Middlebury Denied Playoff Bid by Amherst

Jake Dianno went 3-4 against Amherst on Sunday.
Jake Dianno went 3-4 against Amherst on Sunday.

Amherst jumped out to an early 5-1 lead and held off a couple of late Middlebury rallies, as the Mammoths earned a NESCAC West series win with an 8-5 triumph Sunday. Amherst (21-12, 8-4) also earned the final spot in the upcoming NESCAC Tournament by taking two-of-three games with the Panthers. Middlebury (16-15, 6-6) closes out the season with a midweek contest at Division I Dartmouth on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m.

The Mammoths seemed poised to open the scoring in the game's initial at bat, getting runners on second and third with nobody out. Middlebury starter George Goldstein responded by striking out the next three batters to get out of the inning.

The Panthers produced a run in their half of the inning, as Brooks Carroll stole third and raced home when the pitch went to the backstop.

Amherst countered with a three-run second inning with each of those runs coming with two outs. Max Steinhorn hit an RBI single to left field, scoring Joseph Palmo, while an infield hit and a throwing error allowed Amherst score twice more for a 3-1 lead.

The visitors extended the lead to 5-1 in the third, as Sam Ellinwood singled to left field to plate Palmo. Ellinwood scored later in the inning on a bloop single to left by William Murphy.

Middlebury manufactured a run in the third when Carroll singled and stole second to get into scoring position. He scored one batter later on a sharp base hit to left by Sam Graf, making it a 5-2 contest.

The hosts made a push in the last of the seventh inning, producing a pair of runs. Henry Strmecki laced a double down the line in field and came home on a base hit through the left side by Justin Han. Han later scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-4, but the Mammoths came up with a big defensive play to limit the damage. Palmo threw out the potential tying run at the plate after catching a fly ball in center field for a double play.

Both teams scored a single run in the eighth with Steinhorn driving in Murphy with a double, while Middlebury's Raj Palekar drove a base hit up the middle to score Andrew Hennings. Hennings started the Middlebury half of the inning with a double to right-center field.

Amherst added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Palmo drove in Nick Nardone with a single and Palmo eventually came around to touch home plate on a ground out.

At the plate, Jake Dianno went 3-4 for the Panthers, while Han was 2-4 with his 13th multiple-hit game of the season. Goldstein (2-1) suffered the loss, allowing five runs (two earned) in three innings with five strikeouts. Colin Waters was effective in relief, allowing one run on three hits in four innings of work.

Ellinwood was 4-6 with two RBI and a run scored to lead the Mammoths, while Steinhorn and Palmo each added three hits. Zach Horwitz (3-2) hurled 2.2 innings of relief to pick up the victory and Mike Dow went the final three innings for his team-leading sixth save.