The Bates Baseball team earned their first series victory against the Trinity Bantams in the recorded history of the conference matchup, winning Friday, April 18th and splitting a doubleheader on Saturday, April 19th.
Senior left-hander and two-time this season NESCAC Pitcher of the Week Brad Reynolds received the 4-2 win on Friday, pitching 5 ⅔ solid innings with 2 strikeouts 2 unearned runs. Junior Sam Maliska took over in the sixth, posting 3 ⅓ shutout innings for his first save of the season. On offense, juniors Nate Pajka and Rockwell Jackson each went 2-for-5, while first-year Brendan Fox went 1-for-2 with an RBI double, contributing to the Bobcats’ 9-hit performance.
The team took their momentum from Friday and showed up to play in their 12-7 extra-innings win in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday. First-year Brendan Fox went 3-for-4 with three RBI’s, Junior Mekae Hyde notched three hits, and senior Griff Tewksbury recorded his fifth home run of the season. Senior Chris Fusco pitched five innings, allowing only three runs while sophomore reliever Rob DiFranco picked up the win for the ‘Cats. Bates jumped on Trinity quickly going ahead 6-1 by the top of the fifth. Although the Bantams worked their way back in the next three innings to tie the game and take it to extra innings, the Bobcats came back strong in the eighth with six runs starting from a Pajka RBI single and Tewksbury double. Trinity answered with one run in the bottom of the eighth but it was not enough to stop sophomore right-hander Samuel Warren from closing out this win for Bates. Warren remarked, “Everything came together for us to win the series. We are able to win because we have the mentality that it’s all about being part of the team. We hang out with each other every night. It’s really a family.”
In the final game of the series, Trinity’s starter went seven innings, allowing only one run on eight hits, while Bates junior Will Levangie pitched 6 ⅓ innings, struck out five, and gave up only one run on four hits. Trinity scored first in the second inning with a bases-loaded forced run off a hit-by-pitch. Bates responded in the fourth as Hyde doubled home Tewksbury, tying the game 1-1. The Bobcats unfortunately lost the game in the bottom of the ninth with a bases loaded single. However, taking two of three in Hartford was a big achievement for Bates, putting them in sole possession of second place in the NESCAC East Division.
In between NESCAC series, the Bobcats recorded three vital wins, one against Endicott (8-4) and two versus Husson (7-2 and 9-4), to solidify their standing and competitive edge in the region, outside of conference play.
The ‘Cats then reaffirmed their dominance in the NESCAC by capturing two wins out of the three game series against Colby College beginning on Friday, April 25th. In the first game on Friday, Brad Reynolds crafted 12 strikeouts in his first-ever complete game to bring Bates to a 5-0 victory against the Mules. When asked what has contributed to his success on the mound, Reynolds responded, “I’d say the key for me is mental preparation. The continuous study of the mental ABC’s of pitching by H.A. Dorfman have been very helpful as well as daily visualisation and meditation…It allows me to do what I love and have a lot of fun doing it.”
Griff Tewksbury went 3-for-3 while Rockwell Jackson had two hits and two runs scored. Bates took a 2-0 lead in the third and added another run in the fourth on a wild pitch that scored Pajka. In the fifth, Hyde walked and Jackson singled, setting up Tewksbury’s double to score both of them, giving the Cat’s a 5-0 edge. The runs they scored were clearly the result of a team effort. Jackson reports that they are coached to, “Get ‘em on [get on base], get ‘em over [put the runners in scoring position], and get ‘em in [bat them in for runs].” Defensively, Reynolds finished the game strong facing just 14 batters over the last four innings.
In the second game of the series with Colby and the first of the doubleheader on Sunday, the Bates baseball team lost 2-1 in a well-fought game against the Mules. First-year righthander Anthony Telesca pitched six solid innings and gave up only one run on two hits. Colby won the game in the bottom of the seventh with a leadoff walk, sacrifice, and pinch-hit single to knock in the winning run.
With the series split, a playoff berth for either team rested on the outcome of the third game. Head coach Mike Leonard gathered his players in the outfield and encouraged the team, “If we just play our game, no one will beat us.” Sophomore Sam Warren reflected on the perspective of the players, “No one was concerned. We were just motivated.”
Their motivation translated into resilient play as the Bobcats took a 1-0 lead in the third with a RBI double by Warren. Colby tied the game in the bottom of the inning but Bates came back with another run in the fourth. The Bobcats stretched their lead to 4-1 with two runs in the sixth. Senior Steve Burke singled and eventually scored on Mekae Hyde’s double. Pajka doubled to bring Hyde in as well. Bates got two insurance runs in the top of the ninth after sophomore Conor Reenstierna led off with a single and Warren blasted a two-run-homer to contribute to his 3 RBIs and 2 hits for the game. In reference to his success at the plate, Warren said, “It’s not about individual accolades. We have a team mentality and we get the job done because we work as a team.”
Bates’ win combined with Tufts’ doubleheader sweep of Bowdoin solidified their first-ever bid to the NESCAC tournament. Bates has shown determination and fight throughout the season, highlighted by their strong pitchers and irrepressible offense.
With eight games left, Bates can clinch the #1 playoff spot by defeating Tufts in both games of their doubleheader at Bates on Saturday May 3rd. Mike Leonard and the 34-man roster hope to display how deep talent and a team mentality can result in a NESCAC Championship.
When asked to explain why the back of the team’s shirts say ‘Dogpile,’ junior Aidan Sullivan responded, “The goal from day one [of preseason] was to win a NESCAC Championship. It’s a reminder of the success we are trying to achieve.” Classmate Jackson added, “Our coach [Mike Leonard] reminds us each day that no one can beat us but ourselves; so if we keep playing our own game and focusing on that team concept, no one will beat us.”
Reynolds feels strongly about winning the NESCAC tournament for reasons beyond the team: “Our community has been through a lot this year and I would love nothing more that to win it for them.”