As soon as William and Mary’s eight-game win streak came to a contentious close in extra innings Friday against High Point, a fresh one began Saturday.
The first two games of the series were tightly contended with the Panthers (14-14) winning 7-5 Friday and the College (20-8, 5-1 CAA) winning 5-4 Saturday. Sunday’s contest was much more comfortable for the Tribe, as it cruised to a 9-5 victory to wrap up the series at Plumeri Park.
“I think it’s great to take two of three regardless of whether you’re on an eight-game win streak,” head coach Jamie Pinzino said. “We’ve been playing good baseball but you’re going to lose somewhere along the line. It was a tough loss Friday night, but I thought our guys responded well.”
The weekend series against High Point also marked the return of sophomore first baseman Michael Katz, who has a ludicrous .449 batting average in 21 games played so far this season. Katz had suffered from an unspecified vision disorder that kept him on the bench for the previous two weeks.
“He’s been great,” said Pinzino. “He’s good to go. I mean, obviously, he wouldn’t be out there if he wasn’t. So he’s all healthy and we’re thrilled to have him back in the lineup.”
After eight games with fewer than four allowed runs in any given game and four total shutouts, the Tribe pitching staff finally relented, giving up seven runs Friday, two of which came in the decisive tenth inning. Senior starting pitcher Brett Koehler (3-2) had an uncharacteristic outing, giving up four earned runs on 12 hits.
Trailing 5-1, the seventh inning stretch seemed to rejuvenate the Tribe batters. Junior third baseman Ryan Lindemuth drove in three runs with a bases-clearing triple to left field. Next up was Katz, who smashed the ball across the infield, which gave Lindemuth just enough time to score the tying run and keep alive the hope for a ninth-straight win.
Junior middle reliever John Sheehan came into the game in the eighth inning and shut down the Panthers for two innings to force extras. After comfortably recording the first two outs of the tenth frame, the deluge started.
Sheehan gave up a single and a walk before he was pulled for freshman reliever Mitchell Aker who was unable to cope with the jam, starting off with a wild pitch that allowed both runners to advance and surrendering a double which drove in both High Point runners. The Tribe went down swinging and missing in the bottom of the tenth inning, ending the eight-game win streak in frustrating fashion.
In the wake of its extra-innings implosion Friday, the Tribe turned to their ace, senior starting pitcher John Farrell, for Saturday’s game. He didn’t disappoint. Farrell’s fourth complete game of the season rested a tired Tribe relief staff and improved his record to 6-0.
After shaking off the rust Friday, Katz found his rhythm Saturday, going 2 for 3 at the plate, while scoring two runs and bringing in one more. The rest of the lineup fed off of Katz’s return to form with eight players contributing hits in the victory.
Despite the offense and a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning, High Point notched two runs on two hits to tie the game heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Senior center fielder Ryan Brown maneuvered himself into scoring position by hitting a single through the left side and then reaching second on a gutsy steal. After Brown, High Point pitcher Jamie Schultz struck out two and walked two Tribe batters to load the bases with two outs.
Freshman catcher Ryan Hissey played the hero, bashing the ball past the second baseman into the outfield. The hit brought in Brown to win the game and tie the series at one game apiece.
The rubber match Sunday proved to be the best performance of the series for the Tribe, who held the lead throughout. The College fed off the 5-0 advantage it had amassed by the fourth inning to cruise to a comfortable 9-5 victory.
Sophomore starting pitcher Jason Inghram threw six innings and gave up just two runs to register his fourth win of the season. Sheehan threw two innings of shutout baseball in relief after Inghram was pulled. Aker sealed the win in the ninth despite giving up a two-run home run to the Panthers.
“I felt pretty good today,” said Inghram. “The fastball was working pretty well — for the most part I was able to locate it where I wanted to. Also, my defense did a good job of making plays behind me.”
Katz led the Tribe batters again Sunday as he swatted three hits, driving in three runs. Brown touched home plate three times in the game to cap off an outstanding home stand, notching five runs in the three-game series.
The Tribe takes its new winning streak on the road to face Richmond Tuesday.