Pivoting to the East: Baseball Weekend Preview 4/17

The Polar Bears welcome Trinity to Maine this weekend, in a series that could spell the end for either teams' hopes of making a playoff push. (Courtesy of Tom Van Zant/Bowdoin Athletics)
The Polar Bears welcome Trinity to Maine this weekend, in a series that could spell the end for either teams’ hopes of making a playoff push. (Courtesy of Tom Van Zant/Bowdoin Athletics)

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.

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.


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

Mules Mulling Playoffs: Colby Baseball Season Preview

Tyler Starks '17 turning two. (Courtesy of Dustin Satloff dustinsatloff.com)
Tyler Starks ’16 turning two. (Courtesy of Dustin Satloff dustinsatloff.com)

2014 Record: 16-15 (5-7, third in the NESCAC East), missed NESCAC playoffs

Starters Returning: 8 (5 Position Players, 3 Starting Pitchers)

Projected Lineup: (Stats are from 2014)

CF Ryder Arsenault ’17 (.308/.354/.341, 0 HR, 5 RBI)
SS Tommy Forese (.214/.313/.429, 1 HR, 2 RBI)
P/1B Soren Hanson ’16 (.320/.393/.400, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
LF Jason Buco ’15 (.327/.413/.615, 7 HR, 19 RBI)
3B Daniel Csaplar ’16  (.327/.375/.442, 1 HR, 12 RBI)
C Tim Corey ’15 (.269/.310/.308, 0 HR, 6 RBI)
RF Andrew Currier ’16 (.400/.400/.400, 0 HR, 0 RBI)
3B Paul McAuliffe ’15 (.146/.281/.167, 0 HR, 1 RBI)
2B Tyler Starks ’16 (.163/.212/.163, 0 HR, 5 RBI)

RHP Scott Goldberg ’15 (4-2, 2.47 ERA, 9.27 K/9, 43.2 IP)
RHP Soren Hanson (2-3, 2.89 ERA, 10.92 K/9, 43.2 IP)
RHP Greg Ladd ’15 (3-2, 2.52 ERA, 3.35 K/9, 43.0 IP)

Offensive Overview:

A year ago this unit sputtered and scored the fewest amount of runs during conference play which was a big reason why the Mules ended up falling short of the playoffs. The Mules lose Kevin Galvin ’14 along with three other contributors to that lineup. The good thing is that Jason Buco ’15 is back. Buco hit seven homers in 2014, and the two-sport star is likely headed for another big season. Ryder Arsenault ’17, another member of both the Colby football and baseball teams, is the second best returning hitter. He will need to get on base a lot in front of Buco. Soren Hanson ’16 and Daniel Csaplar ’16 are going to be important for providing Buco with protection in the middle of the lineup. The bottom of the lineup looks like a potential Achilles heel unless somebody like Tyler Starks ’16 is able to boost their production.

Defensive Overview:

An average defense in the field, what makes Colby special is their play from the catcher position. Tim Corey ’15 was great at throwing runners out finishing the season with 42 percent success rate. He was even better in conference where overall the Mules threw out well over 50 percent of potential base stealers. Starks is back at the ever crucial shortstop position and should improve on the 10 errors from a year ago. The combination of Buco and Arsenault in the outfield will lead to a lot of fly balls getting tracked down.

Pitching Overview:

The trio of Greg Ladd ’15, Hanson and Scott Goldberg ’15 coalesced into a great rotation a year ago. Hanson improved on his solid freshmen campaign, but it was the massive development of Ladd and Goldberg that was the biggest difference. Hanson and Goldberg are both power pitchers who will attack hitters up in the zone. Ladd tries to imitate his first name brethren Greg Maddux by overcoming his small frame with control and movement. The presence of these three will give Colby a chance in every game that they play. The bullpen is much more of a question mark. Csaplar could end up being an important piece for them there.

Three Storylines to Watch

1. How deep do their starters go?

Two of Colby’s important pitchers from a year ago, Luke Geoghegan ’14 and Dakota Rabbitt ’14, have graduated. While both had ERAs above 4.00, they were helpful for Colby in a good deal of games. Now Ladd, Hanson and Goldberg will have to go very late in games in order to keep their bullpen from getting exposed. The good news is that those three combined for seven complete games a year ago. Because of his style Ladd will be able to go late in a lot of games, but the other two starters might have more difficulty. Striking out guys pushes up your pitch count and wears on pitchers as the game goes along.

2. Which freshmen step up?

Freshmen will have a chance to get early playing time both in the lineup and rotation. Colby only has seven freshmen on the roster which is a smallish number. Three of them, John Baron ’18, Griffin Clark ’18 and Matt Garcia ’18 were also football players (Colby has six players who are also on the football team), but all three were actually more accomplished baseball players in high school. The graduation of several players and lack of any obvious replacements on the roster means freshmen will not only be asked to but will need to be big parts of any potential playoff run.

3. Do they get on base?

At their most basic, most sports are simple: score more than your opponent. Besides Buco and at times Arsenault, nobody on the Colby roster has proven themselves to be a solid consistent hitter. The Mules can still put together a decent offense together if they are more patient. Colby walked only 24 times in conference, seven less than any other team. None of Colby’s hitters outside of Buco are going to hit for extra bases so a walk is nearly as good as a hit. Walking more will also force opposing teams to go to their bullpen earlier.

Biggest Series: April 10-11 against Bates

Colby hosts the first game of this series before the teams play the Saturday doubleheader at Bates. Anytime two Maine teams meet, the stakes feel a little bit higher, and that will certainly be true for this one. The Mules dropped two of three last year mostly because they managed to score only four runs overall in the three games.

The Case for the ‘Cac: Students-and-Athletes

A few weeks ago, the NESCAC released its list of 2014 Spring All-Academic selections. Not surprising a whole bunch of people made it (999 to be exact), and not just the guys who sit on the end of the bench. While in Division 1 having a star that is also a stellar student is unusual, in the NESCAC it is almost the norm. Of course, this is exactly how it should be, given the ethos and goals of all the NESCAC schools in placing more emphasis on academics than athletics. To show just how outstanding the caliber of talent is that made the All-Academic team, we compiled two “All-Star” teams, if you will, one with the academic qualifications to make the All-Academic squad and the other chosen from everyone else remaining. Freshmen are not eligible because they have not completed a whole academic year so players like Tim Superko ’17 are not included in this exercise.

All-Academic Lineup The Rest Lineup
1. Andrew Yin (Second Base) 1. Donnie Cimino (Center Field)
2. Taiki Kasuga (Shortstop) 2. Aaron Rosen (Second Base)
3. Alex Hero (Center Field) 3. Mike Odenwaelder (Right Field)
4. Chad Martin (Designated Hitter) 4. Jason Buco (Left Field)
5. Kevin Galvin (Third Base) 5. Griff Tewksbury (Designated Hitter)
6. Bryan Wolfe (First Base) 6. Sam Goodwin-Boyd (First Base)
7. Nick Cutsumpas (Catcher) 7. Guy Davidson (Shortstop)
8. Matt Moser (Right Field) 8. Kevin Davis (Third Base)
9. Luke Pierce (Left Field) 9. Mekae Hyde (Catcher)
All-Academic Rotation The Rest Rotation
John Cook Kyle Slinger
Brad Reynolds Nick Cooney
Dylan Driscoll Christian Sbily
Scott Goldberg Gavin Pittore

Both teams are obviously stacked, but have different strengths. The All-Academic team lacks the mashers in the middle of the lineup that The Rest has in Jason Buco ’15 and Mike Odenwaelder ’16. The pitching staff for the All-Academic team is stronger, however. The difference is minimal especially given the presence of Kyle Slinger ’15 on The Rest. Though I don’t go in depth with the pitchers, it should be noted that other very good pitchers like Tom Ryan ’15 made the All-Academic team as well. Another roster note is that Matt Moser ’16 plays shortstop and not right field, but there was a significant logjam in the middle infield and nobody in the outfield for the All-Academic team so I made the executive decision to keep him on the field in that way.

If these two teams were to meet I would have to give a slight edge to The Rest team, but my guess is that if the teams played ten times, the All-Academic team wins four games. Their pitching is good enough and the talent level throughout the lineup is only a smidgeon worse than the Rest. The purpose of this exercise is of course simply to show the amount of talent that made the All-Academic team and not to really compare the teams.

One last note is that many of the athletes who did not make the All-Academic team still work incredibly hard in the classroom. Keep in mind that the difficulty of achieving the requisite 3.35 GPA fluctuates between departments, majors and professors. This isn’t to disparage anyone who did make the All-Academic team because a 3.35 isn’t easy no matter what classes you take. I want to make clear that I’m not putting down The Rest roster for their performance in the classroom. A lot of factors besides a student’s intelligence and work ethic go into what a final GPA looks like. With that being said, a huge congratulations to all of the students for their great work both on the diamond and in the classroom this spring..

Stock Report April 21

The playoff picture is beginning to solidify in both Divisions. In the West, Wesleyan and Amherst know that they will be playing tournament baseball this May, and the regular season West crown will be decided this weekend when Amherst travels to Middletown, CT. As for the East, the Jumbos remain on top, though with five games still to play in conference a slump would drop Tufts from the number one seed. Everyone but Trinity is still afloat on the East side of the ledger. We have one full weekend of NESCAC play remaining, and here we discuss who’s hot and cold heading into the final week of conference play.

Stock Up

1. Bates (13-11, 4-3) – No team had a better weekend than the Bobcats did. They took two out of three against Trinity to take care of business, but more importantly saw Colby lose three tight games to Tufts. Bates cruised in game one behind another great start from Brad Reynolds ’14, and won game two by mashing their way to 12 runs. Griffin Tewksbury ’14 hit his conference leading fifth homer of the season as well. The Mules and Bobcats will meet next weekend in a series that should finally decide who will get the second spot in the East. I say “should” because Bowdoin could surprise Tufts and win multiple games to give them a chance. Bates also has two games still to play against Tufts which have been rescheduled to May 3. This has the potential to be a huge help to Bates because Tufts will most likely have nothing to play for. They could rest a bunch of their regulars, or at least not play them the entire game. Even if they ended up losing both games to Tufts, Bates can all but assure a playoff spot if they win two games against Colby. 6-6 might be all it takes to make it in the East.

2. Nick Cooney ’15 Starting Pitcher (Wesleyan) – Hamilton had a hard time figuring out the junior southpaw as Cooney had 12 strikeouts on the way to his fifth win of the season. Last week he won NESCAC Pitcher of the Week, and his performance this week was just as impresive. He has put an uneven start behind him in conference play with three great starts against Middlebury, Williams and Wesleyan. The in-season improvement by the entire staff has been the big difference in the Cardinals’ play in conference. Cooney has emerged as an ace and workhorse by leading the conference in innings pitched this season.

3. John Cook ’15 Starting Pitcher (Amherst) – We admit that we wrote Cook off a little bit when he let up 11 runs to Southern Maine in the beginning of the year. Since then the junior has rebounded in a big way, but he saved his best for last weekend. Middlebury was keeping Amherst on the ropes with a great pitching performance by Eric Truss ’15, but Cook matched him every step of the way, holding Middlebury to one run as the game went to extras. After a Tyler Jacobs ’15 homer put the Jeffs up by one in the tenth inning, coach Brian Hamm showed his confidence in his pitcher by sending Cook back out to start the bottom of the tenth. Cook calmly delivered, going three up three down. Considering Cook allowed 11 runs in one game, his 2.83 ERA is almost a miracle, and a testament to his recent dominance.

Alex Kelly '14 was among the few bright spots for Middlebury against the Amherst staff, going 6-13 in his last NESCAC series atop the Panthers' lineup. Courtesy of Rachel Frank
Alex Kelly ’14 was among the few bright spots for Middlebury against the Amherst staff, going 6-13 in his last NESCAC series atop the Panthers’ lineup.
Courtesy of Rachel Frank

Stock Down

1. Colby Offense – First we should give credit to Soren Hanson ’16 and Greg Ladd ’15 for stepping up big time and giving the Mules a chance to win the last two games of the series after Tufts managed to rough up ace Scott Goldberg ’15 in the first game. The offense, however, could not get anything going which is why the weekend ended without any victories for Colby. Yes, Tufts has some of the best pitching in the league, but Colby missed two golden opportunities to grab a game. Their best chance was in the top of the sixth in the second game when a double left runners on second and third with one out. On a groundball to second Jason Buco ’15 was thrown out at home trying to score the go-ahead run, and a Tyler Starks ’16 strikeout ended the inning with two runners still on base. The offense needs to regroup before the weekend for Colby to reach the playoffs.
Check out this amazing catch by catcher Nick Cutsumpas ’14 that helped the Jumbos sweep the Mules.

2. Hamilton’s Supporting Cast – Again, we don’t intend to single out a certain player on Hamilton for their poor play, but we draw attention to this in order to shed light on Joe Jensen’s ’15 play. Over the weekend Jensen was his usual havoc-wreaking self with five stolen bases in three games. Hamilton has faded in conference play after we highlighted them as a potential spoiler in the West, but it hasn’t been because of Jensen. He now sits at 18 stolen bases and a .512 OBP on the season. With nine games remaining he has a chance to match the 29 he had in 2013. The problem is that he just hasn’t gotten any backup from his teammates. He has ten more hits than anyone else on the team, and Hamilton has nobody in the middle of the lineup hitting for extra bases that would move Jensen quickly around the bases.

3. Harry Ridge ’16 Starting Pitcher (Bowdoin) – Since he started conference play with a gem against Trinity, Ridge has struggled to be the number one starter Bowdoin needed him to be because of the injuries to Henry Van Zant ’15 and Christian Martin ’14. Against Bates and Colby, Ridge couldn’t manage more than three innings in each game, and while he pitched six innings against Williams, he allowed five runs (three earned). His ERA sits at a respectable 3.00, and it is true, like we wrote last week, that his defense has let him down. Still, whether it is fair or not, Bowdoin needed him to be more than that in order to contend. His season is sadly reminiscent of last year when he went through similar stretches of uneven pitching. All that being said, don’t count him out to have a rebound this weekend as Bowdoin prepares for their last stand against Tufts.
You can catch the highlights of Saturday’s Williams-Bowdoin doubleheader here, courtesy of Bowdoin athletics:


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.

Stock Report April 14

Stock Up

Robby Harbison ’17 Designated Hitter (Wesleyan) – The DH with the slick locks must have noticed we didn’t talk about him in our First Year Spotlight. In the first game of the weekend his two-run double in the seventh inning broke a 1-1 tie. He followed that up with two 3-4 games in the Saturday doubleheader. On the weekend he totaled three runs and five RBIs. His .410 batting average is the best on Wesleyan, and he has reached base in 13 of Wesleyan’s last 14 games. His hot bat helped Wesleyan to a weekend sweep of Williams. The Cardinals are 6-0 in the NESCAC and look like they could enter the series against Amherst at 9-0.

Scott Goldberg ’15 Starting Pitcher (Colby) – Last season the right hander sported a 5.50 ERA and a .318 opponents’ batting average. This season has been a completely different story for Goldberg. Posting a 1.40 ERA and miniscule .154 opponents’ batting average, he has turned into a bona fide ace for the Mules. On Saturday, he turned in a masterful eight inning performance. Bowdoin only threatened once, in the sixth inning, when they scored two runs, but besides that, Goldberg was all over the Polar Bears. Improvement by returning players has been the key to Colby sitting comfortably in second place in the East right now.

Nick Cooney ’15 Starting Pitcher (Wesleyan) – Wesleyan is getting so much love because their sweep this weekend was the most impressive team performance this season. Cooney was the one who set the tone with his dominance on the mound Friday. He shut down a very good Williams lineup going all nine innings and only allowing one run. Along with Gavin Pittore ’16 and Jeff Blout ’14, Cooney attacked Williams’ hitters early in counts, allowing him to go so deep in the game. Improved pitching has been the key to Wesleyan’s 10-game winning streak since a 24-0 drubbing on March 21 in the Cardinals’ last game in Arizona.

Kyle Slinger ’15 Starting Pitcher (Tufts) – The southpaw was scary good in the opening game of the Tufts-Trinity series. The Bantams could not figure him out all game managing only two hits and three walks as he went all nine innings. His seven strikeouts give him 41 on the season. Opponents are hitting a silly .136 against him meaning his 0.66 ERA through 41 innings is no fluke. To top it off, Slinger already has six wins with plenty of games still to play. A 10-win season is not out of question for the junior. Trinity played the Jumbos really tough, taking the middle game of the series, but the Jumbos showed their mettle holding on to win the final game 3-2. If Slinger continues to pitch this way, you can write in a Tufts victory for the first game of every series.

Stock Down:

Bowdoin Defense – The Saturday doubleheader between Bowdoin and Colby featured two well-played close games between two teams clearly very similar in talent level. The difference in the weekend series was on Friday when Bowdoin had uncharacteristically poor defense. The four errors came at critical times as only one of Colby’s eight runs was earned. The costliest error came in the third when a routine groundball with two outs could not be corralled at second base. With the bases loaded Nate Ellis ’14 delivered a clutch single scoring two runs. Tyler Starks ’16 chased Bowdoin’s starter Harry Ridge ’16 with another two-run single as Colby scored five in the third. The poor defense was a reason for the insertion of Sean Mullaney ’17 at shortstop combined with Aaron Rosen ’15 moving to second base. Mullaney is struggling at the plate, but he plays a great shortstop making Bowdoin strong up the middle.

Jjay Lane ’15 Starting Pitcher (Hamilton) – The Continentals needed a big start by their junior ace to avoid tripping up against Middlebury, but the Panthers jumped all over the Connecticut native. Lane only went three innings before leaving with Middlebury leading 8-1. In fairness to him, the Hamilton defense was terrible behind him leading to only one of his runs being earned, but still the righty was hit hard. Lane isn’t striking out many batters this season, and he just hasn’t had any luck with run support. Despite a 2.37 ERA, Lane is 0-2. Consider this more of an opportunity to buy low on Lane than a signal that Lane has regressed from his 2013 form.

Tom Stephens ’14 Right Fielder (Williams) – This spot could go to any number of Williams’ hitters who struggled over the weekend, but the spotlight falls on Stephens because he went hitless in all three games. Overall, a vaunted lineup scored a combined five runs over three games. Stephens couldn’t get anything going at the plate, striking out four times. The amazing thing is that he still sports a nifty .385/.450/.654 slashline. Stephens was one of the few players last week to hit Amherst’s pitching, so expect him to bounce back soon. Williams’ once-promising season will now almost certainly end without them reaching the playoffs.

East Power Rankings April 9

Two weekends of conference of play have gone by, and the East Division looks increasingly muddled. We knew entering the season that Bates and Colby would be improved, Bowdoin and Trinity had lost a lot of talent, and Tufts probably had the most potential in the division. All of that has held true, and it has made the first two weekends unpredictable. Without further ado, here are my rankings of the East so far this season.

1. Tufts (17-1, 1-0) – Putting Tufts first is an easy choice given their dominance so far this season. Yet they have only played one conference game because they were off this weekend and had their doubleheader against Bates postponed two weekends ago. Centerfielder Connor McDavitt ’15 has been outstanding at the top of the linep with a .449 OBP and seven stolen bases without being thrown out once. The Jumbos have great balance on offense and rival Amherst for the best staff in the league. The only possible wart they have shown thus far is their propensity to allow a lot of walks. Ace Kyle Slinger ’15 especially has given out a lot of free passes with 16 walks in 32 innings. Besides that Tufts doesn’t seem to have any weaknesses. Tufts has proven beyond a doubt that they are the best team on paper, but we still aren’t sure how they will look in conference play. Even if they sweep Trinity to go to 4-0 in conference it probably tells us more about Trinity than Tufts. Still, given their talent level, any finish below first in the East will be a surprise.

2. Colby (10-4, 2-1) – This has been the NESCAC’s surprise team so far this season, but people should probably wait a weekend before piling onto the bandwagon. The Colby-Bowdoin series on Friday and Saturday will show if Colby will be in it for the long haul. Right now the Mules are riding high after taking two of three from Trinity. Jason Buco ’15 made us look pretty smart for highlighting him on Friday when he hit two homers the first game of the weekend to up his season total to four. Scott Goldberg ’15 was chased in the fifth inning by the Trinity bats, but Lucas Geoghegan ’14 was superb in relief going 4.1 scoreless innings for the win as Buco’s second homer in the seventh proved to be the difference. Colby couldn’t complete the sweep when Trinity broke a 4-4 tie in the eighth of the finale, but they are still happy with the weekend’s results. Geoghegan (1.76 ERA) has rebounded to his 2012 performance after he saw limited action last season, and both Greg Ladd ’15 (2.50 ERA) and Goldberg (1.53 ERA) have taken a big step forward. All of this has helped Colby’s pitching be much better than last year. If that pitching continues then Colby will prove they aren’t a fluke.

3. Bowdoin (11-6-1, 3-3) – Wait didn’t Bates just beat Bowdoin in two out of three games this weekend! Look, Bates played great and gave Bowdoin trouble, but I am not going to overreact to one weekend of games even if they were head-to-head. Bowdoin is still rounding into form on the mound with Christian Martin ’14 making his first appearance of the year and Henry Van Zant ’15 making his third relief appearance. Bates knocked around both Erik Jacobsen ’15 and Harry Ridge ’16 in the first two games, but the two should rebound. Ridge had been spectacular so far until he allowed six runs in only three innings on Saturday prompting some to worry he will see a repeat of last season when he struggled in some starts while looking great in others. Outfielder John Lefeber ’14 has really struggled in the six league games going 2-22 at the plate. He and Aaron Rosen ’15 (.276 AVG) have yet to bust out at the plate, but have done a good job drawing walks to get on base.  Expect those two to show up big in the next few weekends. The good news is that Jay Loughlin ’14 came up huge on the mound in the final game to give Bowdoin the win in the finale, and Bowdoin can reclaim control of their destiny by winning this weekend against Colby.

4. Bates (8-9, 2-2) – They showed why some thought that the Bobcats were primed for a surprise run this season this past weekend against Bowdoin. Our other player to watch heading in to the weekend, Brad Reynolds ’14, won NESCAC Pitcher of the Week after he went six innings, allowed only one (unearned) run, and struck out ten. Kevin Davis ’14 went 8-13 and had an impressive 10 RBIs over the three games. There are a lot of positives right now for Bates, but they are still below .500 on the season. Number two starter Chris Fusco ’14 got knocked around in the second game though the offense was good enough to overcome his lackluster start. Will Levangie ’15 probably solidified his status as the third starter with his performance in the final game, but that was really his first good performance of the season. Behind Davis and Griffin Tewksbury ’14 the offense has been very lackluster. Bates needs those two to continue to rake and others to step up in order for the offense to offset some of the questions about the pitching behind Reynolds.

5. Trinity (7-12, 2-4) – By far the biggest disappointment to-date in the NESCAC in head coach Bryan Adamski’s first season, the Bantams have shown flashes, but at this point it is looking more and more unlikely that they will be able to make a playoff push. The question is exactly how far they have fallen. An optimistic view says they are good enough to steal a game from Tufts and could easily win or even sweep their series against Bates. A pessimist says we are judging them off of past success and they really aren’t that good. The pessimistic view also suggests that we are overrating Colby and Bowdoin for their series victory over the Bantams. The starting pitching this weekend against Colby was very good in every game, but in the first two games the bullpen faltered. The offense was pretty much dormant until it exploded for five runs in the final inning of the second game. The rally fell short by one run, but showed Trinity is not going to go quietly into the night. Brian Wolfe ’15 and Scott Pidgeon ’15 have been carrying the offense, and they need others to step up. With three games still remaining against Tufts, Trinity is in position to force a rise through the rankings if they can put the pieces together.