Andover Baseball Bats, Playoff Hopes Resurrected, Boys in Blue Split Two with NMH, Pound Tufts JV

You can take a breath now. The Big Blue bats are alive and well. After a slow start to the season, the Phillips Academy Baseball team found its offensive rhythm this past Saturday in a doubleheader against NMH and again on Wednesday against the Tufts JV. Besting the NMH Hoggers’ ten hits over the doubleheader, Andover’s 25 hits sparked an offensive explosion that resulted in a two game split. The Big Blue’s strong offensive statement helped secure a win for game one starter Tom Church ’05, while it came up just short for game two starter Adam Crabtree ’04. Capped by two-hit performances from Mike Foley ’04, Connor Hoesley ‘04, and Evan Platt ’06 in the first game, Andover’s offense was relentless. For a team with recent trouble putting opponents away after taking early leads, the Big Blue surely proved critics wrong in its best offensive performance of the year. Hoesley, Platt, and Andrew Geraghty ‘05 knocked in two apiece, while Tom Dignard ’06, Justin Schafer ‘05, Matt Boylan ’06, and in his first game back, catcher Cory Schneider ‘04 each recorded one RBI. The offensive performance should not overshadow the outing on the mound by Church. Citing his excitement with the offense, Church explained, “In my previous starts, I felt a lot of pressure to maintain a great performance through seven, but now with the guys hitting the ball, I feel less strain, which allows me to throw the ball better.” Although the ace admitted that his curveball lacked a bit of its normal movement, good control of his fastball allowed him to go the distance with six strikeouts. He surrendered only one unearned run on a walk and five hits. Up on NMH after a 12-1 win, the Big Blue ball club was caught off guard in the final inning of game two when the Hoggers laid down a game-ending, bases-loaded squeeze bunt. After matching the score at six with a seventh inning rally, Andover closer Jamie Durkin ’05, in for the second half of the seventh, allowed a deep bases loaded fly to left. Dignard tracked it down in the outfield and fired the ball in, preventing the runner on third from scoring. Yet, with the infield at a normal distance and one out, NMH snuck one down the first base line to capture the win. With an early 4-0 lead, Crabtree allowed six earned runs on seven walks and three hits. Despite the shaky start, he struck out nine and pounded the ball from the plate, going 4-4 with a triple and a RBI. The seventh inning rally, sparked by Dignard’s poke over the leftfielder’s head, scored two, but, in the end, fell just short. The 7-6 loss to NMH put Andover at 2-4 in the league, one step closer to league leader Cushing Academy. On Wednesday, Platt started on the mound against Tufts while Boylan and Foley closed out the 10-6 win. Putting on a hitting clinic, Foley, Schneider, and Hoesely slapped a number of extra base hits, further reiterating Andover’s new offensive statement. Coming of Wednesday’s confidant win, the team must bring their best offensive, defensive, and pitching game to Exeter tomorrow afternoon. It should be quite the day for baseball tomorrow. Church will oppose hard-throwing Exeter ace Andy Gale ‘04 in the first of two against the archrival Exies. In the second, Crabtree, Andover’s ace, starts in a match-up against Ryan Lapointe ’06, another hard throwing hurler on the Exeter pitching staff. In addition to the usual intensity level of an Andover-Exeter sporting event, each team hopes to gain season momentum and move up in the standings. With both Crabtree and Gale as prospects for the major leagues, numerous professional scouts will be in attendance at Exeter. Both men will either sign with a professional organization or play ball at a Division-1 college. The Blue must win both tomorrow to stay competitive in this aggressive division, which currently places them last. If all goes right, two big wins could point Andover in the right direction, towards another postseason run.