The Great Thaw: Power Rankings 4/8

We held off on doing a Power Rankings last week because so few games had been played since the last one. Also, we had to re-watch Game of Thrones before the season premiere. Pretty standard stuff really. Before a big weekend of games, getting a Power Rankings out there is necessary.

1. Wesleyan (12-4, 3-0). Last Ranking: 1

The Cardinals have won their four games since we last made these rankings so they remain solidly at the top. Williams came close to beating Wesleyan in the final game, and in the process they reminded us that Wesleyan is far from unbeatable. What makes the Cardinals the best in the NESCAC is that they have no weaknesses. Take defense, an area where NESCAC teams often struggle to have consistency. As a team, Wesleyan has only 17 errors, the lowest in the NESCAC and good enough for the best fielding percentage as well. Even more impressive is that the Cardinals are yet to have a game where they commit more than two errors. Not making errors is sexy, and it helps win ball games.

2. Amherst (10-6, 3-0). Last Ranking: 3

Anytime you AVERAGE 20 runs per game over a three game stretch like the Jeffs did this weekend against Middlebury, we are going to take notice. Plenty of gaudy stat lines came out of it as a result, but the best one goes to NESCAC Player of the Week 2B Andrew Vandini ’16. Vandini went 8-12, walked four times, scored eight runs, knocked in 14 teammates, and hit two home runs during the weekend. He did strike out one time so there is room for improvement. The Jeffs can pretty much cement their place in the playoffs if they win their series against Williams this weekend.

3. Tufts (15-4, 2-1). Last Ranking: 2

The Jumbos drop a spot but we actually feel better about them now than we did two weeks ago. The conference loss to Bowdoin is the only one in their last 12 games, and Tufts is currently on a six-game winning streak. Kyle Slinger ’15 looked good once again this weekend against Brandeis and has now put his early season injury problems completely behind him. Also, don’t worry about Tufts striking out 112 times, the second most in the league. That’s because they employ a patient approach which is why they have 90 walks, 21 more than any other team.

4. Colby (11-4, 2-1). Last Ranking: 4

Are you buying or selling stock in Colby right now? They are 4-1 against NESCAC opponents (they won two non-conference games against Hamilton), and their one loss came on a walk-off homer. Yet, the starts of some of their offensive players are almost too good to believe. Chiefly, Tommy Forese ’16 who has hit four home runs and has an OBP of .500 after only getting 14 at-bats and hitting .214 last season. Others like Tim Corey ’15 are also enjoying big bumps in production from a year ago. The Mules have gotten somewhat limited production from Jason Buco ’15, so if others take a step back he could pick up the slack.

5. Bates (6-7, 1-1). Last Ranking: 5

The Bobcats are the slightest of smidgeons above the Polar Bears in our minds right now. The fact that the teams split a doubleheader on Sunday in which neither game was close certainly did us no favors in figuring out which team to put ahead of the other. Connor Colombo ’16 has emerged as one of the starters who will get the ball every weekend, but he has still only thrown 15.0 innings, the highest of any Bates starter. Seventeen different pitchers have thrown a full inning, a crazy high amount that shows how unsettled the pitching rotation is. Manager Mike Leonard will have to be able to push the right buttons to make sure the best guys get on the mound.

6. Bowdoin (7-11, 2-3). Last Week: 6

The overall record still does not look great, and the Polar Bears are stuck in neutral for the moment. Peter Cimini ’16 has struggled with an injury that has kept him out for most of the season, and the lineup has not hit well outside of a couple of core players like Chad Martin ’16 and Aaron Rosen ’15. Do they have a weekend where they can play well in every aspect of the game and sweep their opponent? They play at Wesleyan in a non-conference doubleheader Saturday. A good performance against the Cardinals could give them a little more confidence as they enter the stretch run.

7. Williams (6-9, 3-3). Last Ranking: 8

Getting swept by Wesleyan is not the worst thing in the world, but it does put pressure on Williams this weekend against Amherst. A series win is almost a must to keep the Ephs above .500. Both Dan Smith ’16 and Thomas Murphy ’15 have ERA’s close to 8.00, though Smith did contain the Wesleyan lineup enough to give Williams a chance in the final game of the series. The Ephs are hoping that they can keep the games more low-scoring against the fearsome Amherst lineup

8. Trinity (9-7, 1-2). Last Ranking: 7

Trinity is bringing up the rear in the East for now mostly because their offense has simply lacked punch this year. Their rotation has the third-best ERA in the league, and Jed Robinson ’16 and Nick Fusco ’18 both have ERA’s below 1.00. The problem is the offense has a NESCAC-worst .338 OBP, a full 31 percentage points worse than the second-to-last team. Besides his walk-off home run, Daniel Pidgeon ’16 has struggled at the plate with a .189 BA. He and other Bantam mainstays have to become more consistent at the dish.

9. Hamilton (7-5, 0-0). Last Ranking: 9

The final NESCAC team without a game in conference play, the Continentals are itching to get going finally. The Continentals have played only one game since returning from their Florida trip on March 24 so we have very little new information on them. Cole Dreyfuss ’16 has been a revelation with a 1.33 ERA. He has pitched more than six innings in each of his three starts which is important because the bullpen for Hamilton has struggled. They plan to travel to Middlebury for their opening series on Friday, though the opener could be pushed to Saturday because of weather.

10. Middlebury (0-12, 0-6) Last Ranking: 10

The Panthers got smacked by a very good Amherst team last weekend as they continue to struggle. The one area where Middlebury has been decent is their offense. They are sixth in OBP, but their inability to hit for power or steal bases has hamstrung the offense. Catcher Max Araya ’16 and shortstop Johnny Read ’17 are both hitting above .350 while some of the freshmen are also hitting well. The Panthers will try to get their first win against Hamilton, a team they beat twice a year ago.

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

Start your Engines (Sort of): Weekend Preview 3/27

Middlebury and Williams open their conference season in sunshine and heat. (Courtesy of Matthew Dickerson)
Middlebury and Williams open their conference season in sunshine and heat. (Courtesy of Matthew Dickerson)

We knew all the way back in February that the snow was going to have an impact on the NESCAC schedule, and sure enough, two of the four opening series have been moved back to May. Middlebury and Williams will play in Arizona unaffected by the weather while Tufts and Bowdoin will play their games at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, Massachusetts. The Jumbos and Polar Bears are playing a doubleheader today before taking a couple of days off and playing the final game on Monday night.

Two to Watch

1. Starting Pitcher Tim Superko ’17 (Tufts): Three starts into the season and Superko has looked fantastic in two but got tagged in the other. One of his good starts was also against St. Joseph, who Tufts beat 20-0 so take that one with a large lump of salt. Superko’s strength is his ability to strikeout hitters. Last year, he went six innings and allowed only one run against Bowdoin in a Tufts’ win. The sophomore has some of the best pure stuff in the league. Questions about the health of Kyle Slinger ’15 and others means Superko is the only Tufts starter we know for sure will start this weekend according to Manager John Casey. That makes his start all the more important. A banged up staff needs him to go deep into his game, something that he was not great at as a freshman.

2. Outfielder Luke Pierce ’15 (Williams): The Williams offense has not gotten into gear yet mostly because of the struggles of a few key players like Pierce early on. The Ephs graduated a couple of their big boppers from a year ago, and Pierce is a more important piece than he was a year ago. Though he has one home run, his average is .217 and he is yet to draw a walk. He has only struck out three times in 23 at-bats so he is not getting overpowered or anything like that. Perhaps he has simply been putting too much pressure on himself in the early going. The slump will end soon enough, and the Ephs are hoping that this weekend is when Pierce busts out.

The Picks

Williams (3-3, 0-0) vs Middlebury (0-6, 0-0): 4:00 PM Friday (Thomas Murphy ’15 vs. Eric Truss ’15) , 2:00 PM Saturday (Luke Rodino ’17 vs. Cooper Byrne ’15) , and 5:00 PM Saturday (Dan Smith ’16 vs. TBD) in Tucson, Arizona.

Expected high for Tucson tomorrow is 92 degrees. Go ahead and let that one sink in a little.

As for baseball, the Panthers are still trying to get into the win column while Williams has looked a little shaky so far. Both staffs are riddled with question marks, and Thomas Murphy ’15 is the only starter for either team that projects as an above average pitcher. Murphy won his first start after allowing one ER in seven innings, but he had to scatter nine hits along the way. Both Dan Smith ’16 and Luke Rodino ’17 struggled in their first starts, and while they should start again this weekend, other options like Nate Michalski ’17 give the Ephs some flexibility. The struggles of the Ephs pale in comparison to those of the Panther pitchers. The Middlebury team ERA is 13.92 right now. Why they are 0-6 can be summed up in that one number.

Coach Bob Smith has yet to announce his third starter, but the ball will likely be handed to first-year Rob Erickson ’18 after a positive relief appearance on Tuesday. The big righty toss seven innings of three-run ball before tiring and allowing three runs in the bottom of the ninth against Grace University. Nevertheless, if he can toss like he did over the first seven innings of that outing, Erickson has a chance to shut down the Williams offense in Game Three. That being said, there’s no guarantee that Erickson will even be tabbed the starter.

Both offenses should put up numbers, and it will be fun to see how Dylan Sinnickson ’15 hits against NESCAC pitching. In the end Williams has more to lose, if that makes sense. Dropping a game or two to Middlebury would spell deep trouble for making the playoffs. For the Panthers, the offense will have to go off in one game to overcome their pitching.

Prediction: Williams wins two of three


 Projected Starters: Friday 2:30 PM (Tim Superko ’17 vs. Henry Van Zant ’15), Friday 4:30 PM ( TBD vs. Harry Ridge ’16), Monday 7:00 PM (TBD vs. Erik Jacobsen ’15)

If you get angry when the ball gets put into play and prefer when fielders simply act as cheerleaders for the pitchers, then the (potential) matchup of Superko and Van Zant is the game for you. As noted above, Superko is a strikeout whiz, and Van Zant is just as good in that department. Van Zant has the stuff to be great this year after seeing his junior year mostly wiped out by injury. Before that, he was overshadowed by his older brother Oliver Van Zant ’13, one of Bowdoin’s best pitchers in recent memory. Be assured that Van Zant will come out for this start firing gas.

Besides Superko, the other starters for Tufts are up in the air which could end up leaving a golden opportunity for Bowdoin. Harry Ridge ’16 and Erik Jacobsen ’15 both have a lot of experience and will battle the Tufts lineup. We might see Kyle Slinger ’15 in the Monday game because of the extra couple days of recovery.

The Jumbo offense has picked up pretty much where it was last year. The defining characteristic for them is how often they walk. So far, Tufts has walked 66 times while striking out only 73 times. As a team Tufts has an OBP of .449. Matt Moser ’16 is a star at shortstop with a slashline of .358/.426/.396. The one thing that Tufts does not do much is hit for power as Tommy O’Hara ’18 has their only homer all year.

After a breakout season in 2014, Chad Martin ’16 is showing his power again and has an impressive .585 slugging percentage. Peter Cimini ’16 has been slowed by a leg injury which has put the outfield positions in flux so far for Bowdoin. The best news for Bowdoin so far in the hitting department is that shortstop Sean Mullaney ’17 has an OBP of .462 after hitting below the Mendoza line last year. If he can keep that up, he combines with Aaron Rosen ’15 for one of the best middle infields in the league.

The Polar Bears are lucky to catch Tufts at this point in the season, and much of the following prediction is based off of those injuries to Tufts.

Prediction: Bowdoin wins two of three

Balance Necessary for Ephs: Williams Baseball Season Preview

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

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

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

Projected Lineup: (Stats are from 2014)

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

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

Offensive Overview:

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

Defensive Overview:

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

Pitching Overview:

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

Storylines to Watch:

1. In what direction is the program moving?

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

2. Do they solve elite pitching?

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

3. Is Daniel Smith ’16  the answer?

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

Biggest Series: April 10-11 against Amherst

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

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.

Stock Report 4/7

Stock Up:

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

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

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

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

Stock Down:

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

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

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

Williams Season Preview

What they lost:

Williams had perhaps the NESCAC’s toughest offseason, losing a vast number of contributing seniors. Their best hitters, Darren Hartwell, Taylor Mondshein, and K.C. Murphy all graduated as did important pitchers including Jimmy Ray, Patrick Blizzard, and Lucas Casso. Players such as Phil McGovern ’15 and Matt Kastner ’14 should see more time in 2014, and could be the key to rebuilding this Ephs team.

2014 MVP: UTL Marco Hernandez ’14

With the loss of Hartwell, Mondshein, and Murphy, Hernandez has big shoes to fill on the Ephs’ roster. Fortunately, he can play anywhere on the field, and posted a respectable .366 OBP in 2013. The senior out of Fort Worth, Texas will likely move higher in the lineup after batting sixth last year, and should continue to provide solid defense in the field. If he can continue to improve upon 27 RBIs last year, Hernandez will earn that spot in the lineup and contribute to what should be a high-powered Williams offense this year.

2014 Pitcher of the Year: Thomas Murphy ’15

With so many graduating seniors on the staff, Murphy will step into the unlikely role of ace this year despite a 5.08 ERA over five starts last year. If he can minimize the four home runs and .304 batting average against that he gave up last year, he can start to turn a struggling staff around after the losses of closer Ray and former ace Blizzard. Murphy will have to improve on consistency and confidence to lead this young staff in the spring.

Season Outlook:

It is tough to predict what will happen to this Williams team given all the turnover. They still have a number of contributing players on offense, and should not have a problem stringing runs together. The question mark is the pitching staff, as all the returning players had ERAs over 5.00 last year. Though it’s too soon to predict how the pitching staff will perform, Ephs fans should expect many high scoring games early on in the season, which is something to get excited about.