Han Grand Slam Lifts Baseball Past Amherst

Justin Han (left) belted a grand slam, while Spencer Shores (right) picked up the win.
Justin Han (left) belted a grand slam, while Spencer Shores (right) picked up the win.

Middlebury's Justin Han hit a grand slam in the top of the eighth inning, lifting the Panthers (4-8, 1-3) to an 8-4 win over Amherst (5-7, 0-1) in game one of a NESCAC West series. The two teams will go at it again on Saturday, with a doubleheader slated to begin at noon.

Middlebury jumped on the board in the first inning when Andrew Hennings was hit by a pitch and moved to second after Jason Lock earned a walk.  Sam Graf followed with a single to left, driving in Hennings for the 1-0 lead.

Amherst responded in the third when Yanni Thanopoulos doubled to left center and scored on an error when a ball hit by Anthony Spina was misplayed. He later crossed the plate on a wild pitch, giving the Mammoths a 2-1 lead.

Amherst added to its lead in the fourth when Spina tripled and later scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Chase Henley.

Middlebury tied the game in the top of the sixth with a pair of runs on two hits with two outs. Hennings walked and later moved to third on a double down the left-field line by Raj Palekar. Phil Bernstein followed with a single to center, driving in both Hennings and Palekar for the 3-3 tie.

The Mammoths went back on top in the seventh when Nick Nardone singled and later scored on a sacrifice bunt by Sam Ellinwood.

The four-run eighth inning for the Panthers began with a lead-off double down the right-field line by Hennings, who moved to third on an error. Two fly outs with Graf hit by a pitch in the middle, put runners on second and third with two outs for Bernstein, who was also hit by a pitch. Han followed with the big blast, his first career homer, putting Middlebury up 7-4.

The Panthers added a run in the ninth when Brooks Carroll singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ryan Rizzo. One batter later, Lock singled to right to drive in Carroll for the 8-4 lead.

Amherst loaded the bases in the ninth, but could not cut into the lead as Middlebury emerged with the win.

Spencer Shores (1-0) picked up his first career win with a stellar effort, allowing two earned runs and six hits over seven innings, while striking out four batters. Jake Stalcup pitched two innings of scoreless relief to earn his second save of the year. Eight different players had hits for Middlebury, led by a pair of doubles from Palekar. Hennings finished 1-3 and scored three runs, while Bernstein plated a pair.

Amherst's George Long (0-2) suffered the loss in relief, giving up five runs and four hits over two innings of work. Thanopoulos, Spina, Nardone and Ellinwood each had a pair of hits for the Mammoths.