Panther nine claims first place in league

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College baseball team won five out of seven games between April 26 and May 3, including claiming four straight games from its closest rivals in the NESCAC West standings to nail down first place.

The 24-10 Panthers also set program records for wins and runs scored (359) in a season in the process.

The Panthers concluded the regular season at 10-2 in NESCAC West, good for the top seed. They will host NESCAC East No. 4 seed Tufts (23-10, 6-6 NESCAC East) this weekend in a best-of-three quarterfinal series.

The teams will play a doubleheader at noon on Saturday. If necessary, they will meet again on Sunday at 11 a.m. for the right to advance to the NESCAC final four the following weekend at Trinity College.

On April 26 the Panthers knocked off third-place Hamilton, 10-8. The Continentals dropped to 15-14, 6-5 NESCAC West.

Hamilton went up, 1-0, in the first, but the Panthers got RBI doubles from John Collins and Jack Stolper in the second and third innings on the way to a 5-1 lead.

Hamilton scored two in the third off Alex Ritch, the Panther starter, but reliever Cole Crider worked out of a bases-loaded jam to end the threat. Crider earned the win with 1.1 innings of scoreless relief.

A Ritch homer in the fifth made it 6-3. Hamilton scored once in the sixth, but the Panthers scored three in the eighth on a Continental throwing error and a Zip Malley RBI ground out.

Hamilton’s  Jackson Sattinger hit a grand slam off reliever Andrew Gatland in the eighth to make it 9-8, but George Goldstein came in to toss the 1.1 innings of scoreless relief and earn the save. Mitchell Schroeder double in the final Panther run in the ninth.

The Panthers followed the key win over Hamilton with a weekend sweep of second-place host Wesleyan (18-14, 6-6 NESCAC West).

On Friday the Panthers bashed their way to a 19-6 win. Middlebury poked seven doubles, stole 11 bases, and were up, 11-1, by the fourth inning.

Schroeder went five for five, scored four runs and drove in two. Ritch finished with three hits and four runs, Collins had two hits and five RBIs, and Lucas Flemming added an RBI double.

Starter Alex Rosario (6-1) earned his NESCAC-best sixth victory, allowing five runs on five hits in five innings.

On Saturday, Middlebury swept two from Wesleyan, 5-1 and 9-5. In game one, Middlebury’s Collins and Flemming homered in the second inning to make it 2-0. Both teams scored unearned runs in the third.

The Panthers added their final runs in the fourth on a hit batsman and singles by Chris Borter, Malley and Alec Ritch. Ritch went five innings to earn the win, allowing three hits and fanning six, and Goldstein nailed down the win and first place with a two-inning scoreless save.

In the second game the Panthers snapped a 3-3 tie with three runs in the sixth. Schroeder smacked a two-run double and scored on an Ashley sac fly.

The Cardinals pulled to within 6-4 entering the ninth, but another three-run rally clinched the sweep. A Baker Angstman single started the outburst. Sawyer Duarte was hit by a pitch, and both runners advanced on stolen bases. A series of wild pitches, errors and stolen bases then scored those two runners and Ritch.

Duarte poked three hits and scored three runs. Schroeder drove in three runs with three hits and scored twice, and Ritch stole three stolen bases to move him into first on Middlebury’s single-season list with 31. Crider (4-0) picked up the win in relief.

On Sunday host Mitchell (25-10) thumped the Panthers, 18-5. Middlebury scored four in the first on a Root triple and a Ritch two-run homer, followed by an Ashley single, Collins double and Stolper single. In the eighth Collins tripled and scored on a Borter sac fly.

In between Mitchell, like the Panthers ranked third in their region, roughed up the Panther pitching staff. Duarte started and took the loss.

On Tuesday the Panthers split a doubleheader at Castleton (11-20-1), winning the opener, 11-6, and dropping the nightcap, 5-3.

Justin Lessing earned his first career win in the opener, striking out five over the first four innings. George Goldstein tossed the seventh, breaking the single-season record with his 19th appearance.

Root and Nathan Samii each double and singled and scored twice, with Root driving in one run and RBI and Samii knocking in two. Ritch extended his hitting streak to 29 games, scored once and stole two bases. Stolper doubled in a run, and David Byrne hit his first career homer.

In the nightcap loss, Lucas Cai, Flemming and Isaac Rosario each had hits and scored. Crider took the pitching loss.

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