Panthers Close Out NESCAC West Series With Williams

Raj Palekar drove in six runs in the two games on Saturday.
Raj Palekar drove in six runs in the two games on Saturday.

The Middlebury baseball team wrapped up its spring trip in Arizona on Saturday, dropping a pair of one-run games to NESCAC West opponent Williams. The Panthers fell 9-8 in seven innings during the opening game and dropped the nine-inning nightcap 10-9 as the Ephs swept the series. Middlebury (3-8, 0-3) continues conference play next weekend with a three-game series at Amherst, with game one set for Friday at 4:00 p.m.

The Panthers overcame an early deficit after Williams scored a run in the bottom of the second inning. Middlebury came up with a big inning in the third, thanks to a clutch hit from Raj Palekar. Palekar hit a base-clearing double to left field to make it a 4-3 game and he later scored on an error, tying the contest at 4-4.

Williams (8-2, 3-0), winners of eight-straight games, responded by scoring six runs in the bottom half of the inning one seven singles for a 7-4 advantage.

In the fifth inning, Middlebury got two of the runs back to make it a one-run contest. Jason Lock brought home Ryan Rizzo with a single to left and Sam Graf followed with a sacrifice fly to center field.

The Ephs plated two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth (9-6), but the Panthers fought back in the top of the seventh. Lock doubled to center field, driving in Andrew Hennings, and later scored on a double play. Williams' pitcher Tom Benz retired the next Panther batter to make the final 9-8.

Palekar went 2-4 at the plate for Middlebury with three RBI, while Lock was 2-4 with a two RBI and two runs scored. On the mound, Colby Morris (1-2) started for the Panthers and suffered the loss, allowing seven earned runs in 5.1 innings.

Doug Schaffer finished with three hits for the Ephs and scored a run, while Jackson Parese, Kellen Hatheway and Regensburg each had two singles. Sean Hager improved to 2-0 on the season going 5.2 innings with seven strikeouts, while Benz tossed the final 1.1 for his second save of the spring.

In the second game, the Panthers jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a run in the top of the first. Rizzo led off the game with a single, stole second and raced home on a base hit to left field by Graf.

Middlebury added to the lead the following inning on the first collegiate home run by Brooks Carroll. The Panther blasted a three-run homer to left field, scoring Palekar and Grant Elgarten for a 4-0 lead.

Williams came back to make it 4-2 with single runs in the second and third innings, before taking the lead 6-4 with a four-run fourth. Cloud had a run-scoring triple, while Hatheway provided another key hit with a RBI double.

Middlebury regained the lead at 7-6, once again using the long ball. Palekar drilled a three-run blast, scoring Lock and Justin Han. The Panthers made it 8-6 with on a sacrifice fly by Graf in the sixth, but the Ephs scored twice in their half of the frame to tie the score. A run-scoring single by Hatheway in the seventh put the home team out in front 9-8.

The Panthers knotted the score at 9-9 in the top of the ninth when Han drove home the tying run with a base hit.

The Ephs won the game in the bottom of the ninth when Nate Michalski led off the inning being hit by a pitch. He eventually scored on a fielder's choice to second base, giving Williams the one-run victory.

Offensively for the Panthers, Han went 3-5, while Carroll and Graf each had two hits. Carroll and Palekar each drove in three runs and Graf plated a pair. Andrew Martinson (0-1) took the loss in relief, while Colin Waters got the starting nod, allowing four earned runs in 3.2 innings.

Roberts and Michael Stamas each picked up three hits, while Cloud and Hatheway both had two with two RBI. Kyle Dean (1-1) picked up the win in relief, tossing the final four innings and allowing only one earned run.