Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo of The Middlebury Campus
Thursday, Mar 23, 2023

Baseball kicks off their season with trip to Alabama

The Middlebury baseball team opened their 2023 season on March 4 in Montgomery, Ala. at a tournament hosted by Huntingdon College. The team went 1–2 in their play during the tournament. 

Starting this past Saturday, Middlebury lost 9–6 to Millsaps College and 16–12 to Huntingdon College. However, on Sunday, the team rebounded with a 13–0 win over Hampden-Sydney College, which marked Head Coach Mike Leonard’s 100th career win at Middlebury.

The Panthers’ three opponents went into their contests having already played several games this season. However, because cold weather makes Forbes Field inhospitable for baseball until about April, Middlebury’s only game action has been a scrimmage with Castleton in the confines of Virtue Field House. Transitioning from tracking baseballs in the dim lighting of Virtue Field House to an outdoor setting presents early season difficulties for Middlebury batters. 

“The biggest challenge going into these games is that [opponents] already played a couple, but then again they know very little about us,” said First Baseman Mitchell Schroeder ’23, “But it is also so nice to finally be able to cheer for your teammates instead of competing against them every day in practice. It’s nice to take that competitive edge out on a different colored jersey.”   

The immediate obstacles Vermont winters placed on Middlebury baseball were overcome with soaring success in the 2022 season; Middlebury recorded its best season in program history. The team set school records in wins (31), games played (45), hits (522), runs (426), home run (65), Runs Batted In (388), stolen bases (177) and strikeouts of opposing hitters (400). The Panthers led the NESCAC in every major offensive category by large margins, with many great individual seasons. 

Catcher John Collins ’23 smashed a school record with 14 home runs and had a single season hit total of 59, the second best in school history. Outfielder Beau Root ’24 was not far behind Collins with 56 hits and 28 stolen bases. Schroeder hit to a .483 batting average with a league best 14 doubles. Offensive NESCAC Player of the Year Alec Ritch ’23 set single season school records in runs, RBI, walks and stolen bases. Ritch — channeling Los Angeles Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani — also went 5–0 on the mound, recording 41 strikeouts through 53 innings.

Coach Leonard faces a difficult task penciling in the starting lineup each game, and that is not because of a lack of fire power. He simply has an endless arsenal of hitters.  

Overall, Middlebury sits in a great position to repeat their success on the baseball diamond. The team graduated zero positional players in 2022. 

“When I tell people at Middlebury I play baseball, they always kinda laugh and say they always see us hitting in the field house. I think that’s one of the reasons I wanted to play ball at Middlebury and the reason I love showing up every day. The guys around me just love to work,” Schroeder said. 

Despite the tremendous 2022 offensive effort, the pitching lagged behind the offense. Middlebury posted a team ERA of 5.75, which ranked them fourth in the NESCAC. A couple of the returning standouts include senior Alex Price ’23, who worked to a 3.50 ERA with a school single-season record of 85 strikeouts, and Cole Crider ’23.5, whose 2.45 ERA led the team last season, but the team hopes that their pitching staff will continue to improve.

“A plethora of young arms had big offseasons for us. Guys who have a little bit of experience under their belts from last year are ready to have breakout years,” Schroeder said.

Already, the team has seen impressive pitching as Justin Lessing ’25 threw five scoreless innings in the team’s win against Hampden-Sydney.

The team’s season continues with this weekend’s doubleheader as they play Swarthmore College on Saturday and Bard College on Sunday.