In the opener, Middlebury tied the game on a bizarre pop-fly that dropped between sophomores Mark Mazzone (foreground) and Jared Banner in shallow right field.
Jeffs Turn Triple Play, Sweep Middlebury
April 9, 2005
AMHERST, MA - After upending NESCAC West Division rival Middlebury College 7-4 on Friday afternoon, the Amherst College baseball team swept the visiting Panthers 2-1 and 9-3 on Saturday, assuming sole possession of first place in the conference standings at 9-3 overall and 3-0 in league play. The Jeffs made several outstanding defensive plays on the day, including a rally-killing triple play that all but crushed Middlebury’s hopes for a comeback in the second game.
Saturday’s opener began as an old fashioned pitchers’ duel between Amherst junior Joe Vladeck (Washington, DC) and Middlebury senior David Riester (Appleton, WI). The game remained scoreless until bottom of the sixth when Amherst senior left fielder Dave Powers (Andover, MA) drew a leadoff walk and scored on an RBI single by classmate Josh Santry (Allendale, NJ), prompting Riester’s exodus from the mound.
Down but not out, Middlebury rebounded with a run in the top of the seventh and final inning on a truly bizarre play. After the Panthers loaded the bases with back-to-back-to-back singles off Vladeck, Amherst brought senior closer Ed Imperatore (Tenafly, NJ) into the game in a pressure-packed situation. Despite the tension, which was truly palpable, Imperatore coaxed the Panthers into three straight pop-ups, which on an ordinary day would’ve ended the threat. But the second of the three was no run-of-the-mill fly - it was a sky-ball toward shallow right field that was tagged with the infield fly rule by the plate umpire. However, the ball fell earthward and landed softly on a patch of green grass, and the runner on third - Riester, who remained in the game as a defensive substitute - capitalized, tagging up and scampering home with the tying run. The confusion lay in the fact that the ball was never caught, and it was unclear if the infield fly rule should have in fact been enacted. But the play stood and the game seemed destined for extra innings, until Middlebury made two crucial errors in the bottom of the seventh, allowing Amherst junior center fielder Andrew Green (Lexington, MA) to trot home with the winning run.
Imperatore picked up the win, evening his record at 1-1, but Vladeck was the star of the game, fanning eight and allowing just one (earned) run in six complete innings. Sophomore DH Tom Scott (Randolph, NJ) tripled and singled to pace the Jeffs offensively, while junior first baseman Dave Levinson (Philadelphia, PA) went 2-for-3 with a double.
Middlebury rookie John Lanahan (Jacksonville, FL) picked up the loss in relief, dropping to 2-2. Fellow first-year Ryan Whyte (Lake Forest, CA) finished 3-for-3 with a trio of singles.
The second (nine-inning) game held a similar tone early on as Amherst entered the bottom of the seventh with a tenuous 3-1 cushion. The Jeffs drew first blood in the second inning as Powers doubled and scored on a single by sophomore right fielder Jared Banner (Brooklyn, NY), who also made a spectacular diving catch in Game 1. Junior DH Rob Anderson (Winnetka, IL) then plated Banner with an RBI double into the left-center-field gap to give Amherst a 2-0 cushion.
Middlebury managed a run off Amherst sophomore starter Brian Donahue (Sudbury, MA) in the fifth, but could’ve had much more, were it not for the second (and even more bizarre) play of the day. The Panthers started the inning with four straight singles, including a run-scoring hit by Whyte. But with the bases loaded and none out, Middlebury hand delivered a gift-wrapped Christmas present in the form of a botched suicide squeeze. First-year catcher Nick Lefeber (Branford, CT) squared and lined a bunt back toward Donahue, who made a sprawling catch and threw to Santry at third, doubling the runner there, before Santry threw to second to complete the triple play.
Middlebury blew another golden opportunity in the top of the eighth, loading the bases against Donahue, but Imperatore came on again and forced an inning-ending ground out. The Jeffs then added four insurance runs in the bottom half of the inning to secure the win and Imperatore’s second save of the season.
Powers had another strong game with a pair of doubles, a single and two runs scored, while Anderson and Scott each doubled, singled and stole a base. Donahue improved to 2-1 with eight strikeouts in 7.2 innings.
Senior Bryan Lodigiani (Pennington, NJ), doubled, singled and scored a run to pace Middlebury (7-7/2-4 NESCAC).
Amherst returns to action Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. against visiting non-league foe Keene State.
VIEW PHOTOS from Saturday's sweep (courtesy of Sam Masinter '04, Amherst Public Affairs)
Game 1 BOX SCORE
Game 2 BOX SCORE