Baseball Comes Up Just Short in Quest of NESCAC Title

Justin Han went 7-12 with six RBI on Sunday.
Justin Han went 7-12 with six RBI on Sunday.

Middlebury saw its hopes of a NESCAC Championship come up just short, as the Panthers (26-13) fell to Tufts (29-9) in the final game on Sunday afternoon. The day began with an 8-2 win over Williams (24-11) in a 9:00 a.m. elimination game. After the victory, the Panthers needed to defeat Tufts twice in the double-elimination tournament. Middlebury earned a 12-8 victory in game one, but the Jumbos came back to claim the second contest and the NESCAC title by a score of 8-3. The two victories tied the school record for wins in a season with 26, set by the 2006 squad.

Middlebury took a 1-0 lead in the third inning with an unearned run. Andrew Gough reached on an error and moved to second on a base hit from Andrew Hennings. Justin Han drove in the game's first run with a single to left, as Gough crossed the plate.

The Panthers struck for five runs on five hits in the fourth inning. Henry Strmecki reached on an error with one out and moved to third on a double down the left-field line by Gray Goolsby. Hayden Smith followed with a triple to left center to drive in both runs for a 3-0 lead. Gough and Brooks Carroll both reached on infield singles, as Smith scored during Gough's at bat. Andrew Hennings was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Han, who belted a single to center to plate Carroll and Gough for a 6-0 lead. Williams got out of the inning with a double play, its third turned in four innings.

The Panthers added a run in the fifth when Strmecki reached on an infield single and later scored on a ground-rule double to left by Smith.

Williams got on the board in the bottom of the inning when David Driscoll doubled to left and scored one batter later on an infield single to short.

The Ephs added a single run in the sixth on a solo homer from Tom Benz, making it a 7-2 game.

Middlebury increased its lead in the eighth when Han singled in Gough, who led off with a double to right.

The first five hitters in the Middlebury lineup were a combined 12-19 in the game with eight RBI and six runs scored. Han finished the game 3-4 with four RBI, Strmecki was 3-5 with two runs scored, while Gough went 2-4 with a double and three runs scored. Smith was 2-4 with a double, triple and three RBI, while Hennings went 2-2.

Alex Rosario improved to 3-1 with the win, allowing two runs on five hits over seven innings with a career-high eight strikeouts. Conor Himstead threw a pair of scoreless innings of relief.

Sam Rohrer (3-2) suffered the loss, giving up four earned runs on eight hits over four innings. Driscoll was 2-4 with a double to pace the Eph hitters.

The victory put Middlebury in the championship for the second time in three years, facing the same opponent, Tufts.

Middlebury grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first against the Jumbos, when Hennings doubled to left center and later scored when Sam Graf reached on a base hit to center.

The Panthers added a run in the second inning when Han walked with the bases loaded.

Tufts cut the lead in half in the bottom of frame when Kyle Cortese hit a solo home run to center.

Middlebury quickly responded with a four-run third inning. Graf walked and scored when Strmecki hit his team-leading sixth homer of the year. Smith and Gough reached on singles, with Gough crossing the plate on a sacrifice fly to right by Carroll. Gough later scored on a single through the right side by Hennings, making it a 6-1 game.

Tufts got a run back in the third, before the Panthers struck for a pair in the top of the fourth. Goolsby singled through the left side and stole second with one out. Smith followed with a single to right to drive in Goolsby. After stealing second, Smith scored when Gough singled to left, increasing the advantage to 8-2.

The Jumbos chipped away in the sixth with a pair of runs when Cortese hit a two-run shot to right.

Middlebury added two runs in the ninth with an RBI singles from Graf and Strmecki, extending its lead to 12-4.

Tufts made some noise in the ninth with four runs, including a three-run homer for Cortese, for a 12-8 final.

Jackson Atwood (1-0) picked up his first career win, allowing four runs on six hits over 5.1 innings of work. George Goldstein pitched the final 3.2 innings out of the bullpen to earn his fourth save of the season.

The Panthers pounded out 18 hits in the game, led by a 3-6 effort by Strmecki, who homered and drove in four runs. Graf was 3-4 with two RBI, two runs scored and a pair of walks, while Hennings was 3-5 with a double. Goolsby had a 3-5 game with a double, while Smith was 2-4 with three runs scored.

Lucas Gustavson (2-4) was one of four Tufts pitchers used in the game, suffering the loss by allowing two runs on three hits over 1.2 innings of work. Cortese went 3-5 with three home runs, six RBI and three runs scored to pace the Jumbo offense.

In the second game against Tufts, the Jumbos jumped on the board in the second inning with four runs on four hits. Ryan Day hit a two-run homer to right after Peter DeMaria led off with a double to right center. Elias Varninos drove in a run with a single to left, while a fourth run scored on a fielder's choice.

Middlebury cut the lead in half in the third as Carroll singled, Hennings reached on an error and Han reached on a base hit to load the bases. Guild hit into a fielder's choice as Carroll scored, before Hennings crossed the plate on an error when Guild stole second.

Tufts answered in the fourth with an RBI single from Justin Mills and a run-scoring triple to right center by Cortese, taking a 6-2 lead.

The Jumbos added a run in the sixth before the Panthers put one across the plate in the seventh. Han drove in Carroll with a sacrifice fly after he had doubled, making the score 7-3. Tufts added a run in the eighth for the 8-3 final.

Playing its fifth game in two days (45 innings), the Panthers relied on five different players on the hill. Starter Bobby Sullivan (2-2) suffered the loss, giving up four runs and five hits over 1.1 innings of work. Andrew Martinson threw two innings of scoreless relief.

Han went 3-4 in the game, Carroll was 2-3 with a double and two runs scored, while Hennings went 2-5 with a double.

Spencer Langdon (2-0) picked up the win for Tufts, giving up one earned run on five hits over six innings of work.

Will Shackelford went 3-5 with two doubles and two runs scored, while DeMaria was 2-4 with a pair of doubles to pace the Jumbo hitters.