When he stepped onto the mound to face the Engineers in the top of the ninth inning, freshman phenom Michael Bortolotti of Babson College had given up just one earned run in 39 innings. The Engineers’ offense, dormant for eight innings against Babson starter Andrew Aizenstadt, exploded against the best pitcher in Division III baseball at just the right moment.
Having managed just five baserunners against Aizenstadt, the Engineers came into the ninth inning with the intention of “[moving] the line and getting to the next guy,” according to Brian P. Doyle ’11. They erased the five-run deficit in characteristic fashion. Six of the first seven batters reached base in the inning on four singles, one hit batter, and a fielding error; the only out in that span came on a sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Grant T. Iwamoto ’13. The game was tied 5-5 when Doyle came to the plate with Ryne R. Barry ’11 standing at first base and Zachary J. Carr ’12 at third, representing the potential winning run.
Coach Andy Barlow noted that last year’s squad was plagued by an inability to bunt in crucial games; this year’s team has seen those same difficulties resurface throughout the season. Nevertheless, Barlow instructed Doyle to attempt a suicide squeeze against Bortolotti with one out in the inning. Doyle noted that while other tactical choices might have worked, “once I got the call, I trusted it.” After Barry stole second, Doyle laid the bunt down successfully to score Carr. As Carr reflected on the play afterwards, he noted that Doyle placed the bunt “perfectly in a spot where no one could get it.” The Engineers entered the bottom of the ninth with an improbable one-run lead.
Barlow turned to his top starter, Aric J. Dama ’13, to close out the game. Christopher L. Vaughan ’12 had thrown two scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth innings, allowing one baserunner and striking out four Babson batters. Dama’s ostensible counterpart on the Babson squad, the young ace Bortolotti, had just given up five runs in attempting to close out the game. Still, Barlow entrusted Dama with the task of closing out the Engineers’ comeback. Dama turned in the same type of dominant performance the Engineers have come to expect, inducing a ground out before racking up the final two Babson batters on strikeouts.
Barlow pulled all the right moves in the ninth inning for the Engineers, and the team executed when it counted most. Doyle emphasized the need for the Engineers to “stay within themselves” in order to be successful as they head into a matchup on Friday against top-seeded Wheaton College. The Engineers swept Wheaton over spring break in Florida, but they have not matched up again since; Wheaton is currently ranked 21st nationally. A victory against Wheaton would position the Engineers one win away from a trip to the New England regionals.