Panther baseball team off to tough start in Tucson

TUCSON, Ariz. — The Middlebury College baseball team got off to an 0-6 start in its spring break trip to Tucson, Ariz., and will hope to bounce back this weekend, still in Tucson, in a three-game set vs. NESCAC West foe Williams.

On Saturday, St. John’s of Minnesota (9-6) swept a twin bill from the Panthers, 12-4 and 17-9, as Middlebury’s season opened.

Trailing by 1-0 in the first game, Middlebury struck for three runs in the bottom of the third inning. Alex Deutsch singled and Dylan Sinnickson followed with a home run. The third run scored on singles by Johnny Read and Jason Lock sandwiched around an error.

The Panthers maintained that 3-1 advantage until the top of the sixth, when the Johnnies exploded for nine runs on five hits and two errors. Saint John’s tacked on two runs in the seventh for a 12-3 lead. Middlebury added a run in the home half of the seventh, when Ryan Rizzo singled and scored on a Sinnickson groundout.

Starting pitcher Eric Truss suffered the loss, allowing six runs on eight hits with three walks and five strikeouts in 5.1 innings.

In the second game, the Panthers plated six runs on six hits in the top of the first inning, highlighted by Sinnickson’s leadoff homerun and two-run single. The Johnnies responded with two runs in the bottom half of the frame off Middlebury starter Robert Erickson. The Panthers tacked on a run in the second on singles by Max Araya, who went three-for-five, and Raj Palekar, and it was 7-2.

But the Johnnies scored three in the second, nine in the third and three more in the fourth. Sinnickson, who went four-for-five, homered in the fifth, and the Panthers added an unearned run in the seventh.

On Sunday, the Panthers dropped a pair of games. Carthage held Middlebury to five hits in a 13-1 setback. Sinnickson, who was named the NESCAC player of the week, homered for the only Panther score, and Cooper Byrne took the pitching loss.

Next, Valley City State defeated the Panthers, 10-1. Araya drove in Sinnickson for the only Panther run, and Jake Stalcup started on the mound and took the loss.

On Monday, Oberlin topped the Panthers, 15-13, rallying from a 12-4 deficit.

Middlebury jumped out to an early lead with four runs in the top of the first on four hits, an Araya single, an RBI double by John Luke, Palekar’s two-run triple, and Drew Coash’s RBI single.

Oberlin scored three runs, two unearned, in the bottom of the inning.

Middlebury made it 10-3 in the top of the fourth with six runs on just two hits and four walks. Coash had a sacrifice fly, and Johnny Read, Sinnickson and Araya had back-to-back, two-out two-run hits.

The Yeomen made it 10-5 in the bottom of the fourth, and in the top of the fifth the Panthers increased the lead when Coash ripped a two-run double.

Oberlin scored three in both the fifth and sixth innings, a run in the seventh and two in the eighth to knot the game at 13-13. The Panthers had scored their 13th run when Luke came home after a throwing error on a Palekar single. Oberlin broke the tie in the ninth off losing pitcher and Bristol resident Mark Dickerson, the last of five Panther hurlers.

On Tuesday, Grace University scored three times in the ninth to pick up a 9-8 win over the Panthers.

Trailing 3-1 after one inning, Middlebury scored three runs in the second on three walks, Sinnickson and Araya singles, and Lock’s RBI groundout.

Grace took a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the fourth before Middlebury scored in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. A sacrifice fly by Joe MacDonald drove in a run in the sixth, Middlebury scored an unearned run in the seventh, and added another on an RBI single from Lock. In the eighth, Palekar singled, stole second and to third on a groundout. Garrett Werner drove him in with a sacrifice fly to put Middlebury on top, 8-6, heading into the bottom of the ninth.

A two-run single after a single and double led off the inning and tied the game at 8-8. Middlebury walked the bases loaded to set up a force play, but Carlos Ochoa singled to left to drive in the game-winning run.

Byrne threw the first inning before giving way to Erickson, who threw the final 7.1 innings and took the loss.

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