Panther baseball falls to Amherst, misses post-season bid

MIDDLEBURY — With the final spot in the four-team NESCAC baseball postseason going to the winner of the series, visiting Amherst took two games out of three from Middlebury College this past weekend to dash the Panthers’ playoff hopes and end their 10-game winning streak. 
The decisive game came on Sunday, when Amherst took an early 5-1 lead and held off Middlebury to prevail, 8-5. Amherst improved to 21-12, 8-4 NESCAC West. Middlebury dropped to 16-15, 6-6 NESCAC West, and was set to close out its season with a Wednesday game at Division I Dartmouth.
In Sunday’s pivotal game the Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the first when Brooks Carroll, stealing third on the play, scored on a wild pitch. 
Amherst countered with a two-out, three-run second inning rally. Max Steinhorn singled in Joseph Palmo, and an error allowed two more runs to score. 
Singles by Sam Ellinwood and William Murphy helped the Mammoths score in the third. Colin Waters came on in relief after that inning and three four scoreless frames, allowing the Panthers to rally.
In the third Middlebury Carroll singled, stole second and scored on a Sam Graf hit. In the seventh Middlebury made it 5-4. 
Henry Strmecki doubled and scored on a single by Justin Han, who later scored on a wild pitch. The Panthers loaded the bases with none out, but Palmo threw out the potential tying run at the plate after catching a fly ball in center field, and Amherst retired the next hitter.
Both teams scored a run in the eighth. Steinhorn doubled in Murphy for Amherst, while Middlebury’s Raj Palekar singled in Andrew Hennings, who doubled, to make it 6-5. Amherst added two insurance runs in the ninth.  
Jake Dianno had three hits for the Panthers, while Han finished with two hits for his 13th multiple-hit game of the season.  
On Saturday Middlebury took the opener, 7-0, as Colby Morris (5-4) tossed a three-hit shutout, striking out five. He lowered his ERA to 1.71, second in NESCAC, with a league-best 63.1 innings pitched. Morris has now thrown 183 innings at Middlebury, more than any other pitcher in school history.
RBI singles by Graf and Carroll sparked Middlebury’s three-run third, and RBI doubles by Han and Hayden Smith and an RBI single by Carroll helped add three more runs in the fourth. Dianno plated Han with a seventh-inning sacrifice fly for the final Panther run.
Amherst took Saturday’s second game, 6-3. The Panthers got an unearned run in the first, but the Mammoths scored the next six runs, three in the third on three hits, including a Nick Nardone double; two in the seventh, one on a Severino Simeone homer; and one in the ninth, on a Simeone triple and a sacrifice fly. 
Middlebury scored two in the ninth, with singles by Graf and Phil Bernstein doing most of the damage. Robert Erickson (3-2) took the loss, giving up four runs on eight hits with five strikeouts over 6.1 innings.

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