HADLEY, Mass. - Wesleyan will look to capture its first conference crown this weekend as the Cardinals welcome Amherst, Trinity and Bowdoin to the 2013 NESCAC Baseball Championship. The three-day, double-elimination championship starts with a pair of games on Friday, May 10 and concludes on Sunday, May 12. Wesleyan’s Andrus Field will serve as Field 1, while nearby Beehive Field in New Britain, Conn. will be the second site for this weekend’s championship. Wesleyan earned the right to host after taking two of three games from West Division rival Amherst during the final weekend of the regular season. It is the first time in tournament history that the Cardinals have served as the host institution.
Wesleyan (23-13-1, 9-3 NESCAC West) will make its fifth overall appearance in the NESCAC championship and enter the weekend having only met Bowdoin once in the conference tournament. Wesleyan fell 10-7 in Game Three of the 2010 Championship to a Polar Bear squad that later advanced to the title game. The Cardinals are led offensively by sophomore Andrew Yin, who leads the NESCAC with a .396 batting average and has a school-record 63 hits. He also enjoyed a 29-game hitting streak this season. Junior Jeff Blout has posted a team-best 1.66 ERA with a 5-2 record, including three complete games, two shutouts and 43 strikeouts. Sophomore Donnie Cimino has 58 hits and 32 RBI to go with a .377 batting average this season, while senior Stephen Moran has 52 hits, 21 RBI, and has scored 30 runs. Wesleyan leads the NESCAC in batting average (.327), runs (264), hits (431), RBI (235), and fewest strikeouts (160). The Cardinals are tied for first with a .390 OBP.
Bowdoin (23-13, 8-4 NESCAC East) holds the longest active streak with four straight appearances in the NESCAC championship. The Polar Bears have finished as the runner-up in each of the past three years and are searching for their first conference title. Bowdoin put together a 12-game win streak earlier this season and holds a 3-1 all-time record against Amherst in the conference championship. All three of those wins have come in the past two years. The Polar Bears boast three of the top pitchers in the conference this season. Senior Oliver Van Zant and sophomore Henry Van Zant, along with junior Christian Martin all have an ERA under 3.00. Oliver Van Zant (3-1) has posted a 1.12 ERA with a NESCAC-best 54 strikeouts in seven starts. Henry Van Zant (5-2) has a 2.94 ERA with 47 strikeouts to 11 walks and Martin (6-0) is second amongst starters on the team in both ERA (1.93) and strikeouts (46). Sophomore Aaron Rosen leads the team with a .350 batting average to go with 36 hits, 23 runs, 12 RBI, three doubles and two triples.
Defending champion Trinity (20-17, 8-4 NESCAC East) is making its ninth overall appearance in the conference championship, and its seventh as the top seed in the East Division. The Bantams have won a record four NESCAC championships and appeared in two other title games. Trinity and Amherst have split 10 games all-time in the NESCAC championship. The Bantams prevailed in the most recent meeting, a 9-8 win in Game One of the 2008 tournament that Trinity captured en route to its first national title. The Bantams are led offensively by seniors Joe Papa and Stephen Rogers. Papa is batting .383 with 10 doubles, three homers and 23 RBI. Rogers provides the bulk of the power, boasting NESCAC-bests of five home runs and 33 RBI. Trinity’s top hurler is senior Ben Goldberg, who at 5-2 has recorded an ERA of 2.54 while picking up one save.
Making its third straight trip to the championship is Amherst (22-11, 9-3 NESCAC West). The Jeffs last claimed the championship in 2005 as the second of back-to-back titles. Along the way in 2005, Amherst played Trinity three times, beating them twice, including an 8-7 win in 10 innings in the Championship game. Looking to bring the Jeffs to their first championship appearance in five years is senior pitcher Bob Cook. Cook (4-2) has posted a 0.52 ERA and .179 batting average against, while batting .319 with a team-best .467 on-base percentage. Rookie Mike Odenwaelder leads the Jeffs in batting average (.369), runs (30), doubles (7) and triples (4) and is tied for the lead in homers (2) and RBI (19). Odenwaelder’s team-best .573 slugging also leads the NESCAC. Junior Taiki Kasuga is hitting .352 and leads Amherst in hits (43) and steals (14-for-14).
The top two teams in the East and West Divisions qualify for the NESCAC Baseball Championship. The host site rotates between the two divisions each year, with the top-seed in the West Division playing host this season. After the conclusion of Friday’s games, Game Three will be played between the first day’s losers on Saturday morning, followed by Game Four featuring the first day’s winners. Game Five on Saturday will feature an elimination game between the Game Three winner and loser of Game Four. The Championship on Sunday will include the last team standing on Saturday and the lone undefeated team in the tournament. If necessary, a second game will be played in the result of the undefeated team dropping Sunday’s opener.
Results for the NESCAC Baseball Championship will be available at the completion of each day on the NESCAC website.