WATERVILLE — Three games that could have gone either way.
Things went the way of Bates College in all three as the Bobcats swept a New England Small College Athletic Conference Eastern Division doubleheader on Saturday at Colby College, 4-3 in nine innings in the opener, and 6-3 in the seven-inning nightcap.
Added to Bates’ 3-2 extra-innings win over Bowdoin on Friday, the Bobcats improved to 10-5 overall, and more importantly 6-0 in division play midway through the 12-game conference slate.
For Bowdoin, this was a lost weekend, where a bounce here, a key hit there, might have turned the tide the way of the Polar Bears.
“I thought (Bates) had one more big hit, one more big play and one more big pitch each game,” Bowdoin coach Mike Connolly said. “These were great games, but it was theirs to win. The better team is the one that gets the timely hit, and they did that better than us over these three games.”
With snow and ice covering both Bowdoin’s and Bates’ fields, the series was moved to Colby’s turf field.
After Bates starting pitcher Connor Russell and Bowdoin hurler Brandon Lopez pitched two scoreless innings, both teams scored a run in the third.
Ryan McCarthy was hit by a pitch, went to second on a sacrifice bunt, to third on a wild pitch and to home on an RBI ground out by Brendan Fox.
The Polar Bears answered, with Colby Joncas plating Lopez with an RBI single.
Bates didn’t wait long to go back ahead. In the fourth, Asher MacDonald doubled on a long drive to right field. A Bowdoin error scored MacDonald, and Kyle Carter scored McCarthy with a single for a 3-1 Bates lead.
Bowdoin drew to 3-2 in the fourth off of Russell, with Nick Sadler picking up an RBI, scoring Connor Lee.
Russell, who went four innings on seven hits and one walk, was relieved by Justin Foley to start the fifth. The righty struck out the first two Polar Bears that he faced, but watched Jack Wilhoite drive a 1-0 pitch over the left-center field wall for a 3-3 deadlock.
But, Foley was strong from there, allowing just two more hits the rest of the way in earning the win. He struck out seven Polar Bears.
Foley described the pitch that Wilhoite launched some 390 feet.
“That was the first and only two-seam I threw today,” said Foley, who bounced back well from the home run. “I had a short memory, and I just went after the next guy and pitched one inning at a time.”
Lopez pitched eight innings for Bowdoin, allowing three runs, one earned, on six hits and three strikeouts.
Bates quickly rallied against Bowdoin relief pitcher Ryan Dixon in the ninth. Will Sylvia singled to open the frame. McCarthy dropped a bunt, with Dixon’s throw to first bouncing into right field, putting two Bobcats into scoring position. Carter followed with a sacrifice fly off of Bowdoin righty Seamus Keenan for the game-winning run.
Foley retired the Polar Bears in order in the ninth to close out the win.
Bates again struck first in the nightcap. In the second, Sylvia’s two-run triple and an RBI single by Carter gave the Bobcats a 3-0 advantage.
Bowdoin chipped away at its deficit against Bates starter Tony Telesca. In the third, Nick Sadler walked and stole second. One out later, Joe Gentile tripled to left field.
Bowdoin completed its comeback in the fifth. Eric Mah dribbled a slow roller for an infield single and Sadler doubled him home to trim Bates’ lead to 3-2. Lopez followed with a game-tying double.
But, Bates had one more push left. Jack Arend doubled with one out, followed by singles from Dan Trulli, MacDonald, Sylvia and McCarthy as the Bobcats claimed a 6-3 lead in the sixth.
Matt Doyle and Alex Simon closed it out for Bates, with Simon earning the save. Telesca picked up the win, going five innings, with three strikeouts, two walks and five hits allowed. Hitters 6-9 in the Bates lineup (Arend, Trulli, MacDonald, Sylvia) combined to go 9-for-12 at the plate in the second game.
“This is the best start that we have had, sweeping Colby and Bowdoin. We have two more series to go after this, and I think we can keep rolling,” Foley said.
“We have to play more competitive in longer stretches,” said Connolly, who threw four pitchers in the nightcap. “Pitching wise, we need to be more consistent. Some of the runs we gave up this weekend were the result of giving up extra 90s. They will learn that nothing is given in this league.”
Connolly praised the play of Bates.
“They are playing great and they deserved all three games this weekend,” Connolly said.
Gentile was 5-for-8 at the plate in the two games to pace the Polar Bears, who are scheduled to host Brandeis on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Lopez had three hits on the day, including a pair of doubles.
Sylvia had a team-high four hits in the doubleheader, while MacDonald and Trulli were both 3-for-5 for Bates.