The Middlebury baseball team (13-6, 2-1) improved to 13-6 on the season after splitting a double-header with Tufts University (15-4, 2-1) on Saturday, April 6, and picking up a win versus Plymouth State University (9-11, 2-3) on Sunday, April 7.
With no conference matchups this past week, the Panther remain on top of the NESCAC West at a 2-1 conference record.
In its first matchup against Tufts, who rank second in the NESCAC East, Middlebury suffered a 4-3 loss in eight innings.
According to senior catcher Phil Bernstein, the Panthers played great baseball all weekend, despite the loss.
“We were excited to play Tufts who is always a threat to win the NESCAC,” Bernstein said. “Although we lost the first game in extra innings, we played really well and made not just the routine plays, but the championship level ones: outfielders throwing runners out at the plate, two-strike hits to knock in base runners, and pitching out of jams.”
The Jumbos broke out with a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. The Panthers went scoreless until the third inning, and finally took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth when junior shortstop Brooks Carroll was walked with one out. Sophomore designated hitter Jake Dianno reached base on a single. Both stole bases to get into scoring position and senior right-fielder Sam Graf singled down right field to score two runs. With his 38th career stolen base, Carroll moved into third place in program history.
With the game tied up in the bottom of the sixth, the Jumbos closed out the opener with a sac-fly in the bottom of the eight.
Senior pitcher Colby Morris tossed six innings for the Panthers, only allowing three earned runs with four strikeouts.
“It’s always tough to lose a game where you play that well, but we responded in the second game by putting a lot of runs on the scoreboard and maintaining our lead throughout the game,” Bernstein said.
In the second game of the double-header, Middlebury went up 4-0 by scoring in each of the first three innings. Junior third baseman Hayden Smith began the lead with a single to drive in a run, Bernstein added an RBI single in the second, and sophomore center fielder Henry Stremecki hit a homerun in the third.
The Panthers added insurance with another run in the ninth with a walk to Stremecki, who stole base twice. Stremecki was eventually brought home on a sacrifice fly by Smith.
Junior pitcher Andrew Martinson relieved senior Conor Himstead to strike out one in one inning of work to earn the win, setting up sophomore Bobby Sullivan for his first career save with one punchout of his own.
With a quick turnaround after the doubleheader with Tufts, the Panthers were back on the field hours later for its first home game of the season. According to Bernstein, head coach Mike Leonard stressed the importance of winning their weekends and the team was hungry for a third win.
“We came out loose for our first home game of the season and backed it up with stellar pitching performances and by hitting the ball all over the yard,” Bernstein said. “We put big numbers on the scoreboard and expanded that lead every inning. It was good to end the weekend on that high note.”
In the 15-6 victory, Bernstein finished 3-for-4 with three doubles and three RBIs. Carroll reached base twice and scored two runs; junior first baseman Alad Guild and junior designated hitter Kevin Woodring each went two-for-two.
Sophomore pitcher Michael Farinelli received the win after hurling a strong six innings, surrendering one earned run with eight strikeouts. Coming off Tommy-John surgery in his first game back, junior pitcher Spencer Shores relieved Farinelli, throwing a scoreless seventh inning.
The Panthers will face Northern Vermont University (7-15, 2-2) at 4 p.m. on Wed., April 10 at home, and Williams College (13-3, 1-2) in a NESCAC West three-game series starting at 4 pm. on Friday, April 12.
“Going into our weekend with Williams, we’re trying to play the same brand of baseball we’ve played all season,” Bernstein said. “We’re going to be aggressive in every facet of the game and take advantage of their mistakes. We have an extremely talented group of guys so if we can just continue to play loose and trust our preparation, I think some good things will be in store for us.”
Isabella Marcus is a sports editor.