Top Teams Converge at Williams for Shot at 2009 Baseball Title

Top Teams Converge at Williams for Shot at 2009 Baseball Title

Wesleyan Earns Playoff Berth for First Time Since 2005

HADLEY, Mass. – Trinity College, the 2008 NESCAC and NCAA Champions, will look to defend its conference crown this weekend when the Bantams join Tufts, Wesleyan and host Williams for the 2009 NESCAC Baseball Championship in Williamstown, Mass. The three-day, double-elimination tournament begins Friday afternoon with Tufts battling Williams at 3:00 p.m. at Bobby Coombs Field, while rivals Wesleyan and Trinity will clash at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Mass. at 3:00 p.m. Action continues through the weekend with the championship concluding on Sunday, May 10 at 10:00 a.m. at Williams.

Williams (24-10, 9-3 NESCAC West) knew heading into the final weekend of the regular season that it had secured a spot in the NESCAC Baseball Championship for the fourth year in a row, however it needed a victory over Amherst on Sunday in order to lock up hosting duties. The Ephs did just that, outlasting the Lord Jeffs 8-5 at Wahconah Park and earning the top seed in the West for the third-straight year. Since falling in a doubleheader against Amherst on April 11, Williams has posted a 13-3 record with all three losses by two runs or less. The Ephs hope to become the first team to win three league championships, as their previous two titles came in 2001 and in 2007 - the last two times Williams hosted the playoffs. During the 2008 tournament at Trinity, the Ephs made an early exit, falling 1-0 to Tufts before succumbing to Amherst in a roller-coaster 10-inning affair, 9-8. The Ephs are 2-1 against the championship field, having only faced Wesleyan in divisional play this season on April 25-26. Statistically, Williams is second among conference teams with a .343 batting average and a 4.53 ERA, as the Ephs pitching staff has held opposing batters to a .257 average. Enjoying a career year in the batter’s box is junior OF Al Mathews (North Hampton, N.H.). Starting all 34 games this season for Williams, Mathews is second in the conference in hitting with a .471 average along with a .522 on-base percentage and a .574 slugging mark. Mathews, who was an All-NESCAC Second Team honoree last spring, leads the league in both hits (64) and runs batted in (49).

Meeting the Ephs on Friday will be Tufts (17-17, 7-5 NESCAC East). Tufts tied Bowdoin in the East Division at 7-5 this season, however the Jumbos were able to capture a playoff spot with the head-to-head tie-breaker thanks to a 2-1 record against the Polar Bears. The Jumbos went 5-2 over their last seven games to close out the regular season, splitting a twin-bill against Babson on Sunday with a 5-2 setback in the first outing before bouncing back with an 11-4 victory in game two. Tufts joins Williams as having reached the tournament more times than any other NESCAC team, appearing in seven of the previous eight championships, and the all-time playoff series between the two is deadlocked at 3-3. The Jumbos’ lone conference title came during a rain-shortened 2002 event, as they have advanced to the final day on four occasions in playoff history. The only opponent in this year’s championship Tufts has seen is Trinity, going 0-3 against the Bantams on April 4-5 in Hartford, Conn., and being out-scored by a 21-7 margin in the three-game series. The Jumbos rank ninth in the conference in batting average at .287 while holding down fourth in ERA at 5.17, as opponents have averaged .290 at the plate. Sophomore SS/2B David Leresche (St. Louis, Mo.) currently leads Tufts at the dish with a .404 average, a .521 on-base percentage and a .561 slugging percentage. Leresche has collected a team-best 46 hits, 10 doubles, 31 RBI and nine steals. Rookie Chris DeGoti (Miami, Fla.) has emerged as the top hurler out of the bullpen for the Jumbos. In 16 appearances, DeGoti is 4-0 with five saves, owning a 2.20 ERA with 30 strikeouts over 32.2 IP while limiting opponents to a .233 average.

After a record-setting 2008 campaign of 45-1, Trinity (26-5, 12-0 NESCAC East) picked up right where it left off a year ago. The defending NESCAC and NCAA champs went 8-2 over spring break and rolled to a second consecutive 12-0 record in conference play to claim the top seed out of the East Division. The Bantams returned to the NESCAC championship last spring after missing back-to-back tournaments and rolled past the competition en route to the league title. Like Williams, Trinity has a shot at becoming the first team to win three league titles (2003, 2008) and at first glance appears to have a good chance at completing the feat. Leading the league in most major statistical categories once again this season, the Bantams hold a NESCAC-best .359 batting average and .465 on-base percentage and boast a league-low 2.90 ERA. Trinity battled both Tufts and Wesleyan during the regular season slate, going 3-0 against the Jumbos before splitting a non-conference set against the Cardinals on Sunday, winning the first game 9-5 prior to falling 7-6 in the second. Powering the Bantams’ offense has been the tandem of senior catcher Sean Killeen (Greenfield, Mass.) and junior 1B Kent Graham (Longmeadow, Mass.), both of whom were selected to the All-Conference First Team in 2008. Through all 31 games this season, Killeen paces Trinity with a .459 batting average, a .570 on-base percentage, and an .862 slugging mark while only committing two errors on 227 chances and allowing four passed balls. Graham is right behind Killeen on the Trinity stat sheet, hitting .429 with a .456 OBP and .795 slugging percentage. The duo has combined to hit 19 of the Bantams’ 39 home runs this season. On the mound, junior Jeremiah Bayer (Greenfield, Mass.) heads up a talented staff of pitchers with a 9-0 record and a 0.56 ERA as he has held opponents to a .165 average. Bayer, also selected to last year’s First Team, has recorded a league-leading 72 strikeouts, an average of 1.11 per inning.

Looking to make it two-in-a-row against Trinity will be Wesleyan (19-14, 7-5 NESCAC West), as the Cardinals will face the Bantams for the third time in less than seven days. The pieces all fell into place for the Cardinals during the final weekend of the regular season. A 9-6 win at Middlebury in Saturday’s make-up contest from an April 3 rain out combined with two Amherst losses put Wesleyan into the tournament for the first time since 2005. Wesleyan enters the weekend at 4-1 over its last five games, most recently earning the aforementioned split against Trinity on Sunday in Hartford, Conn. Against the 2009 tournament teams, the Cardinals are 2-3, going 1-2 against Williams in divisional play. Interestingly enough, Wesleyan has faced all three of these teams in its only two appearances in the NESCAC championship. The Cardinals are 1-0 against Tufts and Williams in tournament competition while going 0-4 when facing Trinity, as the Bantams eliminated Wesleyan in 2002 and again in 2005. Effortlessly filling multiple roles for the Cardinals this season has been senior SS/P Drew Dominguez (Braintree, Mass.). Offensively, Dominguez leads his squad at the dish with a .404 average, as he has surpassed the program’s single-season hits record - which he set last year - with 59 hits. He also holds a .430 on-base percentage and a .575 slugging mark along with a team-high 34 runs driven in. In addition to his hitting totals, Dominguez has been solid on the mound for the Cardinals, going 5-1 over 48.2 IP in nine appearances with a 5.18 ERA. An All-NESCAC Second Team member last year, Dominguez has committed just seven errors on 148 chances for a fielding percentage of .953 while turning 17 double plays.

Day 1 - Friday, May 8

Game 1 - E2 Tufts at W1 Williams - 3:00 p.m. - at Williams, Williamstown, Mass.
Game 2 - W2 Wesleyan vs. E1 Trinity - 3:00 p.m. - at Wahconah Park, Pittsfield, Mass.

Day 2 - Saturday, May 9
Game 3 - Loser of GM 1 vs. Loser of GM 2 - 10:30 a.m. - at Wahconah Park, Pittsfield, Mass.
Game 4 - Winner of GM 1 vs. Winner of GM 2 - 10:30 a.m. - at Williams, Williamstown, Mass.
Game 5 - Winner of GM 3 vs. Loser of GM 4 - 2:30 p.m. - at Williams, Williamstown, Mass.

Day 3 - Sunday, May 10
Game 6 - Winner of GM 4 vs. Winner of GM 5 - 10:00 a.m.
Game 7 - If Necessary - Immediately Following