Offensive standouts included shortstop Josh Santry ’05 and outfielder Paul Whiting ’04. Batting lead-off for the Jeffs, Santry went three-for-three with three RBIs. Whiting added two hits to help lead the offense.
The very next day, Amherst’s bats stayed hot as they hammered 19 hits against SUNY. Whiting and senior co-captain Jon Schneider each added three hits, while Matt Potter ’04, Rob Anderson ’06, Dave Powers ’05 and Dave Levinson ’06 contributed two hits apiece. Starting on the mound for the Jeffs was Andy Kerns ’04, whose well-calculated pitching allowed only four hits over five innings.
Amherst topped this pair of victories with two more wins on March 17 and March 18 over Fontbonne College in Missouri and Worcester State College.
Against Fontbonne, Schneider and Powers lit up the scoreboard with home runs, while Webb tallied his first victory. The right-hander Webb struck out four and walked none while giving up only two hits over seven innings. Offensively, the Jeffs had 13 hits in the 9-4 win, propelling the team’s tri-game total to an impressive 46 base hits.
Last Tuesday’s game against Worcester was much of the same story. Brett Nicol ’03, batting in the DH position, slugged his first home run of the season while senior co-captain Joe Katuska went two-for-three and added two RBIs to the impressive 14-3 effort.
Ansell recorded his second victory of the season in as many starts, giving up only five hits over six innings. Joe Vladeck ’06 earned the save in his pitching debut with two shut-out innings from the bullpen.
However, the real test of the break came later in the week as the Jeffs faced more formidable opponents, resulting in a tough run of three losses on March 20, 21 and 22.
First, Amherst was bested 5-4 in a heartbreaker against ninth-ranked Aurora University. Aurora scored the winning run off an infield error in the final inning of play. Starting pitcher Andy Kerns had an impressive outing, posting eight strike-outs over five innings before first-year reliever Anderson took over. Though Anderson got a loss, he performed well on the mound.
Facing another nationally-ranked opponent the very next day, Amherst struggled defensively against Ripon College. Despite posting a nine-run, 10-hit effort, with Katuska, Schneider and Whiting each contributing homers, Amherst gave up 13 runs to 22nd-ranked Ripon.
According to Kerns, although meeting with tough losses was frustrating, “It made the team mentally stronger because facing good teams forced us to evaluate ourselves carefully and pay close attention to our weaknesses as a team.”
A 5-3 loss to Messiah College on Friday closed out Amherst’s short losing streak. Whiting and Nicol kept their bats hot with an RBI apiece, but Amherst was unable to come away with the win. Anderson started the game and threw five strong innings despite taking the loss to fall to 0-2.
Luckily, the Jeffs did not have to wait long to end the losing streak. On March 22, Amherst dug itself out of the hole in high style, routing Roger Williams University 24-5. Whereas Amherst posted only six hits against Messiah, the Roger Williams pitchers were devastated by 18 hits from Jeff bats. Junior catcher Tom Sullivan and Katuska drove in three runs each, while Levinson and Andy Green ’06 added two hits apiece. Vladeck earned the win on the mound to bring his record to 1-0.
Vladeck and many of the other rookies played strongly throughout the week, as they stepped up and performed well under pressure. Vladeck, Anderson and Ford all pitched well against collegiate opposition while classmates Zach Schonberger, Green and Levinson helped out on offense and defense.
According to co-captain Schnneider, it became apparent during the course of the week that mental preparation was the key to the Jeffs playing at the top of their game. “We realized what we need to do to win; that is, come to play everyday and be ready from the get-go,” he said.
None of the competition, even the nationally ranked teams, were outside the NESCAC level and according to Schneider, “We should be able to beat any nationally ranked team if we come ready to play.”
The week ended with two rain-outs, preventing the Jeffs from improving upon their 5-3 record.
Amherst will begin to build on this winning record as their on Wednesday at Westfield State College. On Saturday, Amherst plays its home opener in a midday match-up against Little III- and NESCAC West-rival Wesleyan University.
“Though the trip ended on a low note with the rainouts on Saturday, Westfield State will be a good game to prepare us to head into conference play,” said Kerns.