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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Season in Review: Men's baseball

<span class="photocreditinline">Courtesy: Middlebury Athletics</span><br />Gavin Gattuso ’24 is one of eleven freshmen on men’s baseball.
Courtesy: Middlebury Athletics
Gavin Gattuso ’24 is one of eleven freshmen on men’s baseball.

Men’s baseball (2–6) finished in fifth place in the NESCAC’s West Division this spring, with both of their victories won in the final inning. 

Despite the team’s slow start, the underclassmen-heavy roster — composed of four sophomores and eleven freshmen — made significant progress this season. 

Although the team suffered some lopsided losses early in the campaign, men’s baseball finished the season winning two of their last three games, including a walk-off home run against Hamilton and a come-from-behind victory against the would-be NESCAC champions, Amherst. 

Head coach Mike Leonard felt that these wins were representative of the progress made by each and every player this season.

“I’m so incredibly proud of this group,” Leonard said. “It's such a testament to the mindset of these players that they took these challenges of being thrown into a season they didn't expect to have and facing some tough results early into opportunities to learn and get better.” 

First-year and sophomore players who were pressed into starting roles took advantage of the opportunity. Two first-year players stood out for their success in the batter’s box: first-baseman and outfielder Andrew Ashley ’24 and center fielder Sammy Smith ’24.

Smith led the Panthers in doubles (2), triples (3), walks (6), on-base percentage (.452), slugging percentage (.750) and OBP plus SLG (1.202). His slugging percentage ranked second in the NESCAC and he was tied for first in triples, as well.

“I am pretty pleased with how my at-bats went,” Smith said. “I really focused on being relaxed in the box and having an opposite field approach.” 

Meanwhile, Ashley led the team in batting average (.333), hits (9), runs batted in (8) and stolen bases (4). 

“If this was a normal year, I probably would have gotten only 10 at-bats,” Ashley claimed. “It meant a lot to get this opportunity to show what I’m capable of, especially after losing my senior season [in high school] to Covid.”

Leonard further highlighted the positive effect this wacky Covid-19 season had on these young players.

“All of the players really benefited from this opportunity to build confidence, gain some experience, and improve their game,” Leonard posited. “So when they are faced with the challenges of performing in-game or competing against teammates for playing time, they will feel like they are in a better position to do so.”

With the full team returning next spring, men’s baseball is expected to produce a dominant team with these hungry, young players set to compete for starting roles against the returning upperclassmen. 

Sam Lipin

Sam Lipin '23.5 returns this fall for his third semester as an editor for the Sports section. A Classics major with an Italian minor, Sam worked as a reporting intern this summer at the Addison Independent. He has hosted four radio shows through WRMC and tells his friends he plays rugby though he has not been to a practice in a year and a half.