Baseball drops 3-2 heartbreaker to Middlebury on first day of NESCAC tournament

Senior captain Brendan Fox steals second base against Middlebury in the NESCAC tournament on Friday, May 12, 2017. (Dean Denis/Colby College)

WATERVILLE, Maine -- The Middlebury Panthers pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the ninth Friday without hitting the ball out of the infield as the Bates baseball team fell 3-2 on the first day of the double elimination NESCAC tournament. 

The Bobcats (16-17) will need to win twice on Saturday to stay alive in the tournament. They will take on the loser of Tufts and Amherst at 10:00 a.m. on the campus of Colby College.

Middlebury (21-14) advances to take on the winner of Tufts and Amherst.

With one out and the game tied at two in the bottom of the ninth, Middlebury's Ryan Rizzo hit a ball that deflected off Bobcat pitcher Connor Speed for an infield single. Andrew Hennings followed with a bunt and barely beat the throw to first for another infield single. After Jason Lock got hit by a pitch, Sam Graf worked a full count and drew a bases loaded walk on a pitch that barely missed the strike zone. The walk scored Rizzo and ended the game with the Panthers prevailing by one run. 

Speed (1-6) entered the game in the eighth inning in relief of starter Anthony Telesca, who delivered an outstanding performance on the mound. Telesca '17 (Holtsville, N.Y) threw seven and a third innings, allowing only two runs while scattering eight hits. He walked four and struck out four as well. 

Speed '18 (San Diego, Calif.) inherited a runner at second base with one out in the eighth and struck out back-to-back hitters to get out of the inning unscathed.

Both teams scored two runs in the first and then neither scored again until the bottom of the ninth. 

Bates got to Panther starter Colby Morris (6-3) thanks to the clutch hitting of first-year Jack Arend (Newfields, N.H.).

First-year Will Sylvia (Newton, Mass.) drew a walk to start the game. One out later, senior captain Brendan Fox (West Hartford, Conn.) smacked a double to left, advancing Sylvia to third.

Then with two down, Arend brought both runners home with a single through the right side of the infield, putting the Bobcats up 2-0.

The Panthers wasted no time tying the game in the bottom of the first. With two outs and nobody on, Lock reached on an infield single. Graf followed with a single to the gap, advancing Lock to third. After Justin Han drew a walk, Alan Guild singled in two to tie the game.

The Panthers recorded 10 hits in the game while Bates finished with four. Middlebury also drew five walks to the Bobcats' one. 

Despite the differential, the game remained tied thanks to Telesca's ability to get out of jams throughout the afternoon.

Meanwhile the Bates offense didn't take advantage of their chances either. Fox singled with two outs in the third but got left stranded. Senior captain Ryan McCarthy (Plaistow, N.H.) reached on an error to start the sixth. After Fox reached on a fielder's choice, he stole second with two away. But Morris got a big strikeout to end the inning.

Senior Brendon Canavan (Carlisle, Mass.) singled to start the  seventh but a failed sacrifice bunt resulted in a double play thanks to a great defensive effort from Morris on the mound. He caught the bunt in the air while sliding toward the foul line. Then he threw back to first to double off Canavan.

Arend got hit by a pitch with two outs in the ninth but a fielder's choice ended the frame.

Morris only gave up two runs on four hits. He pitched to contact, striking out just two batters in a complete game effort. A lot of balls off Bobcat bats went right to Panther fielders.

Fox (2-4 with a double, a run scored and a stolen base) and Arend (1-3 with two runs batted in and a hit by pitch) were the offensive stars for Bates on the day. 

Rizzo (2-5 with a run scored), Graf (1-3 with a run scored, a run batted in and two walks) Han (2-2 with a double and two walks), and Guild (2-4 with two runs batted in) led Middlebury offensively.