Wesleyan Remains on Top: Stock Report 4/27

Bowdoin celebrates their 7-4 win over Colby in the first game of their series. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Bowdoin celebrates its 7-4 win over Colby in the first game of their series last weekend. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

After spending the first month of the NESCAC schedule beating up on the rest of the NESCAC West, Wesleyan and Amherst met this weekend to settle who would finish on top in the division. The answer was quite a resounding one in favor of the Cardinals. They dominated the Friday game racing out to a 10-0 lead before Amherst scored five runs late to make the final score look closer. On Saturday, Wesleyan completely shut down the Amherst offense winning 1-0 and 2-0.

The series meant little in practical terms because both teams were making the playoffs regardless, but this was a huge win for the Wesleyan program. First of all, it clinched a third consecutive Little Three Title. Secondly, the weekend reinforced that the Cardinals are the best overall program in the league right now.

The gap between this Wesleyan team and the rest of the NESCAC is sizable, but it certainly isn’t an uncrossable chasm. The Cardinals are winning because they are a more complete team, but they tend to play close games. They rely on their pitching and defense much more than their hitting, and if a team can find a way to string a few hits together, we will see them lose at some point.

Stock Up

Wesleyan Starting Pitching

The principal reason for the sweep was the trio of Nick Cooney ’15, Sam Elias ’15 and Gavin Pittore ’16. The three had almost identical starts, all of which were extremely impressive. Cooney set the tone on Friday when he went seven scoreless innings working around four walks. Pittore got stronger as the second game went along and retired 15 of the final 16 batters. Then Elias ended things by going all nine innings and faced only two batters more than the minimum. All three have pitched like legitimate aces this year, and both Pittore and Elias own ERAs below 2.00. Cooney has also been fantastic except for one rough start against Pomona-Pitzer. All three are also exceptional at going deep into games and average more than six innings per start. That ability to go deep into games has helped Wesleyan hide their only potential weakness: lack of pitching depth. Only nine players have pitched innings for the Cardinals this year. No other NESCAC school is in the single digits.

Drama in the East

As expected, that race for the second spot in the East has descended into near chaos. Worth it to go look at the standings, but Bates is still in the second spot at 4-4 with four games still to play. Bowdoin and Trinity are still also in the mix at 5-6 and 4-5 respectively. There is a crucial game on Tuesday night as Bowdoin and Bates are meeting to finish up their series. Obviously the game is a must-win for Bowdoin, which kept its playoff hopes alive by taking two of three from Colby this weekend. As for Bates, they had a chance to get close to locking up their playoff spot after taking the first game of their series against Tufts. However, since they lost the next two games to drop to 4-4, they fell back into the confusion. We won’t know who captures the spot until Saturday when Bates and Trinity play their doubleheader.

Starting Pitcher Jjay Lane ’15 (Hamilton)

This year has been a tough one for Lane overall, but he came up huge for the Continentals this weekend. He had been roughed up in his first two starts in conference, but he found a way to come up huge on Saturday. He got the start in the series opener against Williams and was able to go eight innings allowing two runs and Hamilton won 3-2. Lane had success in part because he was able to finally strike some people out. Before Saturday, he had not struck out ONE batter since March 17, an eternity for the NESCAC baseball season. Then out of nowhere he struck out six Williams batters which quadrupled his season total. Cole Dreyfuss ’16 continued his fantastic pitching in the next game to give Hamilton the sweep of the Saturday doubleheader. This is a resilient group, and they will be hungry to hand Wesleyan their first conference loss next weekend.

Stock Down

Williams

Disappointing finish for the Ephs dropping two of their three games to Hamilton and dropping to 4-8 for the year. They lost seven of their last eight after starting the conference season by sweeping Middlebury. That makes now two of the last three years that Williams has finished at 4-8 and well outside of the playoff race. We were hoping for more balance this year from Williams, and they did end up being more balanced though not quite like we were hoping them to be. The offense came up just short in the a lot of spots where the pitching was good enough to give the team a chance. The good news is that the top four OBP performers on the team were all sophomores and freshmen. Adam Dulsky ’18 will be able to take over full time catching duties which will ease the departure of Phil McGovern ’15. Also, the easiest place for Williams to improve is their fielding which also cost them a couple of games.

Defensive Karma

Well, in a way this is a stock up, but I’m sure Colby would consider it a negative. A year ago Bowdoin saw their playoff chances come crashing down when an error against Colby extended an inning and allowed the Mules to score four more runs. This year a Colby error in the top of the second let Bowdoin score four runs in the first game of the Saturday doubleheader. Three consecutive two out hits from Sean Mullaney ’17, Chris Cameron ’15 and Erik Jacobsen ’15 were the straws that … wait for it … broke the Mules back. Colby ended up falling 5-3 and the loss brought them to 4-7 and officially out of the playoff race. They were our pick to capture that final playoff spot, but they will miss the playoffs because they were not able to sustain the pitching gains they made a year ago.

NCAA Tournament Chances

I have to confess that I know little about the inner workings of the Division-III NCAA Baseball tournament. In part because it takes place during Finals or the beginning of summer vacation, I have never gotten very invested in the results the same way I do the basketball tournament. Still, I have to think the NESCAC will have trouble matching the three teams that made the tournament last year. Wesleyan should be solidly in, but both Tufts and Amherst have worse resumes than they did a year ago. Useful tool to look at is the D3Baseball.com Strength of Schedule Page. From that we can tell Tufts and Amherst have opposite problems. The Jumbos own a gaudy win-loss record but are only 125 in SOS while Amherst has a good SOS but lacks the record. My gut says that only one of those two teams is going to make it depending on who finishes stronger the next few weekends (and assuming that Wesleyan can repeat as NESCAC champs).

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

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

All records are from 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Continental Breakfast: Hamilton Baseball Season Preview

Joe Jensen '15 could have a massive senior season. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)
Joe Jensen ’15 could have a massive senior season. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

2014 Record: 10-16 (2-10, Fifth in the NESCAC West), missed NESCAC playoffs

Starters Returning: 10 (8 position players, 2 starting pitchers)

Projected Lineup: (Stats are from 2014)

CF Joe Jensen ’15 (.398/.495/.430, 0 HR, 9 RBI)
RF Kenny Collins ’17 (.359/.422/.372, 0 HR, 15 RBI)
LF Ryan Wolfsberg ’17 (.273/.359/.364, 1 HR, 13 RBI)
3B Andrew Haser ’17 (.250/.291/.350, 1 HR, 9 RBI)
SS Chris Collins ’17 (.280/.353/.307, 0 HR, 8 RBI)
C Brett Mele ’17 (.237/.384/.271/0 HR, 7 RBI)
1B David Rose ’16 (.176/.167/.353, 0 HR, 3 RBI)
DH Mike Chiseri ’16 (.242/.395/.273, 0 HR, 5 RBI)
2B Brian Ferrell ’16 (.120/.241/.120, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

LHP Jjay Lane ’15 (1-4, 5.35 ERA, 3.74 K/9, 33.2 IP)
RHP Cole Dreyfuss ’16 (1-3, 6.75 ERA, 5.83 K/9, 29.1 IP)
RHP Finlay O’Hara (1-1, 3.38 ERA, 4.22 K/9, 21.1 IP)

Offensive Overview:

Almost the entire lineup returns from what was a very freshmen-heavy contingent a year ago. The one MAJOR exception to those freshmen was center fielder Joe Jensen ’15. The speedy outfielder enjoyed an incredible junior season and was voted by Baseball America this winter as the best Division-III professional prospect in America. Teams are forced to pitch to him because he is so fast that walking him is almost like a lead-off double because he can steal second base almost at will. He is the most likely player to keep Mike Odenwaelder ’16 from winning NESCAC POY again. Besides Jensen, the Collins twins, Chris and Kenny, will be major cogs in the lineup again as sophomores. Ryan Wolfsberg ’17 is another of those sophomores looking to improve after playing a lot as a freshmen. This lineup was one of the worse ones in the NESCAC because of how many freshmen got serious at-bats, but they should be much improved and at the least the top of the lineup will scare pitchers because of Jensen.

Defensive Overview:

The Continentals struggled in NESCAC play to make the simple play and ended the year with 30 errors in 12 NESCAC games, the most of anyone in the league. Again, Jensen is the best glove where he uses his All-American track speed to catch everything in the outfield. Having two freshmen, Chris Collins ’17 and Andrew Haser ’17, man the left side of the infield a year ago showed as those two combined for 22 errors. Expect a good amount of improvement as the two get more comfortable this season. Brett Mele ’17 is back at catcher where he will provide a steady presence behind the plate.

Pitching Overview:

The pitching staff is the area where Hamilton is probably the weakest. As a sophomore in 2013, Jjay Lane ’15 was one of the best pitchers in the NESCAC with an ERA well below 2.00, but last season he was touched up to the tune of a 5.35 ERA. Never a power pitcher, Lane only struck out 14 batters all season, and his defense let him down a good amount of the time as well. The Continentals are hoping that he will be able to rebound this year. Cole Dreyfuss ’16 really struggled a season ago, but he will get another chance this season, and Finlay O’Hara ’17 will try to build on a freshman year where he showed promise. None of those three is a strikeout heavy pitcher so they will rely a lot on their defense behind them. The hope is that Lane can be an ace and Dreyfuss and O’Hara are able to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible.

Storylines to Watch

1. Does Jensen have another level?

The somewhat amazing thing about Jensen is that he has improved leaps and bounds during his time at Hamilton. His freshman year he hit .170 in 53 at-bats, and his sophomore year showcased his speed more than his bat. Only last season did he emerge as an absolute force at the plate. His sudden ascent to an actual MLB draft prospect took virtually everybody by surprise. Already this season Jensen has hit a home run, something that he never did a year ago. That could hint at him being more than just somebody who is able to get on-base like crazy. It would also make the talk about him being drafted become a lot more realistic. Despite being on one of the worst teams in the league last year, Jensen is unquestionably one of the top five players in the NESCAC, and he could finish the year as the very best one.

2. Where does their opponents’ BABIP end up?

For the uninitiated, BABIP stands for “batting average on balls in play” which basically takes away strikeouts and home runs. In general research has found that pitchers actually have little control over their BABIP, though there are some notable exceptions. So a lot of it is luck, and for a staff like Hamilton that doesn’t strike out a lot of hitters, luck can be very important. The difference between a low opponents’ BABIP (good for Hamilton) and a high one (bad) is significant enough that we could look back at Hamilton’s season differently just based on that. A good defense that limits errors will also help the pitching staff, of course.

3. What is their ceiling?

Jensen is going to be very good, and the lineup around him should be much improved. Unfortunately for Hamilton (Middlebury and Williams too), Amherst and Wesleyan just have way more talent than them. The Continentals went 2-10 in conference last year, and they were fifth in the West because they lost the head-to-head tiebreaker to Middlebury. A third place finish in the West is certainly possible given the room for improvement amongst their younger players, but their lack of any dominant pitcher will make beating Amherst or Wesleyan in even one game a tall task.

Biggest Series: April 24-25 home against Williams

A season ago Hamilton ended the NESCAC season on a low note by being swept at Williams. That result was a big reason why they ended up in the cellar, but the series could be very different in New York this year. A series victory could be enough to lift Hamilton into third place.

Power Rankings Part 1

Last week we promised a big blowout of the Power Rankings, and today we deliver. We take a look at all the teams that won’t be making the playoffs this season and are done for 2014. We will cover what went right, what went wrong, and make a way too early prediction about how they will do in 2015. Thursday we will rank the four playoff teams.

10. Middlebury (5-24, 2-10)

What Went Right: Not very much. You have to hit bottom before you start going up again, and Middlebury baseball fans better hope that 2014 represents rock bottom. The only thing that really worked was Alex Kelly ’14 in the outfield and at the plate. Other positives for the Panthers to draw on were their improved pitching and defense. A young pitching staff battled all year with reliever Jake Stalcup ’17 having the best overall season. Max Araya ’16 also emerged as an above average offensive catcher who could serve as an anchor going forward, although there is some question about where he will start 2015 defensively. Middlebury struggled down the stretch winning only one of their last 13 games, but they looked better and more competitive than earlier in the year.

What Went Wrong: It might sound blunt, but there just wasn’t enough talent in Middlebury to compete. The statistics say that Middlebury had the worst hitting, fielding, and barely second worst pitching. You can’t help but sympathize for the seniors who have been there all four years and have watched as the program struggles to gain a foothold. Only one regular hit above .300 and no starter finished with an ERA under 4.50. This was simply a case of a season where nothing really went right for Middlebury. They had brief moments of competence and gave some of the top teams scares, but they weren’t good enough to get over the hump.

2015 Outlook: The key will be maintaining commitment during the offseason so that the Panthers return in 2015 ready to play. Players up and down the roster are going to have opportunities to get playing time, and it is simply a matter of who steps up when their number gets called. 2015 should be better for Middlebury, but they have a long way to go.

9. Hamilton (10-16, 2-10)

What Went Right: Hamilton and Middlebury were very similar teams this year. They both lacked depth, had pitching that held tough but couldn’t consistently get batters out, and struggled mightily fielding and hitting while sporting a fantastic leadoff hitter. For Hamilton, that was Joe Jensen ’15. He had a fantastic year with 23 stolen bases, 23 runs, and a .495 OBP. Hamilton’s best quality was their speed as they placed second in the NESCAC with 63 stolen bases. The other notable base stealers were Chris and Kenny Collins ’17. Of the two twins, Kenny finished the season especially strong with two three hit performances against Williams to help up his OBP to .422. Four of Hamilton’s top five batters in terms of plate appearances were freshmen who should see improvement in 2015.

What Went Right: The expected stars for this team were Zack Becker ’16 and Jjay Lane ’15, but both of them struggled to match their 2013 performances. Lane had an up-and-down season on the mound finishing with a 5.35 ERA. He never really found his groove and had trouble getting batters out in large part because he struck out only 3.74 batters per nine innings. Still, Becker had perhaps an even more disappointing year. Some regression was expected from his .434 OBP in 2013, but not many thought he would fall all the way to a .274 mark. By the end of the season he was a part time player because of his struggles. Overall, a very young lineup struck out this season with nobody capable of delivering the big hits that the Continentals needed.

2015 Outlook: Modest improvement should be expected from a Hamilton squad that showed potential early on. Almost everybody will be back besides a few secondary parts. If Lane gets straightened out then Hamilton will win at least four NESCAC games.

8. Trinity (16-17, 4-8)

What Went Right: Trinity showed a lot of resilience in their play down the stretch going on a nice winning streak and splitting against Wesleyan. Brian Wolfe ’15 stepped up to become the team’s best hitter over the course of the season, and his classmate Daniel Pidgeon ’15 enjoyed a successful season as well. Their pitching kept them in a lot of games, but the offense wasn’t powerful enough to take full advantage. Trinity won at least one game in every series, but they were incapable of ever going on a run in conference play to make a real move up the standings.

What Went Wrong: The schedule makers did no favors to this team with their four NESCAC series played on consecutive weekends. At one point, nine of ten games Trinity played had conference ramifications. We are used to watching powerful Trinity offenses, but those players just weren’t on the roster. The fact that they hit only two homers is telling. Trinity had almost every position player on its roster see significant playing time because nobody was playing well enough to make the coaches play them. The pitching staff was solid as mentioned above, but in college baseball you need pitchers who can singlehandedly win games for you. No one on Trinity was able to distinguish themselves as capable of that.

2015 Outlook: The East is all of a sudden very crowded, so expecting Trinity to simply return to the top is foolish. The offense will be better and the pitching potential is there, but anything better than a .500 season in the NESCAC will be a surprise for the Bantams.

7. Bowdoin (18-16-1, 5-7)

What Went Right: Young players who needed to step up did so in a big way. The most obvious of those were Peter Cimini ’16 and Chad Martin ’16. The duo went from non-factors in 2013 to the linchpins of the Bowdoin offense. Elsewhere Michael Staes ’16 emerged as a potential weekend starter for next season with a 2.29 ERA in 35.1 innings, and Jon Fraser ’15 also had a spectacular season in limited duty with a 0.76 ERA. The statistics said that Bowdoin underperformed as a team in conference. This was a team with some of the best pitching in the league, but lacked the ace that other teams had to shut down opponents. Bowdoin seemed to play every team when they were playing their best, but managed to win at least one game in every series.

What Went Wrong: Bowdoin graduated a superb class in 2013, but still had a lot of talented players in the 2014 class who were expected to lead this team. That just didn’t happen whether it was because of injury for Christian Martin ’14 or inconsistent play from John Lefeber ’14 and Duncan Taylor ’14. Lefeber and Taylor ended up with solid statistics, but they just weren’t the stars the team needed. The other big loss was not having Henry Van Zant ’15 available for most of the year. He flashed what he could do posting a 1.95 ERA in 27.2 innings. The team’s true weakness however was in the field where they had the second most errors in the NESCAC. 36.4 percent of the runs Bowdoin allowed this year were unearned.

2015 Outlook: The silver lining of a disappointing 2014 is that most of what went wrong won’t take away from the 2015 team. Van Zant should be healthy and the loss of all the seniors will not sting nearly as much as would have been believed before the season started. A return to the playoffs is definitely possible.

6. Colby (16-15, 5-7)

What Went Right: The final conference record is a disappointment, but Colby has a lot to be proud of from their 2014. We expected them to improve somewhat, but not many thought they would be on top of the East Division until April 18. The key was improvement by players already on the roster. Jason Buco ’15 delivered an MVP-quality season by leading the NESCAC with seven homers, and Kevin Galvin ’14 was a more than capable Robin to give him support. The biggest difference in 2014 though was the pitching. Scott Goldberg ’15 and Greg Ladd ’15 put in the work to become leaders of the staff while Soren Hanson ’16 showed he is also close to being an ace down the stretch. Overall the Mules improved their ERA by 1.90 runs in 2014.

What Went Wrong: Colby didn’t end up making the playoffs because the supporting cast was not strong enough to support the stars on offense. In their final six conference games Colby averaged only 1.17 runs as they went 1-5 against Bates and Tufts. Colby’s pitching was very good, but they would have needed a Herculean effort to win with that type of offense. In many ways Colby’s baseball performance mirrored that of their basketball and football teams. It was filled with promise and strong performances for most of the season (beating Bates for football and upsetting Amherst for basketball), but ended on a sour note (the Hail Mary loss to Bowdoin in football and the first round NESCAC tournament loss for basketball).

2015 Outlook: The trend is definitely in the positive direction. The only loss of real significance is Galvin. Whether other players can make similar leaps to what some did this year will make the difference in 2015. Right now I say Colby makes the playoffs next year.

5. Williams (13-16, 7-5)

What Went Right: Some people will draw issue with a team with a losing record being considered the fifth best team in the NESCAC, but we are weighting conference games heavily. Williams also split a doubleheader against Bowdoin so it’s record against NESCAC teams was 8-6. Again, detractors will point out six of those wins came against cellar dwellers Middlebury and Hamilton, but every NESCAC game is hard-fought. The best thing Williams did was beat the teams they should have in conference play. Their offense was scintillating in the early going with a host of players putting up gaudy numbers. The high point of their season came after they won their first game against Amherst in four years and stood at 4-1 in the NESCAC on April 5.

What Went Wrong: The pitching improved as the season went on, but was never reliable enough. Their teamwide statistics ended up being worse than last year underscoring the possibility they really didn’t improve at all in 2014. 2013 stats: .374 OBP and 5.73 ERA vs 2014 stats: .363 OBP and 6.46 ERA. They really struggled in non-conference play exposing the fact that they don’t have a lot of pitching depth. Williams squandered any chance at making the playoffs when they got swept by Wesleyan. The best pitching was able to make their offense struggle. Overall a very mixed year for a team that was riding high early on before reality set in a little in the middle part of the year.

2015 Outlook: Several key cogs have to be replaced as well as innings leader Steve Marino ’14, but there will still be a lot of firepower in Williamstown. However Williams probably won’t improve their conference record in 2015.

 

Stock Report April 29

We recapped the action of what went down this weekend last night in our roundup. Now it is time to look at the people who were the biggest movers this weekend. For the playoffs, it’s often better to be hot than good, so take that to heart as teams gear up for the playoffs which are still two weekends away.

Stock Up:

1. Sam Goodwin-Boyd ’15 – First Baseman (Wesleyan) – Goodwin-Boyd has been absolutely mashing since conference play got started. He didn’t let up this weekend hitting a huge home run in the first game against Amherst before topping that by hitting another one in the next game that was the only damage Wesleyan could do against Amherst’s John Cook ’15. That was enough, though, as great pitching on both teams led to a 1-1 tie entering the bottom of the ninth. Wesleyan pushed across a run to walk-off with the win, they’re second in conference play, and the West division title. Goodwin-Boyd owns a tidy .566 slugging percentage which goes a long way towards explaining how he has a league-leading 32 RBIs. Wesleyan was the first team that really got to Amherst’s pitching even though Amherst still pitched very well overall. Winning the division is huge for the Cardinals because Wesleyan should get to avoid Tufts and instead get a much weaker (though hot) Bates.

2. Christian Sbily ’14 – Starting Pitcher (Tufts) – We have dedicated most of our virtual ink to talking about Tufts’ top two of Kyle Slinger ’15 and Tim Superko ’17, but the number three has been so good that he merits equal credit for Tufts’ success. Like so many others, Sbily has been at his best in recent weeks. He shut out Colby for seven innings last week and yesterday he scattered five hits for the complete game shutout. Sbily isn’t the same type of power pitcher the other two are, but he goes deep into games because he is able to have consistently low pitch counts. He is a huge advantage for Tufts because while many NESCAC teams have aces comparable to Slinger and Superko, Sbily is almost unmatched as a third starter. Sbily could be the difference-maker for Tufts in the NESCAC Championship.

3. Thomas Murphy ’15 and Steve Marino ’14 – Starting Pitchers (Williams) – This has not been a banner season for the Williams pitching staff, but this duo really came through yesterday as Williams swept Hamilton. Murphy went all seven innings to win a duel between him and Jjay Lane ’15.  Williams pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the seventh to come away with the victory. Marino was just as good going all nine innings, striking out nine, and limiting Hamilton to three earned runs. For Marino, it was an especially high note in his final conference game. Williams wasn’t good enough to hang with the big boys, but if they pitch this well consistently they will have more than a fighter’s chance next year.

4. Chris Fusco ’14 – Starting Pitcher (Bates) – We saw a lot of great pitching performances this weekend, and the love we’ve been doling out in this section is well-deserved. Fusco didn’t have a great day, but he came through to toss 5.2 innings of two-run ball in the deciding game of the Bates-Colby series. Fusco has a tendency to give up homers (five on the season), and Jason Buco ’15 hit another one against him yesterday, but Fusco was very good besides that. Bates had already gotten a PHENOMENAL start by Brad Reynolds ’14, but that alone wasn’t going to be enough. Bates didn’t look like a playoff team way back in February when they were making errors all over the place, but their best players have carried them this far. In a short series they are dangerous.

Stock Down:

1. Ryder Arsenault ’17 – Center Fielder (Colby) – Arsenault has been a enormous part of Colby’s surprise run in the East, but he, like the team, ran out of steam at the end. In the first game Arsenault struck out three times, contributing to the 12 Colby strikouts on the day. Yesterday he saw only one plate appearance, pinch hitting at the end of the third game. We don’t know if his benching was purely performance-related or if he has some type of injury that hindered his play, but the Colby offense really sputtered this weekend. Getting shut down by Bates’ ace Reynolds wasn’t a huge surprise, but they barely got anything going the other two games as well. Arsenault is one of many talented players coming back next year for Colby.

2. Erik Jacobsen ’15 Starting Pitcher/Infielder (Bowdoin) – Bowdoin knew going into the weekend that they needed to sweep Tufts to have a chance at the postseason. The Polar Bears were the first team to give Kyle Slinger ’15 issues as they won the first game of the series. Jacobsen has been solid all season, but Tufts jumped on him early and he didn’t make it out of the third inning in Game Two. The Bowdoin bullpen limited the damage, but the Tufts pitching is too good to make up an early deficit. An offense that has seen some players step up, but other more established ones struggle, couldn’t muster much of a comeback in the eventual 5-1 loss. Understandably after that disappointment, Bowdoin didn’t muster much of a challenge in the third game, losing 14-0.

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.