If Alec Ritch ’23 could pick a signature moment from this season, it would be Middlebury’s doubleheader sweep of Williams on Sunday, April 17. Not only did the wins help Middlebury to their record-setting win streak, but the victories were also fueled by Ritch’s heroics.
“Alec is the first player I have coached that had a true steal of home during our game versus Williams,” Head Coach Mike Leonard told The Campus. “It was a huge moment in that game and something I'll always remember. [The moment is] so representative of him as a baseball player — he is such a gifted athlete and base runner.”
Ritch’s dominance on both sides of the ball — he is both a pitcher and a star hitter — are fueling Middlebury’s (18–8) push toward a NESCAC championship. Ritch leads the team in hits (32), ranks second in OPS (1.235) and has 20 walks, more than double the next best on the team (Zip Malley ’23; 10).
Ritch is also giving the Panthers quality innings on the mound. He has pitched the third most innings (29.1) and has recorded the fourth most strikeouts (25) on the team, and has only issued eight walks.
He laughed when I called him Middlebury’s Shohei Ohtani, last year’s Major League Baseball American League MVP who’s the first player since Babe Ruth to hit and pitch successfully in the Majors, showing just how difficult it is to succeed on both sides of the plate.
When asked about his success, Ritch is quick to credit his teammates.
“This team is really unique in the sense that our focus comes from having fun and being loose,” Ritch said. “This is one of those teams where you don’t have to motivate everybody. We all have the same goal in mind, and that’s winning … everybody wants to get better and looks around and sees other people working hard — that motivates them.”
Ritch also credits Driveline Baseball, a Washington-based company that offers a blend of high-level coaching and detailed analytics to players. Last spring, Ritch and several Middlebury teammates, including John Collins ’23, trained with Driveline.
“Obviously, our coaching staff really prioritizes development, so guys aren’t afraid to try new things,” Ritch said. “Once Coach Leonard came here and rejuvenated the program, we went to the NESCAC Finals in 2017 and again my freshman year, and we lost both times in the Championship. The next step is to get over that hump.”
Middlebury’s recent win streak was snapped at 11 by Amherst on Saturday, April 23. But Middlebury still sits atop the NESCAC West division with a league-best 6–2 record against conference opponents.
So for Ritch, there’s business left to settle in the postseason, and he’s hopeful for the future of a young team.
“We haven’t won [the NESCAC] since 2006 … so I think that is the goal, and the only goal,” Ritch said. “I’m hoping we get to host a playoff series here in Middlebury, it’d be pretty awesome to see everyone down at Forbes. That’s one of my goals, too. To play in a playoff series at home in front of friends and family, it’d be a pretty special moment.”
The Panthers have a real shot at giving fans a special postseason run, leading the league in nearly every offensive category as well as team pitching stats like ERA, strikeouts and opponent batting average.
Looking to finish the season strong, Ritch and the Panthers play Wesleyan this weekend before wrapping up the season with away games against Mitchell College and Castleton University.
Ryan Heinzerling '24 (he/him/his) is one of the Sports Editors!
He's studying English and Political Science. Outside of his studies, Ryan is also a member of the Middlebury College Ski Patrol, has a radio show at WRMC, and spent this previous summer working as a Corporate Partners Intern at the New York Mets!