff Blout ’14 in the first game of the Saturday doubleheader and a suicide squeeze in the bottom of the ninth in the second match up from Nick Miceli’17 for the Cardinals to finish off Middlebury. The pitching and defense improved drastically for the Panthers. While ace Eric Truss ’15 still hasn’t found his 2013 form (7 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 0 K on Friday), Middlebury held Wesleyan to five runs (four earned) in the last two games of the series and a .273 average while the Cardinals have hit .323 overall on the season. Cooper Byrne ’15 was great in the seven-inning game (CG, 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 2 K) and Logan Mobley ’15 (6IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 0 K) worked his way out of some jams to throw a strong start in the second game. If the Panthers can get the bats going they might just have an effect on the race for the West crown.

Cooper Byrne '15 tossed his second consecutive complete game on Saturday.
Cooper Byrne ’15 tossed his second consecutive complete game on Saturday.

Startin Pitcher John Cook ’15 (Amherst) – Because the third game of the Amherst-Hamilton series was postponed last weekend, Amherst’s number three got his first chance in a league game against rival Williams and was dominant. Cook has huge shoes to fill with older brother and current assistant coach Bob Cook ’13 having departed, and after an up-and-down first couple games the 6’4” hurler put it together and earned his first win on the season. Cook’s line was 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K.

Stock Down:

Second Baseman Jack Roberts ’17 (Williams) – The lefty took the league by storm with his early performance, especially a 6-16 series against Middlebury, but flailed to an 0-12 weekend against the Lord Jeffs, including three strikeouts in the series finale, dropping his average to a still-respectable .290. Roberts is still a dependable hitter with a bright future and the ability to use all fields, but these growing pains are to be expected for any first-year, and we ought to be willing to give him a pass against a vaunted Amherst rotation.

Bowdoin – The Polar Bears get singled out here partially because we talked about Trinity in this column last week and their disastrous fall continued with a 1-2 weekend against Colby in Hartford (although the Bantams were playing as the road team). Bowdoin, meanwhile, now appears to be part of a three-team race for who will join Tufts in the NESCAC playoffs. Perhaps it’s too early to anoint the Jumbos with the divisional crown because they’ve only managed to play one league game, but they’ve looked great out-of-conference. So the second spot will fall to either Bates, Bowdoin or Colby, barring a storming comeback from Trinity, and the Polar Bears set themselves back by losing the series to their in-state rivals. Bowdoin (3-3) and Colby (2-1) still have three games with Tufts ahead, Bates (2-2) has two with the Jumbos and a series on the road against a desperate Trinity team this weekend, while the Mules still need to play both Bowdoin and Bates. CBB action now takes on a lot of meaning this season.

Williams Pitching – Sorry, Ephs fans, if it feels like I’m picking on you guys. Williams should be happy with taking a victory from Amherst, the class of 2014’s first against the Lord Jeffs, but the fact that the team’s league-worst 8.33 ERA was lowered in a weekend where Williams lost one game 16-6 is a testament to the under-performance of the staff so far. While Middlebury’s staff seems to have, at least for now, turned a corner, the Ephs regressed from last weekend to this one. Of course, opponent matters, and Williams faced potentially the most potent offensive in New England this weekend, but the Ephs won’t be able to compete for a division crown until they can hold teams to four or five runs a game. One bright spot is the performance of righty Thomas Murphy ’15. In two league starts, Murphy has tossed 14 innings and given up just one earned run. A key for Murphy is his 2.57 BB/9 rate. He relies on his defense to get outs for him, and his teammates were good enough to help Murphy get his third win of the year on Saturday.

Weekend Preview

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

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

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

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

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

Three To Watch

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

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

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