Amherst Baseball Crowned NESCAC Champions

Amherst Baseball Crowned NESCAC Champions

Anchored by stellar pitching performances from Nick Giattino ’24 and Sachin Nambiar ’22, the Amherst Mammoths swept Tufts University on Saturday, May 8, to win the 2021 NESCAC Baseball Championship. 

Giattino — the undefeated breakout star poised to be one of the NESCAC’s most dominant pitchers for the next three years — took the hill in the first of the best-of-three set. Giattino continued his dominant streak, cruising through six innings, striking out five.

Captain Joe Palmo ’21 set the tone early, opening the scoring by launching a solo home run to right field in the top of the first. Daniel Qin ’22 followed with a single to center field, setting up an RBI single to left by Tyler Marshall ’21.

After a perfect inning by Giattino, the Mammoth offense stayed hot in the second. A string of singles by Alan Dai ’24, Jackson Reydel ’23 and Qin gave the Mammoths a five-run lead, providing Giattino with more than enough run support. 

Tufts did manage a solo home run in the fourth inning, but the Mammoths responded with a run of their own in the top of the sixth. Aidan Park ’22 singled after Marshall drew a walk to lead off the inning. Reydel followed by grounding into an RBI fielder’s choice, putting the Mammoths up 6-1.

Pitcher Jacob Ribitzki ’24 entered the game in the seventh to record the save. While Tufts scored another run in the frame, Ribitzki shut the door, sealing a dominant 6-2 victory. 

The victory for Giattino cemented a remarkable first-year campaign and put the Mammoths within one win of the NESCAC title. Giattino finished the year with a 4-0 record, an earned run average (ERA) of 2.12 and 34 strikeouts over 29.2 innings.

Hoping to clinch the title, head coach J.P. Pyne turned to Nambiar to start the second game. Nambiar has been just as effective as Giattino throughout the year, posting a 2.25 ERA over 28 innings while also striking out 34 batters.

Nambiar dealt from the gate, tossing a complete game en route to securing the Mammoths’ second NESCAC championship in the last three years. Nambiar gave up only five hits throughout the contest, and the Jumbos lone run came by means of a solo home run in the fourth.  

Once again, the Mammoths got on the board in the first inning. Michael Perales ’24 and Palmo led off the games with back-to-back singles. Qin followed by popping up to right field, allowing the speedy Perales to tag up from third and narrowly beat the throw home.

The first-inning run was not only crucial for the Mammoths but an execution of a team-wide goal to strike early. “We knew going into the weekend that the team that struck first was going to be in the driver’s seat because both teams’ pitching staffs were strong. We came out strong in both games and used the energy to stay locked in throughout the day,” Reydel explained.

Nambiar’s strong effort kept the Mammoths in position to win as their offense slowed. Entering the bottom of the fifth, Amherst and Tufts were locked into a 1-1 battle. 

Once again, Perales and Palmo strung together back-to-back hits. Because Perales took second after a wild pitch, he was able to reach home on Palmo’s single, giving the Mammoths a 2-1 lead entering the sixth inning.

Although Tufts retired the first two batters, the two-out rally was in full-effect in the sixth. Camden New ’24 reached base on a single and swiped second on a passed ball. After working a 3-0 count, Tufts intentionally put Alan Dai on first. Reydel followed with a hard ground ball to the Tufts shortstop, who threw the ball into the outfield when attempting to force Dai out at second. New scored on the error and Perales followed with a single to score Dai. The Mammoths entered the final inning with a 4-1 lead.

Nambiar put the finishing touches on his championship masterpiece, retiring the side in the seventh to bring the NESCAC trophy back to the Pioneer Valley.

Winning the NESCAC title was nothing short of a pipe dream just a few months ago. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, only four starters came back for the 2021 season: Palmo, Qin, Nambiar and Chris Murphy ’22. In total, this year’s roster returned only two seniors, five juniors and one sophomore from the previous season. 

Despite the fact that Covid-19 robbed Palmo of more than a full season of games, this win cemented him as one of the greats on the oldest team in college baseball. For Palmo, overcoming this year’s many obstacles was a remarkable feeling. “With Covid-19, the odds were stacked against us, but the team kept stepping up all year and refused to lose. It’s a great feeling that despite everything that has gone on this year, we are NESCAC champions and no one can take that away,” the captain said following the victory. 

The full story of the NESCAC title cannot be told without the seniors who did not return to campus this year. Captains Jordan Aucoin ’21 and Kai Terada-Herzer ’21, as well as Stephen Burke ’21, Kyler Kopacz ’21, Kaylen Xie ’21 and Kevin Schoeder ’21 were instrumental in helping this Mammoth team reach its championship potential. 

Additionally, the play of second baseman Qin was remarkable throughout the season. Qin led the team in almost every offensive statistic, finishing the year slashing .404/.423/.660, racking up eight extra base hits in the season’s 13 total games. “I’m proud of the way everybody stepped up this year and am thankful that we were able to send the seniors out on a high note,” Qin reflected.

This Mammoth roster will return not only seven offensive starters but the entire pitching staff next year, as Amherst will enter the 2022 season seeking their third NESCAC title in the last four years.