WATERVILLE, MA – The Williams College Baseball team completed their second day of the NESCACs today in a 9am game against Middlebury.
A 1-1 record yesterday featured a dominant 11-3 victory over Bates College and a 6-1 defeat by the Tufts Jumbos. The win and loss moved the Ephs to 24-10 moving into Sunday's action.
Aside from Williams, Tufts University won both their games yesterday to earn entrance into the NESCACs championship game. Bates College lost both games and were eliminated as a result. Middlebury also entered Sunday with a split 1-1 record. Their loss to Tufts in game one was followed by a victory over Bates for the chance to face off against Williams at 9am today.
Middlebury and Williams played each other earlier this season. That three-game series featured a 5-4 extra innings thriller which handed the Ephs a 2-1 victory.
The winner of today's game got the opportunity to take on Tufts in the NESCAC Finals. Unfortunately for the Ephs, the Middlebury Panthers took a commanding lead in the middle three innings with a five run at bat in the top of the 4th. The deficit was too large to overcome and the Ephs were downed 8-2.
The first two innings were scoreless for both teams. While the Ephs were unable to find a base, Panthers' sophomore Ryan Hanrahan managed two bases on an overthrown ball by the short stop.
Entering the 3rd, the game remained tied at 0-0. In the top of the 3rd, Middlebury sprung out to the scoreboard to take a 1-0 lead. First year Andrew Gough managed to reach first on a fielding error when the first baseman let a grounder slide under his glove. He was pushed to second by junior Andrew Hennings' single to left field. Both runners were in good position for junior Justin Han's shot out to left field which gave the Panthers' their first run of the game with Gough crossing home plate.
In the top of the 4th, Middlebury returned to advance their lead and score the bulk of their runs. Sophomore Henry Strmecki made contact as the second batter with a fast-moving grounder towards the short stop. The short stop managed to field it, but the throw came off wild to allow Strmecki to reach first. Junior Gray Goolsby knocked a deep single which pushed Strmecki to third. With two men on, junior Hayden Smith's triple ensured both crossed home plate to make the score 3-0. Smith himself was brought home on the next play when Gough delivered a single. Two plays later the bases were fully loaded after junior Brooks Carroll singled and Hennings was hit by a pitch. Han ensured the final two runs of the at bat with a single into center field. Entering the Eph's fourth chance at bat, the score sat at 6-0 in favor of the Panthers.
The Ephs were kept off base for most of the first half of the game. Junior Mike Stamas advanced two bases in the bottom of the 3rd when a four-ball pitch count walked him and he stole second, but no further contact meant he was unable to capitalize.
Middlebury added one more run in the top of the 5th to complete a three-inning flurry. Strmecki was a difference maker again with a single towards the short stop which earned him a base. He advanced to second on a teammate's ground out and was batted in by Smith's ground rule double over the right-side fence. The run put the game at 7-0 and would be the last of the Panther's for a few innings.
The Ephs began a late run in the bottom of the 5th and continued it into the 6th. Driscoll continued a great NESCAC tournament with a double to left field. He advanced to third on sophomore Erik Mini's ground out on the next play. Stamas came in big with contact on a fast ball which sent one bouncing towards the short stop and allowed Driscoll to find home plate. Stamas again stole second but was left on base moving into the 6th.
Senior Tom Benz finished out the Ephs' scoring for the year with his at bat in the bottom of the 6th. With one out recorded, Benz stepped to the plate, took two balls and a strike, before blasting one deep over the fence for a home run. Fellow senior Doug Schaffer also made contact with a single, but the Ephs were unable to bat him in.
The game switched more into a defensive mode for much of the final three innings. Middelbury scored its final run in the top of the 8th to put its finishing touches on the 8-2 victory. The final run featured many of the same names that contributed to the first seven. Gough would be the final player to cross home plate. He got on base with a double, advanced to third on a ground out, and was batted in by Han's single to right field.
The Ephs put in a solid defensive effort to close out the game. First year Daniel Lynch was the closer for the 9th. Backed up by a solid outfield, Lynch kept almost all contact to manageable pop up and fly outs which were easily dealt with. Only Strmecki managed a base hit, but he was kept from advancing further by a final fly out to left field.
With the 8-2 loss today, the Ephs season is likely over. While ending so close to the NESCACs championship is a bitter pill to swallow, Williams Baseball has a lot to be proud of this season. A 24-11 overall record blows their 9-24 2018 season record out of the water. With a 2019 graduating class of seven in: Jack Bohen, Kellen Hatheway, David Kwan, Will O'Brien, Alex Panstares, and Doug Schaffer, big shoes are left to fill. However, on the heels of such a successful 2019 season the Ephs will be training hard in the offseason to advance even further next year.