NbN 2014-15 Year-End Wrap Up

We’ve come to that time of the year folks, the time when the weather turns and NESCAC students are shifting their concerns from final exams to brand new internships or careers – an exciting time for most students – but one that is bitter sweet for college seniors who must say good bye to the comforts of their college dorm rooms and face the cruel, hard world out there. This time is especially difficult for the droves of college athletes (and let’s face it, this pertains to 99 percent of NESCAC athletes) who are regretfully retiring from competitive athletics.

In honor of the great efforts and performances that happened around the league almost every day this academic year, we’ve compiled our five (plus one bonus) favorite moments from the NESCAC football, men’s basketball and baseball seasons. And before we jump in, we just want to say a GIGANTIC thank you to all of the student-athletes for their hard work, and to all of you, our readers, be you students, parents, classmates, coaches, distant relatives or New England D-III athletic celebrity stalkers, for loyally coming back to Nothing but NESCAC. As most of you know, Adam and I started this blog a little over a year ago, and we’ve had some great writers contribute to the page over that time. We’re not making any money – trust me – and we we don’t do this because it will pad our resumes (though it’s not a bad bullet point). We’re just huge sports fans, and we love talking and writing about sports. We love it when we hear that Nothing but NESCAC is being read around the league. Personally, one of the moments from this past year that sticks out greatest for me – and this includes everything I did while on a semester abroad, in the classroom or on the baseball field – was when Jake Brown ’17 told me, face-to-face, that I made a mistake in leaving him out of my NESCAC Point Guard Power Rankings back in February. I loved that. And as Jake knows, and hopefully the rest of the kids we write about understand, we’re not professionals. We’re just doing the best we can. But most of all, we hope you get some enjoyment out of reading what we post here, because we sure have a good time putting it up.

Here are our favorite moments of the past year, in no particular order:

1. FOOT: Middlebury 27, Trinity 7, October 25 at Trinity

Middlebury brought Trinity's streak to a crashing end. Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (http://www.sevenstrong.net/TrinityFootball)
Middlebury brought Trinity’s streak to a crashing end. Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (http://www.sevenstrong.net/TrinityFootball)

In case you hadn’t heard, Trinity was supposed to be unbeatable in Hartford. The Bants had not lost at home since September 29, 2001 – 53 straight games – and Trinity came into the matchup at 5-0 while Middlebury was 3-2. At that point in the season fans were just starting to believe that Matt Milano ’16 was a bona fide star in this league. With his four touchdown performance in a rout of the favored Bantams, Milano convinced any remaining doubters.

2. BASK: Wesleyan Wins Its First NESCAC Basketball Championship as the Sixth Seed, March 1 in Hartford, CT

Joe Reilly and the Cardinals celebrated their NESCAC title in classic fashion - but they're not done yet. (Courtesy of Wesleyan Connection)
Joe Reilly and the Cardinals celebrated their NESCAC title in classic fashion. (Courtesy of Wesleyan Connection)

The Cardinals squeaked into the playoffs by winning their final two NESCAC regular season games and finishing at 5-5 in the conference. Next, all that Wesleyan had to do was go on the road to Bates, into the toughest home gym in the NESCAC, and beat an NCAA Tournament team in the Bobcats, then go to the home of in-state rival Trinity and hang onto a three-point victory to topple the hosts – also an NCAA Tournament team – and THEN go to OT against three-time defending champion Amherst. There, an inexperienced Wesleyan team took down the heralded Lord Jeffs. Quite a turnaround for a program that was sub-.500 the past two years.

3. BASE: Wesleyan 4, Amherst 3 in the 12-Inning, Winner-Takes-All NESCAC Championship Game, May 10 in Nashua, NH

Wesleyan baseball celebrated its second-straight NESCAC title this season. (Courtesy of NESCAC Athletics)
Wesleyan baseball celebrated its second-straight NESCAC title this season. (Courtesy of NESCAC Athletics)

After losing four straight to the Cardinals, Amherst finally beat Wesleyan 3-1 in the first game of the day to set up the climactic final game. At this point, both teams were on their last legs in terms of pitching. Through 6.1 innings Wesleyan was up 2-0 behind great pitching from Peter Rantz ’16. Then two homers from Mike Odenwaelder ’16 and Sam Ellinwood ’18 put Amherst up 3-2, but Andrew Yin’s ’15 third double of the day brought around Ellis Schaefer ’17 for the tying run in the 9th. Nick Cooney ’15 worked around two straight bases loaded jams in the 9th and 10th inning. That set the stage for Guy Davidson ’16 to recognize that Odenwaelder was pitching for the first time all year. Davidson sat on a first pitch fastball, drove it out to left, and the Ethan Rode ’17 closed things out to give Wesleyan their second straight NESCAC title.

4. BASK: Trinity 79, Bates 62 in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, March 13 in Babson Park, MA

Ed Ogundeko '17 and Mike Newton '16 left everything they had on the court on this night, but Trinity prevailed over the Bobcats. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Babson College)
Shay Ajayi ’16 and Mike Newton ’16 left everything they had on the court on this night, but Trinity prevailed over the Bobcats. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Babson College)

For contemporary fans of NESCAC men’s basketball, it’s not totally unusual to see a couple of NESCAC squads duke it out in the NCAA tournament (read: Amherst vs. Williams), but Trinity hadn’t been to the Big Dance since 2008, and Bates had never played in the D-III NCAA Tournament. And for those two to meet as late as the Elite Eight? Wow. The game was everything we hoped for for about 13 minutes – then Trinity went on an 11-3 run before the half and extended their lead after the break to finish off the Bobcats fairly easily. Nevertheless, a special moment for all NESCAC men’s basketball fans.

5. FOOT: Amherst 33, Wesleyan 30 in OT in the de facto NESCAC Championship Game, October 18 at Wesleyan

Phillip Nwosu '15 has been one of the NESCAC's best over the past four years, and he cemented his legacy with a game-winner against Wesleyan. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Phillip Nwosu ’15 has been one of the NESCAC’s best over the past four years, and he cemented his legacy with a game-winner against Wesleyan. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

We didn’t realize it then, but this game decided the NESCAC championship, and it was a game more than worthy of its weight. In very wet conditions, these two teams went back and forth with neither team ever leading by more than a touchdown. The kicking game ended up being the difference. With Wesleyan up by three and under two minutes remaining, QB/P Jesse Warren ’15 botched a punt that went only 12 yards and set up Amherst at the Cardinal 49. Max Lippe ’15 completed a crucial 4th and 3 to Gene Garay ’15 to get the Jeffs in range for Phillip Nwosu ’15 to hit the game-tying field goal from 41 yards out. In overtime, the Amherst defense stuffed Wesleyan on 4th and 1, and Nwosu nailed the game winner from 35 yards out to give Amherst the stunning win. The Jeffs needed a missed Trinity 23 yard field goal to hold on and win two weeks later to keep their undefeated season alive. As the venerable Lee Corso always says, “this one is gonna come down to special teams.”

Caution, highlights below are not in the correct order.

BONUS. BASE: Tufts 3, Middlebury 2 on a Blown Call, May 3 at Tufts

Before you roll your eyes and close the tab, I’m not complaining about this loss, I just wanted to call attention to what might have been the most dramatic baseball game of the NESCAC regular season that went totally unnoticed.

Full disclosure, in case you didn’t know, I play for the Middlebury baseball team, so of course this is a bit of self-interest involved here, but hear me out. This game went to show that anyone can beat anyone in the game of baseball on any given day (even though Middlebury didn’t actually win), and that is especially true in the NESCAC, which is what makes this league so great. Tufts threw Tim Superko ’17, the team’s de facto ace after Kyle Slinger ’15 suffered the unluckiest season in NESCAC history, who did a very nice job, but Eric Truss ’15 matched him pitch-for-pitch.

Obviously, Tufts was the better ball club this year. Just look at the records. But it felt like a scene from a movie all day as the underdog Panthers clawed back from a first-inning deficit to go up 2-1 in the fifth, and for the Middlebury team there was hope of ending an abysmal season on the highest note possible. The drama mounted over six and a half innings and finally climaxed in the bottom of the seventh. Leading up to this game, Truss, a typical workhorse, started three games in an eight-day span from April 21-28, throwing 18.0 innings – and 245 pitches – before heading back to the bump on May 3 against Tufts. Truss struck out Tom Petry ’17 to get the first out of the seventh inning, but on that pitch, Truss’ 93rd of the game and 338th in the past two weeks, Truss partially tore the UCL in his pitching elbow, unbeknownst to all but the hurler. Miraculously, Will Glazier ’15 flew out to left field for the second out of the inning, but then the magic came to an end for Middlebury. A HBP, two roped singles and an IBB loaded the bases with the score tied and two outs.

The next at-bat was truly Hollywood-worthy. On a 1-0 count, Tufts SS Matt Moser ’16 hit a sharp two-hopper to the left of the Middlebury third baseman – yours truly. With the the subsequent throw apparently beating Moser to first, the Middlebury team took one step back towards the dugout to prepare for extra innings. Then the first base umpire signalled safe, and the ensuing scene was truly chaotic. Some choice words were used, tempers flared, and a stunned Tufts squad mauled Moser in celebration. Win or lose, it was an incredibly-played ball game. However, to describe just how wild of an ending it was, take a look at this still frame from the Tufts broadcast, on the play where Moser was called safe:

The final play of Tufts' 3-2 victory over the Panthers on May 3.
The final play of Tufts’ 3-2 victory over the Panthers on May 3.

I’m not including this to whine about losing. Who knows what would have happened if the game went to extra innings. I just wanted to include what was for me, personally, the most exciting game that I was a part of all season, and among the most exciting games of my long baseball career, one that truly had one of those You-Couldn’t-Script-This-Any-Better endings. These are the types of games that make us love sports, and especially sports in the NESCAC.

 

That does it for our 2014-15 NESCAC coverage. Articles may be sparing over the summer months, as we focus our efforts on rebuilding our site a little bit, but stay tuned on Twitter (@CACSportsBlog) and on Facebook for news about NESCAC athletes and Nothing but NESCAC itself. Thanks again to all of our loyal readers, and good luck to all NESCAC athletes this summer!

Aces Are Wild: Tufts Baseball Season Preview

Tim Superko '17 (above) and Kyle Slinger '15 are expected to form the best 1-2 punch in the NESCAC (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Tim Superko ’17 (above) and Kyle Slinger ’15 are expected to form the best 1-2 punch in the NESCAC (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

2014 Record: 34-9 (9-3, Lost in NESCAC Championship Game, 1-2 in NCAA New England Regional)

Returning Starters: 7 (5 Position Players, 2 Pitchers)

Projected Starting Lineup (2014 Stats):

CF Connor McDavitt ’15 (.345/.461/.455, 0 HR, 28 RBI, 15 SB)
LF Cody McCallum ’16 (.226/.327/.238, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 7 SB)
DH Bryan Egan ’15 (.258/.368/.290, 0 HR, 9 RBI)
3B Tommy O’Hara ’18
SS Matt Moser ’15 (.299/.371/.422, 2 HR, 28 RBI)
1B James Howard ’15 (.280/.415/.320, 0 HR, 11 RBI)
C Nick Barker ’15 (.346/.466/.432, 1 HR, 13 RBI)
2B Tom Petry ’17 (.256/.424/.333/ 0 HR, 17 RBI)
RF Harry Brown ’16 (.200/.273/.200, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

SP Kyle Slinger ’15 (9-0, 1.18 ERA)
SP Tom Superko ’17 (4-2, 2.64 ERA)
SP Andrew David ’16 (4-3, 3.60 ERA)

Offensive Overview:

Tufts’ offensive is the only aspect of their team that causes any uncertainty heading into 2015. Though the Jumbos’ .278 team average in 2014 was middle of the pack, Tufts stakes its identity on its pitching and defense, so if the offense can produce at a high level they will be very tough to beat. The middle of the order will look very different this season as Wade Hauser ’14 and Max Freccia ’14 both graduated last spring. Centerfielder Connor McDavitt ’15 enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2014 where he hit .345 with 28 RBIs and tied for the team lead with 14 doubles. McDavitt is a sure lock for the lead off spot in the Jumbos’ lineup. Nick Barker ’15 hit .345 in a part-time role last year and figures to share time behind the plate with classmate Bryan Egan ’15. James Howard ’15 figures to get quality at bats at first base after batting .280 with 18 walks over 29 starts in 2014. Matt Moser ’15 will play a key offensive role after earing All-NESCAC honors last year and batting .299 with a team leading 38 RBIs.

Defensive Overview:

The Jumbos Defense is one of the best not only in the NESCAC, but also in the nation. Flashing a .967 fielding percentage a year ago, they look to continue their tradition of defensive excellence. The centerpiece of the Jumbos defense will be returning NESCAC Defensive POY McDavitt. McDavitt had just one error in 105 total chances last year and tallied five outfield assists. All-NESCAC First Team SS Moser, who helped Tufts turn 40 double plays last year, and 2B Tom Petry ’17, who had a .960 fielding percentage, figure to form one of the strongest middle infields in the NESCAC. The Jumbos will look to Barker and Egan to split time behind the plate as First Team All-NESCAC catcher Nick Cutsumpas ’14 graduated.

Pitching Overview:

Like their defense, the Jumbos pitching aims to be one of the top staffs in the country. Tufts ranked seventh nationally with a 2.53 ERA last season. Anchored by the reigning NESCAC Pitcher of the Year and NEIBA and D3Baseball.com All-New England First Teamer Kyle Slinger ’15, Tufts figures to dominate their NESCAC competition again. Slinger, a pro prospect and D3baseball.com preseason All-American, went 9-0 and posted an unreal 1.18 ERA over 76 innings in 2014. Also returning to the starting rotation is reigning NESCAC Rookie of the Year Tim Superko ’17. In 2014, Superko logged 58 innings while posting a 2.64 ERA and an impressive 2.4 K/BB ratio. The Jumbos will look to replace Christian Sbily ’14, an All-NESCAC Second Team pick, with righty Andrew David ’16. The Jumbos’ bullpen will be strong once again as Tom Ryan ’15, who posted a team leading 2.8 K/BB ratio, and Willie Archibald ’15 look to shut down opponent’s offenses in the late innings and Speros Varinos ’17, who matched Ryan for the most appearances last year,  could rack up a lot of saves for the Jumbos.

Storylines to Watch:

1. Can Tufts avenge their NESCAC championship loss?

After missing the conference tournament for two years in a row, the Jumbos returned with a bang by winning the East pennant and earning a berth into the Championship series. After forcing a winner-take-all game by beating Wesleyan 10-0 on the brink of elimination but ultimately dropping the finale, the Jumbos are on a mission to take back the throne. With a nationally-ranked defense and pitching staff, the Jumbos are in prime position to take home the NESCAC crown in 2015. With the reigning POY and reigning ROY returning to their starting rotation, the Jumbos aim to do some serious damage in the NESCAC.

2. What will Kyle Slinger accomplish in his senior season?

Kyle Slinger has been one of the most dominant pitchers over his career at Tufts. Last year’s performance was one for the record books as he held opposing hitters to an astonishing .174 batting average. Slinger’s previous performance lead to D3Baseball.com selecting him to be a pre-season All-American. With his impressive track record, expect Slinger to raise the bar even further this season and put up some mind-blowing stats.

3. How does the Jumbos lineup shake out?

If there is anything that can hold Tufts back this season it is the offense. Can their offense provide enough run support for its heralded starters? Can returning players such as Moser and McDavitt step up to replace last year’s seniors? Either way the Jumbos will need multiple players to step up to fill in the gap. Freshmen such as Tommy O’Hara ’18, Michael McLaughlin ’18, Christian Zazzali ’18 and Stefan White ’18 figure to get an opportunity to compete for at bats if the returners don’t produce.

Biggest Series: April 24-25 against Bates

Bates probably presents the stiffest challenge that Tufts will face in the NESCAC East, and the two teams’ strengths match up with one another, as the Bobcats figure to bang the ball around the park quite a bit this season. It will be fun to watch two of the league’s best units go after one another, and either team could be fighting for a spot in the NESCAC tournament seeing as this represents the last conference series of the regular season for both teams.

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.