College Softball: Bates lets lead slip, splits with Thomas

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Bates catcher Tori Fitzgerald tags out Thomas College’s Kayla Bess as she tries to score during the first of Monday afternoon’s double header in Lewiston.After gobbling up a grounder by Thomas College batter Lauren Farina, left, Bates third baseman Julia Panepinto fires to first base for a force out during the first game of Monday’s doubleheader in LewistonBates College’s Julia Panepinto slides into home to score a run after a wild pitch during Monday’s game against Thomas College in Lewiston.Bates right fielder India Woolmington lunges to make a catch on a fast sinking pop fly during the first game of a doubleheader against Thomas College.Bates shortstop Maddie Inlow gets into position to scoop up a grounder before throwing out a Thomas College batter during the first game of a doubleheadder in Lewiston.Bates’ Paige Ahlholm drops down a bunt during Monday’s game against Thomas College.

LEWISTON — Thomas softball coach Terry Parlin knew exactly what his team was facing when Bates freshman pitcher Kirsten Pelletier stepped into the circle against his squad on Monday.

Pelletier, a former Messalonskee standout who has attended Parlin’s clinics in the past, pitched the way Parlin expected she would. But thankfully for the Terriers, she didn’t pitch all 14 innings of a non-conference doubleheader.

Thomas plated four runs in the fifth inning of the second game, against Bates sophomore pitcher Sam Fellers, to earn a split of the twinbill at Lafayette Street Field.

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Pelletier pitched a complete-game shutout for a 2-0 victory in the opener, then the Terriers held on for a 4-3 win in the nightcap.

“I think we thought we were a better team, hitting-wise, than what we showed,” Parlin said. “It just seemed to be a day when we just couldn’t get anything to happen, and then all of a sudden in one inning they all kind of hit at the right time. The name of this game, if you can bunch everything together you can score some runs. We’re happy with the way they did it. It’s one of our struggles at this point is to score runs.”

Fellers was matching Pelletier with a goose egg in the run column through four innings, scattering just a pair of hits. She struck out Kayla Bess to lead off the fifth, but Chiara Stone, former Mt. Blue standout Lauren Guppy and Cassie Contigiani followed with consecutive shallow singles to the outfield to load the bases. Fellers induced an out at home on Katie Taylor’s grounder to third, but Courtney Veilleux and Korrie Laren each smacked two-RBI hits to swing the Terriers from a 3-0 deficit to a 4-3 lead.

Fellers got out of the inning by getting Sydney LeBourveau to ground out back to her, then she allowed a lead-off single by Lexi Colpack to start the sixth before Pelletier came in to face Bess with a 2-1 count.

“We’re working Sam on really hitting her spin pitches consistently, especially in those later innings,” Bates coach McKell Barnes said. “And I think when she can do that more consistently, she’s going to see that success in the full seven innings, rather than just the first or the second time through the lineup.”

The Bobcats’ (6-8) offense, which left 10 runners on base in the first four innings, was able to muster just one base runner across the fifth and sixth against Thomas reliever Haley Littlefield.

A pair of two-out singles in the bottom of the seventh gave Bates some hope, but Littlefield got Tori Fitzgerald to ground out to end the second game.

“I thought Haley did a great job. We’ve kind of decided she’s our go-to player in later innings, in relief,” Parlin said. “She has a specific pitch that’s really tough to hit I think, a drop ball on the outside corner. So I think that played into our hands. But we were on the edge all the time and made just enough plays to get through the game.

“It’s one of those games where you’re just happy to leave town with a win after that.”

The Terriers (4-16) were in a 2-0 hole after the first inning of the second game. Andrea Russo led off the bottom of the first with a triple against Thomas starter Chelsea Hale, then scored on an illegal pitch. Julia Panepinto walked on four pitches, then stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch before later scoring on a double-steal attempt with Maddie Inlow — who also drew a walk.

“You always want to put the pressure on the other team, right? Early and often, we always talk about that,” said Barnes. “I thought we had really good baserunning. Certainly some things helped us in those first two innings to score those runs, but I think it was a good start. Putting that pressure on them early is a huge advantage going into the rest of the game.”

The Bobcats singled three times in the third to score another run, with Inlow driving in Russo. But that was it for the Bates offense. Hale settled in, then gave way to Littlefield with two outs in the fourth.

“I’m confident that the more games we’re playing in a groove the better our offense will be, and we’ll start stroking some of those spark-the-bat hits, or scoring some of those runners that we left on today,” Barnes said.

Bates got on the board early in game one, as well. Russo led off with a single against LeBourveau and stole second, and Inlow drove her in with a single through the left side of the infield.

That was enough run support for Pelletier, who scattered four hits — including just one through the first four innings — while striking out nine against just one walk.

“She’s a next-step-up pitcher as far as I’m concerned. She’s got the change of speed, she locates real well, she’s got the movement pitches,” Parlin said. “I think the location was maybe the biggest thing that I always feared because I know in clinics we were talking a lot about locating, and that’s just exactly what she did today. I knew that we would be in trouble if we were going to try to score a lot more runs once she came back in the second game.”

The Bobcats added an insurance run in the third, with Panepinto collecting a one-out single before later scoring on a wild pitch by LeBourveau. They had chances to score more in the sixth and seventh innings, but stranded five combined runners, including four in scoring position.

The doubleheader was the start of nine games in six days for the Bobcats, who were finally playing their first game at home.

“We look at it as ‘let’s go.’ We’re ready,” Barnes said. “This is what we’ve been preparing for all year, is this. I think building off today is just getting those at-bats under our belt. Kind of getting this feeling of ‘crap, we really let that second game slip through our fingers.’ Sometimes you got to feel that so that you don’t want to feel it again. And coming back tomorrow and understanding that we have to go and grab it, rather than sit on our heels and wait for it to come to us.”

wkramlich@sunjournal.com

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