We’re nearing the halfway point of the baseball season, and you all know what means…the seniors are mere weeks away from entering the ever-expanding void of adult life! Yes, that. But also, it’s time to break down where the various NESCAC awards races stand. There will only be one winner of each award at the end of the year, but I’ve given acontender from each division as a way to get more names out there. As always with
articles like this, there will be some disagreements. I’ve tried my best to be fair and make reasonable choices, but as American Idol showed in season 8 when Kris Allen won over Adam Lambert, mistakes can be made. If you disagree with any of these names, feel free to email the blog or comment on the post.
Player of the Year
Frontrunner East: Tufts IF Nick Falkson ‘18 (.402/.457/.502, T-1st in league with 28 RBI)
Not to sow seeds of discontent within the Jumbo locker room, but there is quite a battle brewing for this spot between Falkson and outfielder Oscar Kutch ‘17. Kutch’s 1.133 OPS is a compelling argument in his favor, but Falkson ultimately takes it with a deadly combination of run production, fundamentals and excellent defense. Falkson is a terrific all around hitter, with quick enough hands to pull inside pitches. But he is also adept at shortening up and going the other way. Long story short, Falkson knows how to hit the baseball. And in a lineup like Tufts’ that is filled to the brim with guys who get on base, Falkson occupies a crucial spot as a run producer. All the guys in front of him have to do is get on, and there’s a good chance Falkson knocks them in. He also plays terrific defense at first base, which is a key component of Tufts’ success. Falkson plays on a great team, but his all around excellence may be what makes them great.
Frontrunner West: Wesleyan OF Matt Jeye ‘18 (.315/.388/.489, T-1st w/ 3 HR, T-1st w/ 28 RBI)
Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I don’t know much. But I do know one thing; when you lead the thing in home runs and RBI, that makes you a contender for the Player of the Year trophy. A powerful outfielder, Jeye provides the muscle in a Wesleyan lineup that has overachieved to some extent this season. Unlike Tufts, Wesleyan’s offense is not tremendously threatening outside of Jeye, making his 28 RBI arguably more impressive. Pitchers are able to focus more of their attention on Jeye than they are Falkson, and he has fewer weapons in front of him to get on base and give him RBI chances. This is not to say that Wesleyan is a non threatening offense, their team splits are a very solid .293/.381/.391. I’m just saying that Jeye might play a larger role in making his team’s offense threatening than Falkson does.
Middlebury 1B Jason Lock ‘17 (.397/.453/.575, 23 RBI, 5 SO in 73 AB)
Amherst OF Yanni Thannapoulos ‘17 (.400/.462/.550, 26 RBI)
Tufts OF Oscar Kutch ‘17 (.400/.520/.613)
Williams IF Kellen Hatheway ‘19 (.446/.500/.662, 7 steals, 3 triples)
Pitcher of the Year:
Frontrunner East: Tufts SP Speros Varinos ‘17 (6-0, 1.50 ERA, 46 SO in 42 innings)
Unlike the Player of the Year race, the contest for Pitcher of the Year in the conference appears to be Varinos’ to lose. Varinos has quite simply been the best in every measurable category this season. He leads the league in wins, innings and strikeouts, and is second in the league in ERA despite having made two more starts than the leader. Of course, Varinos does benefit from excellent run support in the vaunted Tufts offense, and has a great defense behind him. But he has two games with 13 strikeouts this season, with one of them coming in his last start against a very good Castleton team. Varinos is only getting better as the season goes on, and should be ready to lead Tufts to a tournament run.
Frontrunner West: Williams SP John Lamont ‘20 (2-1, 2.77 ERA, 28 SO in 26 innings)
It is perhaps questionable that much of Lamont’s qualifications for this spot come from one start. But what a start it was. On April 9th, Lamont shut down Matt Jeye and Wesleyan, giving up just one earned run and striking out 15. It was the biggest pitching performance of the season, as it helped Williams avoid a catastrophic sweep in their division, and it showed off the electric talent that Lamont possesses. He will probably need another excellent outing in a league game to stay in the running in his rookie year, but Lamont is the centerpiece of a very bright future in Williamstown.
Wesleyan SP Mike McCaffrey ’19 (3-1, 3.06 ERA, 36 K in 32.1 innings)
Trinity RP Erik Mohl ’19 (12 appearances, 6-1, 2.62 ERA)
Frontrunner East: Trinity C Alex Rodriguez ‘20 (.370/.379/.494, 19 RBI)
That’s right, when he’s not busy being a surprisingly good TV analyst and “dating” (I doubt they’ve ever held hands without a camera on them) Jennifer Lopez, A-Rod spends his time as a precocious first year catcher at Trinity College. Rodriguez required very little time to adjust to college pitching, as he hit .432 in March. This is particularly remarkable for a young catcher, who has to learn how to handle a pitching staff in addition to the offensive adjustment. He has hit something of a learning curve in league play, dropping down to .303 with a .298 OBP in league games. This is may be due in large part to fatigue from the catching duties he has handled for much of the year. In any case, Rodriguez is having an incredible rookie season, and should be a force for the forseeable future.
Frontrunner West: Williams SP John Lamont ‘20 (2-1, 2.77 ERA, 28 SO in 26 innings)
While you’ve been at home crying over your destroyed March Madness brackets, NESCAC baseball teams have swarmed to warmer climates to start their seasons. Players have already been hard at work with practices and games for weeks – and a month, if you’re Bates -, but it’s these crucial games during break in which coaches and teams determine starting lineups for many home openers set for this coming weekend. Teams may just be trying to find the right lineups, but the stats and results can’t hide from the official record.
While the makeup of Wesleyan’s roster may be different than in previous seasons, its potential for success has hardly diminished. Nevertheless, the Cardinals continue to excel thanks to veteran players like OF Jordan Farber ’16, P Peter Rantz ’16, P/C/2B Nick Miceli ’17, and SS Guy Davidson ’16. Davidson’s spring break run has clinched his position as one of the best hitters in the NESCAC: during the two-week period, he hit .444/.500/.685 as he went 24-for-54, driving in 19 runs and scoring 16 times.
Like the Cardinals, Amherst has continued to dominate the diamond, despite also losing the team’s star, current-MLB player Mike Odenwaelder ’16. Yet, Amherst is currently boasting an 8-1 record and shows no signs of slowing down going forward into the season, especially with the starting outfield of Yanni Thanopoulos ’17, Anthony Spina ’17 and Ariel Kenney ’18 hitting an outrageous .371 through nine games. Kenney himself has gone 16-for-35 and currently leads the team in batting average (.457), on-base percentage (.500), and slugging percentage (.657). Pitcher Jackson Volle ’17, who on Monday was named the NESCAC Pitcher of the Week, opened the season strong, claiming two wins in his first two starts to help Amherst secure their exceptional 8-1 overall record. Volle wrapped up spring break with a tidy 0.64 ERA.
Perhaps the greatest surprise in the early going has been Bowdoin’s brilliant winning streak. They’ve opened the season 7-0 on the strength of some great pitching to the tune of a 2.68 team ERA through the first five games (yesterday’s stats vs. Greenville were not available at the time of this posting).
Now for the first stock report of the what is going to be a very interesting season.
P/C Nick Miceli ’17 (Wesleyan)
Throughout the Cardinals’ first 12 games, Miceli has proven that on the field, he’s a man for all seasons: already he’s stood out in the conference for stellar pitching, hitting and fielding. He’s the ultimate NESCAC Triple Threat.
The junior, having already thrown in five games, is ranked in second in the conference with a 16.2 IP, 8.54 K/G and ERA of 2.16. Miceli’s strength on the mound was clear in Wesleyan’s second game against Bethany Lutheran College on March 7. Bethany Lutheran scored six runs in the first two innings, thanks in large part to some shoddy defense, giving them a generous 6-2 lead heading into the third. The two teams were almost even in hits, with Bethany Lutheran only outhitting Wesleyan by one. During innings 3-6 Miceli was nearly untouchable, allowing four hits but no runs with no walks and five strikeouts. He then impressed in relief on March 11 against Marian University, allowing one run on three hits with four strikeouts in five innings. But that’s not all: Miceli boasts a .474/.500/.632 line in 38 at bats while seeing time mostly at second but also catcher and DH.
In short, Miceli is good. Really good.
Fresh Pitching Faces
Around the NESCAC plenty of youngsters have shown some great potential on the mound in the early going.
After graduating Elias and Cooney and losing Pittore, Wesleyan hasn’t missed a beat on the mound. Miceli has looked good throwing the ball, and Peter Rantz has picked right back up where he left off, but Mike McCaffrey ’19 has shown some potential, too. His first outing was disastrous, to say the least, but so was everything else for the Cardinals in their season-opening 29-14 rout at the hands of Hamline. McCaffrey improved in his second outing, and then shined in his third appearance, a complete game victory over Carleton when he allowed four hits and one walk while striking out 10.
Hamilton’s Spencer Vogelbach ’18 first made a name for himself as a first-year at the beginning of last season. In the Continental’s spring break game against Alfred State, his 11 strikeouts were the most by a Hamilton baseball pitcher in a single game in five years — an accomplishment that should not and cannot be ignored. Vogelbach pitched in three of Hamilton’s seven wins last week, striking out 11 batters and racking up a 14.0 IP with just one walk. The rookie was sixth in the NESCAC with a 2.25 ERA and a 4-1 record last season. Clearly, his rookie season was just a preview of what is to come for Hamilton’s pitching rotation. Dan DePaoli ’18 has also impressed on the bump; he went 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two starts that covered 11 innings. In Hamilton’s 7-1 win at Bard on March 12, DePaoli only allowed one unearned run on two hits in six innings of work. Then, in Friday’s 17-6 victory against Lawrence, he gave up three runs on four hits, struck out six and didn’t walk a batter in five innings. He also handled four chances in the field without an error.
Two freshmen started on the bump for Middlebury in their season-opening doubleheader against Bates. Colby Morris ’19 spun a complete game gem but was let down by his offense in a 2-1 loss. In the second of the twinbill, Jack Bunting ’19 was dominant through three innings before a pair of mistakes resulted in a three-run inning and one long left center field homer that was aided by a windy day that saw three balls leave the yard. Bunting finished with 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 K and 1 BB. In relief three members of the formerly beleaguered Middlebury staff, including newbie Conor Himstead ’19, combined for five scoreless innings.
Walk Off Victories
It’s hard to tell what the Continentals love more: actually winning with a walk off or showing off the swagger of the moment on social media (as a loyal Continental, I’m personally a fan of both, but I confess I’m biased).
On March 14, the walk-off homerun of OF Kenny Collins ’17 won Hamilton’s first game against Minnesota-Morris by a narrow margin, 3-2. You have to love Collins’ elaborate helmet toss, shown towards the end of the video shared on Hamilton Baseball’s Twitter. I’m pretty sure hurling your helmet into the air is frowned upon by NCAA regulations, but in this situation, how could you not?
Andrew Haser ’17, the NESCAC Player of the Week, built off of Collins’ momentum ending Hamilton’s first game against Allegheny. With bases loaded in the seventh inning, Haser laced a homerun that freed the Continentals from a tied score (and this comes just two days after his grand slam contributed to Hamilton’s 17-6 victory against Lawrence). Haser currently leads the Continentals with 10 runs, seven extra-base hits, 13 RBIs, five doubles and a .706 slugging percentage. The junior is hitting .382 (13-for-34) and has only made one error in 54 chances at shortstop.
The Continentals cheered that they couldn’t believe they managed to escape defeat twice this early into the season? Neither could we.
It’s not just Hamilton walking off in style these days, though. In the second game of the doubleheader between Middlebury and Bates on Saturday, both teams threatened to score in extras of the originally seven-inning ball game. It was all ended with one swing though, when rightfielder Sam Graf ’19 notched his first career hit by smacking a long no-doubter to left field. The Panthers did a solid job of celebrating in their own right.
Starting pitcher Henry Van Zant ’15 was unquestionably Bowdoin’s pride and glory last season, tying the program’s single-season record for wins by going 7-1, including a 5-0 mark in conference games. The stats don’t lie: he was the primary reason Bowdoin kept swimming throughout the season, even if he alone couldn’t launch the Polar Bears into the playoffs. Without him, Bowdoin has to redesign its entire pitching structure, to find a way to be victorious without their star.
In spite of pre-season doubts, Bowdoin really has come out on top, winning all seven of their games so far. And it’s worth noting that only two wins were by a narrow margin — in five of the Polar Bears’ wins to date, they have defeated their opponents by five or more runs.
Seniors Harry Ridge ’16 and Michael Staes ’16 impressed on the mound in Bowdoin’s sweep of Utica on March 15, pitching 5.2 and 7.0 innings, respectively. Ridge earned Bowdoin’s win on the mound while allowing just six hits and two earned runs. He struck out eight with only one walk. Staes turned in a complete seven inning performance in game two, allowing nine hits and only one run to earn the win. He struck out four Pioneers with no walks. Rookie Brandon Lopez ’19 earned his first collegiate win on the mound on March 17 against Dickinson, going six innings and allowing four hits and as many runs. Lopez struck out six and walked a pair.
Offensively, Chad Martin ’16 is clearly building upon his past success at bat. His .311 AVG last season placed him in the middle of NESCAC ranks, but he shows potential to outperform himself in the games ahead. Peter Cimini ’16 added ferocity to the Polar Bears’ deep offense, batting .400 with a .733 slugging percentage through the first five contests, collecting three extra base hits and six RBIs.
Tufts’ 3B Tommy O’Hara ’18
Last spring training, rookie O’Hara was the wiz kid on the Jumbos, developing a .564 OBP in 42 at-bats with six walks during spring break. Throughout the season, the freshman infielder led the team’s offense with a .405 ABG, .518 OBP and .603 SLG. And let’s not forget that he also hit a team-high 14 doubles while registering four home runs, 42 runs scored and 42 RBIs.
The Jumbos may have seen only five games at this point, but their 2-3 record and poor showing at the plate are cause for concern. In his first 16 at bats, O’Hara has amassed a .188/.435/.188 line. That OBP is nice, and is carried by six walks, but he also has seven strikeouts already. O’Hara struck out 25 times all of last season for a 14.9% K rate. Right now he’s walking back to the dugout 30.4% of the time. It’s very early, still, but let’s hope the sophomore isn’t putting too much pressure on himself.
2. Trinity Pitching
The Bantams are 4-6 to open the year, but it’s pretty obvious that the biggest hurdle they will have to climb this season is replacing SP Sean Meekins ’15, he of the 2.01 ERA a year ago. The experienced and usually reliable Jed Robinson ’16 has gotten knocked around in two starts to the tune of a 5.84 ERA, and the other pitchers with two starts already – Anthony Elgein, Jr. ’18, McLane Hill ’18 and Nicholas Fusco ’18 – have ERAs of 3.97, 5.87 and a ghastly 10.38. The bright spot for the rotation so far has been newbie Erik Mohl ’19, who shut down Plattsburgh St. in his one start, throwing six scoreless innings, but his 2:4 K:BB ratio over 7.1 IP does not bode well for the future.
Speaking of Plattsburgh St., the 37 runs that Trinity posted on the Cardinals during their doubleheader last week may be bolstering the team’s .314/.410/.433 slash line, but I’d bet more heavily on the Bantams’ offense than pitching staff right now.
3. Live Stats
I have many bones to pick with the stability of live stats programs this week. It’s hard enough trying to follow a baseball game using play-by-play stats rather than a video stream. A live stats program that continues that constantly lags or repeatedly—or permanently—freezes is just torture.
Over the years, I have accumulated quite a list of grievances about these streams, and the Hamilton vs. Fredonia stats stream probably embodied them all. In the first game, the program showed the stats of Fredonia’s previous game for the first two innings; when it finally switched to the Hamilton game, it never changed the lineup and eventually froze in the bottom of the third inning. It never adjusted for the second game.
Perhaps this was the most extreme of cases, but so far, none of my experiences with live stats during spring training have been positive. Help a fan out, NESCAC! Get it together. I hope, and expect, that the ability to follow along with NESCAC games will improve once all teams return up north, as is usually the case.
On Thursday, March 17, Trinity lost to Rutgers-Camden 9-4 in Auburndale, FL. According to Trinity’s website, however, the team actually played against Rugers-Camden. Now, as a New Jersey native, I was extremely skeptical that “Rugers-Camden” actually existed—I even looked up “Rugers” just to confirm that it’s not a slang way of referring to Rutgers University that I’ve never heard of. But no, Trinity corrected itself in the line below the flawed headline, accurately spelling out “Rutgers-Camden.”
Yet, Rugers appeared again. And then again. And then the website switched back to Rutgers. Then back to Rugers.
I can’t condemn an occasional typo (we’ve all been there), but having exorbitant inconsistencies regarding a nationally known institution on an official college website is inexcusable. Note that the errors still remain throughout the game recap.
The Bantams may have won the game, but the college itself lost in quality coverage. Shame on you, Trinity!
I thought that was all, but then this little nugget was brought to our attention. As noted above, Middlebury walked off on Bates 4-3 in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday, March 21. According to the NESCAC Weekly Release, however, “Bates def. Middlebury, 4-3”. They have the records right in the Team Standings category, but we couldn’t help backing the Panthers on this one.