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Baseball Beats WPI Twice on Comebacks

By Albert Ni

MIT baseball continued a stellar season by adding two exciting come-from-behind wins over Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Saturday to go 14-6 on the season. Both games went down to the wire, and Tech put on a different display of skills for each. In the first game, it was clutch hitting in the bottom of the final inning that quickly reversed Engineer fortunes. In game two, a couple of righty-lefty calls to the pen closed the door on a budding WPI (10-16) rally in the bottom of the ninth.

After falling behind early in game one, Tech was able to pull in front 3-1 after three innings. WPI struck back quickly with three runs in the top of the fourth off of a timely pair of hits to go with a walk and three wild pitches by Christopher M. D’Annunzio ’09.

WPI added another run in the fifth and seventh innings and seemed to be on its way to victory with a fairly comfortable 6-4 lead with two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the seventh, the final inning of the first game of a doubleheader. Then the wheels fell off.

A quick pair of singles by rookies Thomas M. Phillips ’09 and David M. Nole ’09 set the table for Greg R. Williams ’06, who lined a shot into right. What should have simply been a hard-hit RBI single to pull Tech within a run turned into a game-tying gift triple when the WPI right fielder elected not to take an angle and cut the ball off, but rather dived for the ball. He missed, and the ball got by.

It was an inexcusable mistake in a situation where “no-doubles” defense is played specifically with the intent of preventing a ball from getting to the wall and tying the game.

With everything suddenly going the Engineers’ way, Stephen M. Nunez ’09 finished the job with a rocket back to the mound which deflected off the foot of the WPI pitcher, allowing Williams to cross the plate and complete an improbable two-out, bases empty comeback to take game one. In the process, Matthew D. Loper ’09 added to his perfect season, improving to 5-0 by picking up the win in relief.

WPI tried to regain the momentum in game two with a solid four-run third inning off of five hits, a walk, and an error to pull ahead 4-2. Tech responded with three runs of its own in the fourth, keyed by a Jason T. Witzberger ’07 triple.

Having already singled and doubled as well, Witzberger stepped into the box for his fourth at bat of the day a home run short of the third cycle in Tech baseball history. Clearly seeing the ball well all day, Witzberger roped a shot deep to center which was flagged down by the WPI center fielder just in front of the center field wall in the deepest part of the ballpark.

Overall, Witzberger turned in a superb performance, providing 3 runs and 5 hits on the day from the critical leadoff spot in the lineup. Kevin R. Wheeler ’08 added what would turn out to be a critical insurance run by leading off the fifth with a shot to left, giving him a team-leading four home runs on the season.

WPI took its final gasp for life by adding a run in the bottom of the ninth, but George “Mike” Vasquez ’08 and Wayne P. Duggan ’06 closed out a 6-5 MIT victory in the “nightcap”. All in all, with a pair of one-run thrillers on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the team didn’t have much else to ask for.