Middlebury scored three runs in the 10th inning to earn a key 6-4 win at Amherst (15-13-1, 5-5) in game one of a three-game NESCAC West series. The Panthers (22-9, 6-4) return to action on Saturday with a pair of contests with the Mammoths beginning at 12:30. Middlebury needs one victory to secure themselves a spot in next weekend's NESCAC Tournament.
Middlebury took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third with an unearned run. Hayden Smith led off with a single, advancing on a throwing error. Justin Han followed, reaching on an error as Smith moved to third. Andrew Hennings drove in the run with a fielder's choice to second as Smith crossed the plate.
The Panthers added a run in the fifth as Han singled to center with one out and moved to second on a base hit to left by Hennings. One batter later, Sam Graf singled to left as Han came around to score for the 2-0 lead.
Middlebury added another solo run in the seventh when Han walked and moved to second on a single through the left side by Hennings. Alec Ritch singled to right center to load the bases, before Han scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Graf.
Amherst got back in the game with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the eighth when Joseph Palmo hit a three-run homer to right, knotting the game at 3-3.
The Mammoths had two on with two out in the ninth, but Colby Morris earned a strikeout to get out of the inning.
In the 10th inning, Amherst brought in its closer Mike Dow, who boasts a 1.42 ERA with eight saves. Graf led off with a walk, Henry Strmecki reached on a bunt single and Brooks Carroll walked to load the bases with one out. Gray Goolsby drew a bases-loaded walk and Smith was hit by a pitch, as two runs were forced in. Han added another tally when his sacrifice fly to left sent Carroll across the plate with a 6-3 lead.
Amherst rallied in the bottom of the inning, cutting the lead to 6-4. With two runners on, Chase Henley reached on an infield single, but a throwing error allowed an unearned run to cross the plate. Panther reliever George Goldstein was able to retire the final two batters of the inning with two runners on base, securing his third save of the season.
Morris (5-2) threw a gem, allowing three runs over nine innings with six strikeouts. He improves on his school record with his 18th career victory, while moving into third-place all time with 168 strikeouts.
Hennings went 4-6 with an RBI, while six other Panthers had hits, including Han, who went 1-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Graf drove in a pair, going 1-3 with a run scored. Middlebury left runners on base in eight of 10 innings, for a total of 11.
Dow suffered the loss in relief, giving up three runs on just one hit, while recording one out. Palmo went 3-4 with a homer, three RBI and two runs scored, while Kyler Kopacz was 3-3 for the Mammoths.
Middlebury's 22nd win of the year is second-most in school history. The Panthers also set a new single-season record with 158 walks, surpassing the total of 153 in 2004.