Baseball improves to 7-0 in conference play, clinches NESCAC tournament bid with 4-1 win over Trinity

Junior Connor Russell shut down Trinity's offense in a 4-1 victory for the Bobcats on Saturday, April 22, 2017. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Junior Connor Russell tossed seven and two thirds innings of two-hit ball and the Bates College baseball team knocked off the Trinity College Bantams by a score of 4-1 Saturday afternoon at Leahey Field. 

With the victory, Bates (12-6, 7-0 NESCAC) clinches a spot in the four-team NESCAC tournament for the third time in the past four years. Trinity (13-13, 3-7 NESCAC) is officially eliminated from NESCAC tournament consideration.

Russell (Cumberland, Maine) earned his second victory of the season and his first NESCAC victory this year with his outstanding performance on the mound. He only struck out one batter but induced weak contact all game long while holding the second highest scoring team in the conference to just a lone unearned run.

Bates gave Russell (2-0) the early lead with a run in the first off Trinity starter Erik Mohl (6-2). 

First-year Kyle Carter (Plantation, Fla.) reached on a one-out single. Then senior Brendon Canavan (Carlisle, Mass.) smacked a single down the left field line to put runners at first and second.

Senior captain Brendan Fox (West Hartford, Conn.) hit a grounder that snuck under the glove of the Trinity second baseman, scoring Carter and advancing Canavan to second.

Mohl got a strikeout and a groundout to limit the damage to just one run.

But the Bobcats added two more runs in the third to extend their lead.

Once again, the combination of Carter and Canavan got Bates rolling. Carter singled to right and Canavan singled to center to start the frame. Fox bunted the runners over and first-year Jack Arend (Newfields, N.H.) singled home Carter to make the score 2-0 in favor of the Bobcats. 

Sophomore Dan Trulli (Melrose, Mass.) hit a grounder to short, the Bantams forced out Arend at second but the throw to first was wide. Trulli reached safely for an RBI fielder's choice as Canavan scored on the play.

Up 3-0, the Bobcats kept the pressure on with another run in the fourth.

Junior Asher MacDonald (Hillsborough, N.C.) singled to left and first-year Will Sylvia (Newton, Mass.) reached on an infield single, putting runners at first and second with nobody out.

Senior captain Ryan McCarthy (Plaistow, N.H.) bunted the runners over and Carter drew a walk to load the bases.

Canavan got ahold of a Mohl pitch and drove the ball to center field, deep enough to score MacDonald from third for the senior's ninth run batted in of the season.

Meanwhile, Russell retired the first eight batters he faced on Saturday before Ben Reinisch singled with two outs in the third. 

The Bantams scored their lone run of the game in the top of the fifth. Christian Orsini singled to start the frame and advanced to second on a Bates error. A groundout moved him to third and Ryan Vultaggio drove him home with a sacrifice fly.

Neither team scored again after the top of the fifth.

Junior Jake Shapiro (Sandy, Utah) entered the game with one on and two outs in the top of the eighth. He struck out Johnny Stamatis to end the frame. Shapiro proceeded to work a scoreless ninth inning, earning his second save of the season. He has yet to allow a run in six and two thirds innings of work this season out of the bullpen.

Carter and Canavan both finished 2-3 on the day at the plate. Carter scored two runs and drew a walk while Canavan scored a run and drove in a run. Bates tallied eight hits and held the Bantams to just two hits on the afternoon.    

Bates plays Trinity Sunday in a doubleheader starting at noon while Tufts and Bowdoin play a single game at noon. 

The Bobcats are currently 1.5 games ahead of the second place Jumbos in the East Division. The Jumbos (21-4-1, 6-2 NESCAC) swept Bowdoin (11-14, 3-5 NESCAC) in a doubleheader on Saturday, assuring the Bobcats of no worse than a second place tie with Bowdoin in the division, a team they swept two weeks ago. The top two teams from each division qualify for the NESCAC tournament and Bates holds the tiebreaker over the Polar Bears due to the aforementioned sweep. Tufts would clinch a tournament bid alongside Bates with a win on Sunday.