Baseball: Nickle overpowers Towson

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April 21, 2009

1:39 AM

If Friday’s game made you cry and Saturday’s made you smile, then the College of William and Mary’s (16-20, 6-9 CAA) 9-6 victory over Towson University (17-19, 5-7 CAA) Sunday — the one that clinched the Tribe’s first series win of the season — should make you wonder which version of the Tribe will show up for the rest of the season?

If it’s the team from the first half of Sunday’s ballgame that put up nine runs in five innings — five of those driven in by senior right fielder Rob Nickle — then the Tribe has a chance to make up the two games between itself and current sixth place team Old Dominion University in the CAA standings.

This is a possibility considering the way Nickle is hitting — 2-4 with a homerun Sunday — and how senior righthander Jeremy Neustifter is pitching — holding the Tigers to two runs on five hits in six innings Sunday.

“This is big. Towson’s a pretty good CAA team, they made the CAA Championship last year, so it’s a huge series win for us,” Neustifter said. “Hopefully we can do it again next series.”

If the Tribe team from the final four innings of Sunday’s game shows up — the one that committed three errors and gave up four walks in the final four frames — Neustifter’s wish will become less likely.

“I was really excited about the first half of the game and really sour about the second half of the game because our defense imploded again,” Head Coach Frank Leoni said. “And our offense did nothing after the fifth inning.”

Therein lies the problem for the College: for every game like Saturday — where junior righthander Kevin Landry went seven innings, striking out a career-high 11 batters and limited the Tigers to three runs in a 14-3 Tribe win — there is a game like Friday’s loss — a 10-4 blowout in which the Tribe committed four errors and had to use four pitchers.

“It felt really good. We’ve needed a win like that,” Landry said Saturday, after receiving a multitude of run support from senior second baseman James Williamson, 2-4 with five RBI and a homerun, and senior third baseman Tyler Stampone, who went 3-4 to raise his team-leading batting average to .372.

For Leoni, the weekend was less a barometer of his team’s ability and more a reprieve, allowing the Tribe to stay in the playoff hunt.

“What we did was keep ourselves breathing at this point,” Leoni said. “Our biggest games are now ahead of us.”

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