Panther nine sweeps, crests .500 in league
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College baseball team swept three games from visiting Hamilton this past weekend to move over .500 in NESCAC West play.
The 9-10 Panthers, 5-4 NESCAC West, were hoping to reach .500 when they hosted St. Michael’s on Wednesday after deadline for the sports section. They then are scheduled to entertain league foe Wesleyan at 4 p.m. this Friday and then at noon on Saturday for a doubleheader. Non-league foe Plymouth is also set to visit for a twin bill on Sunday at noon.
On this past Saturday, Middlebury rallied in both ends of a doubleheader to post 6-5 and 7-6 victories over Hamilton (10-12, 0-5 NESCAC West).
Hamilton took a 4-0 lead after three innings in Saturday’s opener, but Middlebury scored three times in the fifth on two errors and hits by Brooks Carroll, Sam Graf and John Lock, and then tied the game in the sixth on a walk, a hit-batter, Justin Han’s bunt single, and a Carroll sacrifice fly.
Hamilton took a 5-4 lead in the seventh on a Kenny Collins triple off starting pitcher Colby Morris and a Ryan Wolfsberg single through the drawn-in infield off reliever Conor Himstead. Himstead shut the door, and the Panthers rallied in the bottom of the inning.
Graf walked to lead off, and he moved to second and third on a wild pitch and throwing error. Raj Palekar reached on a fielder’s choice and moved to second on a throwing error as Graf scored the game-tying run. Gray Goolsby bunted Palekar to third, and pinch-hitter Phil Bernstein punched a walk-off single up the middle to plate Palekar.
Himstead picked up his first career win. Morris allowed five runs on eight hits, while striking out five over six-plus innings. Carroll led the attack with three hits and two RBIs.
Hamilton starter Finley O’Hara allowed nine hits and two earned over six innings. Callum Slater took the loss in relief.
In the nightcap, Hamilton took a 3-2 lead into the sixth. Middlebury got its runs in the second, on a Palekar triple and a Bernstein RBI grounder, and the third, when Alan Guild plated Graf with a groundout.
Hamilton then took a 6-2 lead in the top of the sixth with three runs on three hits and two Panther errors.
Middlebury scored four runs in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. Guild tripled home Han and Bernstein and scored on a wild pitch, and Carroll later singled in Andrew Corcoran.
In the bottom of the eighth with two outs, Lock was hit by a pitch, and Graf doubled in Lock with the go-ahead run.
In the ninth, Panther centerfielder Ryan Rizzo threw out a runner trying to score from second base on a single to preserve the win.
Robert Erickson (1-2) picked up the win in relief with two scoreless innings. Starter Colin Waters went 5.1 innings. Tom Riley suffered the loss for Hamilton, allowing one run and one hit over 1.2 innings of work with a pair of strikeouts.
Rizzo, Carroll, Bernstein, Graf, and Han each finished with two hits for the Panthers, while Guild tripled and drove home three.
On Friday, the Panthers blanked Hamilton, 3-0, as Panther starter Spencer Shores struck out 12 batters in eight innings and Himstead earned his third save of the season by striking out the side in the ninth.
Middlebury broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth. Ryan Rizzo doubled, moved to third on a fly ball to right, and scored when Graf legged out an infield hit.
In the Middlebury seventh, Guild drilled his first collegiate home run, and Jason Lock singled home Carroll for the game’s final run.
Hamilton came close to scoring in the eighth, but Palekar at third base took a relay from Graf in left field and threw out a runner at home trying to score from second on a single.
Shores (2-0) pitched into the ninth inning, allowing six hits and one walk. Hamilton starter Dan DePaoli (2-3) yielded three runs on five hits and struck out four in seven innings, and Slater tossed a scoreless eighth.
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