Ten months after just missing a berth to the NESCAC playoffs, the Bates baseball team returned to action for the 2013 campaign in Georgia. The squad looked to get off to a great start and build off of what was a successful 2012 campaign, playing seven games in total against foes Oglethorpe, Berry, and Emory.
2012 First Team All-NESCAC selection Griff Tewksbury is back, along with upperclassmen Kevin McGregor and Ryan Sonberg who look to round out an experienced core of leadership for the Bobcats.
On February 19th, the Bobcats took to the diamond for the first time against Berry College. It wasn’t the beginning Bates expected, as they fell victim to a combined one-shit shutout by a pair of Berry College pitchers.
For the game, the only threat Bates had of putting a run on the scoreboard came in the fifth inning when junior Steve Burke led off the inning with a single. Senior captain Griff Tewksbury then drew a walk. Both runners advanced a base on a sacrifice bunt by junior catcher Jeff Gunn. But their scoring attempt was fizzled when Burke was thrown out at home, followed by a groundout to second. Eventually, the Bobcats lost 6-0.
“Finally getting on a real baseball field was a great feeling,” noted McGregor. “We hadn’t been on a real field until we played our first game, which based on the result showed we needed to get the kinks out and the rust off the bats,” he added.
The next day, it was a completely different story for the Bobcats. They took to the diamond for a double header against Berry and swept the two game series. The Cats immediately got the bats going, scoring four runs on three hits while taking advantage of three Berry errors. Bates got its first run when freshman Sam Berry singled up the middle, allowing Ryan Sonberg to score.
From there, the floodgates opened as the Cats scored seven runs over three innings. Bates junior Brad Reynolds started on the bump, shutting out Berry College for three innings before giving way to freshman reliever Sam Warren. Warren went two innings before freshman Connor Colombo finished it out. For the Bobcats in game 1, catcher Mekae Hyde drove in two runs while junior Kevin Davis drove in a game-high three. Overall, the Bobcats outhit the Vikings 22-7.
“The strengths of the team this year is our defense and pitching, as well as our leadership,” explained Sonberg. “We are going to play fundamentally sound baseball,” he added.
In the second game of the series, it was a much closer contest for Leonard’s squad. Kevin McGregor led the way with his 4-for-4 performance, getting things started in the first with a single. The Cats got the first run in the opening stanza on a bases loaded walk by Jeff Gunn. Junior starter Chris Fusco held the Vikings scoreless through three, but allowed a lone Berry run in the fourth. In the top of fifth, Bates exploded for three runs on two hits along with two wild pitches.
After giving up the lead late in the game, the Bobcats were able to score in the top of seventh and turn a game-ending double play with the bases loaded in the bottom half to stymie a Berry comeback attempt. Tewksbury had a 2-for-4 game, recording an RBI and a run. Four pitchers saw time on the mound for the Bobcats. Reliever Sam Maliska got the win and Dean Bonneau closed the door on the Vikings, recording the save.
After a couple days of rainouts, the team was able to get back on the diamond and take on Oglethorpe. Bates looked dead in the water, falling behind 9-4 by the time the eighth inning rolled around. Ryan Sonberg closed the gap hitting a solo homer before Bates opened up the floodgates in the ninth. Davis, McGregor, and sophomores Alex Parker and Pajka began the inning with four consecutive hits.
Sam Warren grounded out to second, scoring Parker on the play. Sonberg evened things up when he reached on a fielder’s choice while the Petrels failed to throw out Pajka at home. Bates would score five more runs in the inning, securing the 14-9 victory. Sonberg had a game-high four RBI while starter Spinosa went 3.1 innings, allowing one run on four hits. Freshman Mark Cunningham got the victory.
The next day, Bates had three games, starting with a double header against Emory. In game 1, the Bobcats scored three runs in the top of the seventh, erasing Emory’s 4-2 lead. Pinch hitter Mekae Hyde got things started with a lead off walk followed by Sonberg and Davis reaching base on intentional walks. Griff Tewksbury singled to left, starting the rally, which eventually led to a 5-4 Bates lead. Dean Bonneau was flawless in the bottom of the seventh, recording his second save of the trip and preserving the 5-4 victory.
In all, both Steve Burke and Kevin McGregor had three hits in four plate appearances with Burke, as well as Tewksbury, both two RBIs. Tom Baroni and Chris Ward toed the rubber for the Bobcats, before giving way to Bonneau.
In the latter contest, Emory scored five runs in the first inning and didn’t give up the lead behind strong pitching from two Eagles freshman. The only runs for the Bobcats came in the top of the first after Sonberg scored on a Tewksbury sacrifice fly. Bates then went on to get two more runs in the second and fifth innings. But, that was all they were able to muster as Emory eventually won 6-3.
In the third contest of the day, Bates took on Oglethorpe. For the game, the Bobcats were held to three hits, one apiece by Warren, Burke, and Berry. Bates trailed 2-1 after scoring a run in the top of the sixth. Junior southpaw Brad Reynolds gave up two runs to Oglethorpe in the bottom half of that inning before giving up three more the inning after. Overall, it was a messy game for Bates, who committed five errors.
“We think that this year’s team is the most talented team we’ve had in our four years at Bates,” added McGregor. “The team chemistry is better then it’s ever been.”
Overall, it was a successful five-day trip for the Bates Bobcats, who finished 4-3 overall. With a mixture of seasoned upperclassmen and talented youth, the team figures to be in the mix for the NESCAC crown.
“I thought we held our own with some very good teams in Georgia,” believes senior Sonberg. “There are things that we as a team and individually can continue to improve on, but our goal is to be playing our best ball when we play Tufts at the end of March.”
The team returns to action March 9th against Middlebury.