Baseball takes series from Williams

At home on Friday, Amherst temporarily fell from its first-place position in the NESCAC West after suffering a 6-3 loss to the Ephs. The Jeffs opened the scoring in the second inning when Fran Morales ’04 plated senior co-captain John Schneider with an RBI base hit. In the very next inning, the Jeffs earned another run courtesy of Brandon Cody’s double to left center field. But despite jumping out to a 3-0 lead by the fourth inning off an RBI bunt by rookie shortstop Zach Schonberger, the Jeffs struggled to come up with the hits they needed at the end of the game. In the seventh, Williams broke the game open with a three-run inning. Williams padded their 5-3 advantage with a solo home run in the following inning. Despite junior starter Duncan Webb’s admirable opening innings, he took the loss to drop to 3-3 on the season.

But any lingering bitterness against Williams was eventually put to good use as the Jeffs came out gunning in Sunday’s doubleheader. Amherst shut down Williams 5-0 in the first game and took a decisive 7-4 victory in the second. With the doubleheader sweep, Amherst regained their first place standing and their confidence along with it.

In the opener, junior right-hander Andy Kerns pitched a two-hit, complete game shutout and improved his flawless record to 4-0, bringing an equally impressive team-low ERA down to 3.09. He allowed only two runners to reach second base, and both were left stranded. “Kerns pitched the best I’ve ever seen him,” said Jonah Ansell ’03. “He had great command and dominated from the very beginning.”

Along with Kerns’s impressive performance on the mound, the Jeffs’ field defense was nearly flawless as well, barely giving Williams a chance to put a rally together.

Offensively, Amherst began their rout in the second inning with a clutch single from Schneider, who subsequently stole second. Morales doubled and grabbed the RBI. After a single from Schonberger, Cody walked and a wild pitch brought Morales home for the second run of the inning.

The key inning for the team, however, came in the top of the sixth and was once again sparked by a Schneider single and stolen base. Sophomore Dave Powers hit the RBI single and came home himself in the very next at bat. Schonberger hit his second home run of the season, capping the game’s scoring at a decisive 5-0.

Coming off the first matchup with the momentum in their corner allowed the Jeffs to carry their intensity towards another victory in the second game. Once again, pitching was a big factor, but this time it was up to first-year Joe Vladeck to set the tone for the contest. He was definitely up to the task, pitching into the sixth inning and leaving the mound with a 6-3 lead. From there senior southpaw Chris Vecsey took over for three batters before rookie Rob Anderson ’06 closed the game with over three innings of scoreless relief.

Offensively, Amherst got the game started on the right foot as they tallied two runs in the very first inning. Junior Paul Whiting singled and then stole second before first baseman Dave Levinson ’06 brought him home with an RBI single. Junior catcher Tom Sullivan pounded a double to bring home the second run. The Jeffs scored two runs in each of the next two innings, jumping out to a commanding 6-0 lead. Key hitters for the game were Levinson who went 4-for-5 with two RBI’s and Morales who went 3-for-4 and added a pair of steals. Amherst finished the game with 14 hits.

“It felt great to sweep Williams on their home field and in front of all their fans,” said Ansell. “Clinching the Little III title topped off the whole experience.”

For the season’s end, the victories were equally important, as the Jeffs now have a guaranteed spot in the NESCAC tournament. The team is also in a position to host the tourney if they can win at least two of three games this weekend against Middlebury here at Amherst.

On Monday, Amherst dropped a non-league game to visiting Brandeis University by a score of 15-8.