The Jeffs headed into their contest against the Eastern Connecticut State Warriors (12-6) amidst an offensive onslaught, and appeared to be continuing that trend early in the contest. After left fielder Dave Powers ’05 ripped a double in the top of the first inning to start the Amherst attack, junior shortstop Zach Schonberger singled to give the Lord Jeffs an early 1-0 advantage. The Amherst offense would stop there, though, as a trio of Warrior pitchers ably shut the Jeffs’ bats down for the first time this season.
Amherst managed just six hits throughout the game and did not cross the plate again. Rookie pitcher Chris Edgar drew the start for the Lord Jeffs and gave up an earned run in his first collegiate loss. Brian Donahue ’07 and Joe Vladeck ’06 struggled to hold the Warriors bats in check and handed a 7-1 deficit over to senior reliever Ed Imperatore in the seventh. Imperatore, Nick Kehoe ’07 and Rob Anderson ’06 each hurled a scoreless inning, but the Jeffs could not manage to fight back offensively in the last innings.
Edgar would get redemption, though, as he took the mound on Friday for the NESCAC West opener against Middlebury (7-7, 2-4). Edgar tossed six innings, allowing four runs and striking out six batters en route to a 7-4 Amherst victory. Kehoe came on in the seventh to shut the Panthers down and dominated down the stretch, hurling three scoreless innings to earn his first save of the year.
Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth, the offense came alive for the Lord Jeffs as they exploded for five runs in the inning. After a two-run single by sophomore right fielder Jared Banner, sophomore designated hitter Tommy Scott doubled into the right-center field gap to bring in two more runs. Scott then concluded the rally by crossing the plate on a fielder’s choice.
Banner finished with a pair of hits, two RBIs and a stolen base, while junior first baseman Dave Levinson doubled and scored two runs in a 3-4 effort.
On Saturday, the Lord Jeffs opened a doubleheader by edging out Middlebury 2-1 in a seven-inning contest. The Jeffs found themselves in unfamiliar territory as they engaged in a true pitchers’ duel between Vladeck and Panther David Riester, as neither team could manage to plate in the first five frames. In the bottom of the sixth, Powers drew a lead-off walk and was eventually driven in on a single by fellow co-captain third baseman Josh Santry ’05.
Middlebury responded quickly in the top of the seventh, leading off with three consecutive singles to start the rally. Amherst looked to Imperatore to shut the door with the bases loaded. After drawing a shallow pop-out, it seemed as though the second out was assured when the Panthers hit another shallow fly ball. With the bases loaded, the infield-fly rule was enacted, automatically deeming the batter out. However, the ball was not caught, and Riester took off from third base to tie the game up with heads up base-running.
Imperatore was able to hold off the rally, though, and the games moved to the bottom of the seventh, where Middlebury handed the victory over to the Jeffs. Two devastating errors allowed the Lord Jeffs to plate the winning run, giving Imperatore his first victory of the season. Scott tripled and singled for the Jeffs while Levinson continued to be hot at the dish, going 2-3 with a double.
“Middlebury is a much improved team this year and should be a contender to make the NESCAC Tournament,” said Anderson. “Our pitching really won those games for us.”
In the second game, Amherst jumped out to an early lead after Powers doubled and scored on a Banner single in the second inning. Anderson then smashed a double into the left-center field gap to drive Banner home and give the Jeffs a two-run advantage.
Middlebury finally managed to score a run off of Donahue in the fifth and looked to be well on their way to a big rally with the bases juiced and no outs. Looking to tie the game with a suicide squeeze, Middlebury catcher Nick Lefeber popped the bunt up to Donahue, who snagged the ball with a diving catch. Donahue then wheeled to Santry at third for the force out before the throw to second base to complete the bizarre 1-5-4 triple play.
The Panthers had another great chance to take over the game, loading the bases in the eighth inning when they were down by only two runs, before Imperatore came on to shut down the comeback. After the Jeffs pounded out four runs in the bottom half of the inning, Imperatore breezed through the Panthers to earn his second save of the season.
“Eddie came in the game in some really crucial situations and was able to get us out of some jams with his sidearm delivery,” Anderson said of the senior closer. “Middlebury also made some key mistakes at vital points in the games, and we were able to take advantage of them.”
Donahue improved his mark to 2-1 after striking out eight batters in 7.2 innings of work. Meanwhile, Powers continued to have Middlebury’s number at the plate, hammering a pair of doubles while Anderson and Scott each recorded a double, single and a stolen base.
“Our confidence is high right now, and we’re just anxious to keep playing, since we haven’t had many games up North yet,” said Powers. “We also love the new atmosphere at home games, with a lot of people tailgating out behind the outfield. It’s nice to see some of the opposing players take some heat for a change.”
Amherst looks to capitalize on its new-found home-field advantage again today in a non-conference game against visiting Keene State College. The Jeffs resume NESCAC play this weekend, hosting Bates College in a doubleheader before entertaining Trinity College on Tuesday.