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Tuesday, Dec 5, 2023

Baseball teams thrives during their spring break trip to Southern California

John Collins ’24 hit his 18th collegiate career home run during Middlebury’s spring break trip to California, setting the school's home run record.
John Collins ’24 hit his 18th collegiate career home run during Middlebury’s spring break trip to California, setting the school's home run record.

In the first half of the 2023 season, the Middlebury baseball team has continued their dominance from last season. After losing their first two games of the season, Middlebury has won 10 of their last 12 games and improved to a 10–4 record overall. This stretch includes a 5–1 spring break trip to Los Angeles.

While Middlebury’s offense has scored an impressive 100 runs over this 12-game stretch, the pitching has been more inconsistent, surrendering 51 runs. The pitching staff surrendered two runs or fewer in five games during the stretch but, at the same time, has had some high scoring games.

Despite the inconsistency, the team has experienced a gradual improvement as Head Coach Mike Leonard has come to better understand the role of each pitcher on the staff. The coaching staff has given a variety of pitchers the opportunity to show off their abilities early in the season, but select pitchers will cover the crucial innings later in the season.

The team’s current 10–4 record is primarily due to their success during their spring break trip to California. Throughout the team’s trip from March 19-25, stellar hitting and pitching helped propel the team to defeat tough opponents including nationally ranked Cal Lutheran. Here are the scores from the team’s trip:

10–9 loss to Chapman University (10 innings)

The Panthers began spring break with their only loss of the trip. It is always tough to stomach a loss when you score nine runs, and even more so with a two run lead into the bottom of the 10th, but Chapman was able to win the game against Middlebury’s bullpen in extra innings. Andrew Gough ’23 and Kyle McCausland ’25 each had a home run and multi-hit efforts in the high-scoring contest.

18–7 win over Occidental College

Middlebury put 14 runs on the board by the end of the third inning against Occidental. This game provided an excellent opportunity for Coach Leonard to get the young players and backups valuable early season experience toward the end of the game. Lucas Flemming ’24 led the way for the Panthers with a three-run home run and a total of five RBI.

21–14 win over the University of La Verne

This game proved interesting, as Middlebury trailed La Verne until the sixth inning when Flemming launched a three-run home run. A little more back and forth scoring followed, until Middlebury pulled away. Catcher John Collins ’24 launched a pair of home runs, Flemming hit another three run home run and McCausland went four for six with four RBI and a home run. With his two home run performance, Collins brought his career total to 18 and now owns the school home run record. While Middlebury’s pitching struggled in this game, the defense did not help either, as six unearned runs crossed the plate.

4–3 win over #21 Cal Lutheran University

Justin Lessing ’25 tossed seven innings of two-run baseball, and Henry Gustavson ’24 notched down the save in an impressive victory over a ranked opponent. Jack Stolper ’23 tallied three hits to help provide just enough offense to pull out the win.

6–4 win over Cal Lutheran

In the second game against Cal Lutheran, a strong start guided the Panthers to a close win, as Alex Price ’23 threw six innings of two-run baseball. Sammy Smith ’24 and Collins each homered to ensure the Middlebury victory.

10–0 win over Cal Lutheran

Middlebury finished their three game sweep over Cal Lutheran with an exclamation point as they shut out the Kingsmen 10-0. Freshman Spencer Dessart ’26 turned in an excellent start, pitching six innings, allowing no runs and recording nine strikeouts. The usual suspects provided the offense — McCausland had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and Collins and Stolper each homered. David Byrne ’24 also added a home run. With the sweep, the Panthers knocked Cal Lutheran out of the NCAA DIII Top 25, moving themselves into the national spotlight and earning votes to be in the Top 25.

Coming off their spring break trip, the Panthers had a quick turn around and defeated RPI 5–4 on March 29. Middlebury caused chaos on the basepaths, stealing numerous bases, which allowed for routine ground balls to result in runs. Mitchell Schroeder ’23 hit a huge three-run home run and Sawyer Duarte ’25 pitched five innings, giving up two earned runs on just one hit. Cole Crider ’23.5 cemented the victory with the save.

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Notably, McCausland has had an incredible start to the season. In the 12 games Middlebury played throughout the month of March, McCausland had a batting average of .500 with four home runs, 21 RBI and five doubles. McCausland was impressive in 2022 as well, hitting .327 with five home runs and 28 RBI, but the sophomore has been on another level this season. His production in the middle of the order has been even more important in the absence of Alec Ritch ’23, who has been out of the lineup since the opening weekend with an upper body injury. Ritch is expected to return to the lineup soon.

The Panthers play their home opener this weekend during a three game series against Wesleyan University at Forbes Field. Their first game is Friday at 4 p.m., and then the team plays a doubleheader at 12 p.m. on Saturday.