The baseball team (15-8, 3-3) capped the week with a 2-2 record, unable to hold off the Williams College Ephs (3-3, 16-5) in the final game of the week, dropping the rubber match of the series 5-4 in extra innings on Saturday, April 13.
Strong pitching resulted in a midweek 12-2 win for the Panthers on Forbes Field versus Northern Vermont University (10-17, 5-3) on Thursday, April 11.
Leading off the inning, sophomore first baseman Ryan Hanrahan got things rolling in the bottom of the second with a single. First-year right fielder Alec Ritch reached base on a single and first-year shortstop Andrew Gough delivered a two-run double to left center to give Middlebury the lead.
Northern Vermont responded in the top of the third, tying the game up at 2-2, but the Panthers restored a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the inning. The Hornets were unable to respond the rest of the game with the Panthers plating two more runs in the fourth inning, two in the fifth, one in the sixth, and finally two in the seventh.
Gough led the team, going three-for-five with five RBIs and junior left fielder stole two bases. First-year pitcher Jackson Atwood started on the mound for the Panthers, going four innings with four strikeouts. First-year Sam Grace received his second career win on one inning of work, facing four and striking out one.
According to first-year outfielder Jack Stolper, the team was able to adjust well.
“A lot of our success comes from our approach at the plate,” Stolper said. “When we change our approach from hitting fly balls to hitting hard ground balls and line drives, we score and drive in more runs. When we try and lift the ball too much in the air, we tend to fly out a lot more and make it much easier on the defense.”
In a three-game series versus NESCAC West opponent, the Panthers dropped down to second place in the conference after going 1-2 on the weekend. Middlebury dropped the first game 2-1 on Friday, April 12 before splitting a double-header with a 10-0 win and a 5-4 loss in 10 innings at the nightcap on Saturday, April 13.
In Game one, the Ephs jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second, after a scoreless first inning from both squads. The Panthers got on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth when sophomore center fielder Henry Strmecki lead off with a double down the left-field alley. Junior second baseman was walked to put a man on first and second and junior third baseman Hayden Smith hit a sacrifice bunt to advance runners to scoring position. Junior first baseman Kevin Woodring cut the deficit to 2-1 with an RBI single.
The Panthers struggled to match the performance of senior starting pitcher Colby Morris, who suffered his first loss of the season, after facing 29 batters and striking out a season-high eight and only surrendering one earned run. Sophomore George Goldstein added two innings of scoreless relief.
In Game two, the Ephs were unable to put up a run over nine innings. Middlebury broke out with an early 2-0 lead in the top of the third. The Panthers added five runs in the fifth, to bring the lead to 7-0. Senior designated hitter Sam Graf drove in a runner on an RBI double to left center. An Ephs error allowed a run for Middlebury, along with a two run homerun from Woodring.
First-year pitcher Alex Price threw six innings of one-hit relief to earn the win over Williams, striking out two batters.
The Panthers dropped Game three to the fourth ranked NESCAC West Ephs in walk-off fashion, 5-4, to close the series at Williams.
Middlebury trailed 3-0 after the first but took a 4-3 lead after the fourth inning. Junior catcher Gray Goolsby finished three-for-five with three stolen bases and a run scored and Han went two-for-five with a pair of doubles, two stolen bases and two RBIs.
With his 42nd career stolen base, Han became Middlebury’s all-time leader in stolen bases. Han also hit .412 last week for the Panthers and surpassed 100 career hits.
Senior pitcher Colin Waters took the mound in the first six innings, striking out seven. Sophomore Bobby Sullivan took his first loss of the season with two innings pitched and three strikeouts.
In Game three, Middlebury achieved a season-best nine stolen bases, with 90 on the season, a new school record.
Most recently, Middlebury traveled to face Division I Dartmouth College (11-19, 5-7) out of the Ivy League and won 15-7. They will follow this win with another midweek matchup versus Plattsburgh State (7-15, 3-9) on Wed., April 17 at home. Finally, the Panthers will face top-seeded NESCAC West opponent, Amherst College (14-8, 5-4) starting Friday, April 19.
“We are going into the rest of NESCAC play confident,” Stolper said. “We need to play our game and start driving the ball on the ground or on a line. We have been making it too easy on our defenders by hitting too many balls in the air. A big thing for us going into NESCAC play is to challenge defenses by putting balls hard and in play.”
Isabella Marcus is a sports editor.