All the drama this weekend will come from two East Divisional series in Maine, a state that to this point has seen only three NESCAC games. Unless the rain gets in the way and postpones games, this weekend should see that number double as Trinity travels to Bowdoin and Tufts visits Colby.
Unless Hamilton can somehow manage to find a way to shock Amherst, Amherst and Wesleyan should continue to dominate their West Division foes. The Cardinals travel to Middlebury to take on the Panthers. Last year the Cardinals won both of the Saturday doubleheader games by only one run so do not expect Middlebury to shrink from the moment. Meanwhile, the Continentals are going to have to find some way to slow down an Amherst offense that has an insane .504 OBP and seven home runs in their six NESCAC games. Having the games in New York with the short porch in left probably won’t help.
And that is all I’m going to say about the West today. Onto the East.
Three to Watch
1. Relief Pitcher Zach Brown ’18 (Tufts)
Relievers are generally volatile and inconsistent in the NESCAC, but Brown is a critical piece for the Jumbos as their closer. Some might pause at putting such a young player in that position, but an eye-popping 1.72 ERA and 13.29 K/9 will generally make your manager trust you even if you are a freshman. Brown did get the loss last weekend against Trinity when he came in during the eighth inning with runners on first and second and no outs. He worked the bases loaded with two outs before surrendering a bases clearing double that put Trinity ahead 7-6. That isn’t going to stop Brown from getting the call again if the game is close late and the Jumbos need to lock things down.
2. Starting Pitcher Greg Ladd ’15 (Colby)
If Colby’s other two starting pitchers, Soren Hanson ’16 and Scott Goldberg ’15, are the heavy artillery of the rotation, Ladd is the sniper picking his spots. Last year he barely struck anybody out and had an ERA of 2.51, but he has struggled to maintain that level this year and has a 6.12 ERA including a 12.00 ERA in three NESCAC appearances. However, a couple of factors suggest he could shake off his struggles. First, his strikeout rate is up to an actually respectable 6.12 K/9. Second, Ladd has a WHIP of 1.28 which would indicate that he has suffered somewhat from cluster luck. Giving up two home runs explains some of that unluckiness but certainly not all of it. All three of Colby’s starters need to have good starts this weekend, but Ladd might be the biggest one of them all.
3. Second Baseman Aaron Rosen ’15 (Bowdoin)
The most consistent hitter for Bowdoin is enjoying his best season yet as a senior with a .447 OBP and .590 SLG%. After not hitting any homers before this year, he has three already including one off of Tufts’ Kyle Slinger ’15. On Tuesday, an 0-3 day in the first game of a doubleheader snapped his 12-game hitting streak, but he responded in the second game going 3-4 with a double and triple. The big knock on Rosen throughout his career has been defense, and that has carried over to this year as he already has nine errors for the season. Still, his bat more than makes up for it as he is the Polar Bears’ most important hitter in their lineup.
Trinity (10-11, 2-4) at Bowdoin (9-14, 2-3)
Friday 3:30 PM: Jed Robinson ’16 (Trinity) vs. Henry Van Zant ’15 (Bowdoin). Saturday 12:00 PM: Sean Meekins ’15 (Trinity) vs. Harry Ridge ’16 (Bowdoin). Saturday 2:30 PM: Chris Speer ’17 (Trinity) vs. Erik Jacobsen ’15 (Bowdoin).
The Bantams and Polar Bears currently sit in the final two positions in the East, and whoever loses this series will see their playoff hopes essentially come to an end. A sweep would jolt the victor right into the thick of things for that second spot. This weekend is Bowdoin’s home opener as well.
The Friday pitching matchup in this one is very juicy with Van Zant pitching like the best in the NESCAC and Robinson sporting a 2.77 ERA. Though teams have touched Robinson up some in conference, he could still give the Polar Bear offense a little trouble . The other starters for both teams have struggled in their NESCAC games, and Van Zant is the only starter on either team to have a win. Despite those recent struggles, every pitcher in this series is more than capable of having a great start. Given that both of these offenses are below average, expect a low-scoring series.
Peter Cimini ’16 has returned and is now leading off for Bowdoin which should solidify the top of the lineup and make them much more dangerous to pitch against. The Polar Bear offense tends to falter outside of their top guys so returning Cimini instead of one of their peripheral players is a big improvement. On the other side, the Bantams are enjoying a little power surge with four home runs in their NESCAC games. Still, they remain one position behind Bowdoin in batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. Whichever offense can string hits together and not have them scattered will give their team a big advantage.
Prediction: Bowdoin wins two of three.
Tufts (19-5, 4-2) at Colby (14-6, 3-3)
Friday 3:00 PM: TBA vs. Scott Goldberg ’15 (Colby). Saturday 12:00 PM: Tim Superko ’17 (Tufts) vs. Greg Ladd ’15 (Colby). Saturday 2:30 PM Andrew David ’16 (Tufts) vs. Soren Hanson ’16 (Colby).
See that TBA up in the probable starters section? That could or could not be Kyle Slinger, aka the 2014 NESCAC Pitcher of the Year. He was involved in a collision in Tufts’ game on Sunday and had to leave the game after one inning. Given that he also missed time earlier in the year after getting an errant throw to his head, it would not be shocking to see the Jumbos be safe and leave him out though we don’t know what specific injury he suffered at this time.
If Slinger is not able to go, senior Tom Ryan ’15 will end up starting one of the Saturday games and Superko will start on Friday. Ryan is a solid starter who threw a complete game, one-run outing on Monday against Salem State, so it’s not like the Jumbos are panicking if Slinger can’t go, but they would still prefer him to be out there because a series loss would make their playoff position suddenly precarious. A great performance from their offense would of course render any worries about the rotation mute. Connor McDavitt ’15 has been inconsistent at the plate with three homers but only a .271 AVG. However, given that he has 25 walks to make his OBP .427, he is still enjoying a very good senior year.
For Colby this is a make or break series. After dropping two of three to Bates they need to rebound and find a way to take, at the very, very least, one game. As mentioned above, their three starters all have to enjoy quality starts. The only consistent reliever the Mules have is freshman Daniel Schoenfield ’18 who admittedly has been very solid in his 10 total appearances thus far. The big problem though is that after appearing to turn a corner in March, the Mule offense has reverted back to its 2014 form and is last in the league in both average and on-base percentage. Tommy Forese ’16 is the only hitter who has hit above average in their six conference games with a .500 average and two home runs. Jason Buco ’15 continues to struggle after being the team’s offensive leader last year. The Mules are hoping this series comes down to a couple of plays that they make and the Jumbos don’t. Unfortunately for Colby, I think that the Tufts offense will do too much against the Colby pitchers.
Prediction: Tufts wins two of three.