LEWISTON — For nine innings, the University of Maine at Farmington virtually silenced Bates’ potent offense. Jake Simon took care of that with one very loud swing.
Simon blasted Ryan DiPompo’s first pitch for a three-run home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Bobcats a thrilling 4-1 victory over the gutty Beavers at Leahey Field Thursday.
Bates, off to its best start in more than a decade, improved to 9-3 with the win. UMF dropped to 0-7.
Ethan Jean, UMF’s fourth pitcher of the day, gave up a single to Tom Beaton and a walk to Gordy Webb to start the 10th. After a Chris Burke fly to left moved Beaton to third, Jean gave way to DiPompo, from Jay.
Simon wasted no time greeting him with a towering home run, his fifth of the season, well over the orange net fence in left.
“He throws a lot of cutters. I was looking for a cutter and it was either a cutter or a slider,” Simon said. “Usually when a new pitcher comes in, they look to just get that first one over, so I was just saying to myself, ‘If he throws a strike, get a good swing on it and try to get a sac fly,’ and I squared it up.”
“We haven’t had a tight one since we beat Richard Stockton 2-1 down in South Carolina the first week, so to play in a close game, hopefully we can build upon that,” said Bates coach Edwin Thompson, whose team opens its NESCAC schedule at home against Tufts on Friday.
The game looked like a mismatch on paper. Bates came into the game batting .370, UMF just .160. The Bobcats were scoring nearly 10 runs a game. The Beavers’ team ERA was nearly eight.
But UMF starter Brandon Gallagher found a groove after surrendering a leadoff triple to Simon and an RBI single to Noah Lynd that put Bates up 1-0 in the second. Gallagher scattered five hits over six innings and walked just two while fanning two.
“I was very pleased with Brandon Gallagher. I thought he pitched very well,” UMF coach Dick Meader said.
“We got great pitching and fielded well. We just struggled at the plate,” he added.
The Beavers had several chances against a steady march of Bobcat pitchers. In the third, they had runners at second and third with one out before Ryan Horvath buckeled down and got Russ Schmelzer of Winthrop to pop out to the shortstop and Phineas Peake to strike out swinging. An inning later, Connor McNeill ripped a two-out triple against Karl Alexander, but Alexander struck out Kyle Shea swininging to strand him. UMF left six runners on between the third and sixth innings.
The Bobcats used a different pitcher to start every inning before Ryan Heide came on in the ninth and pitched two scoreless innings (two hits, four Ks) to pick up his fourth win of the season. The first eight pitchers combined to limit the Beavers to four hits while striking out five and issuing three walks.
“It’s hard to get an extended look, obviously,” said Meader, whose team will look for its first win with a non-conference tilt at St. Joe’s today. “But still, they’ve got to come out and throw strikes and we didn’t look to take many pitches. We could have done a little bit better job of allowing them to beat themselves. Guys are worried about getting deep in the count, but you’ve got to feel comfortable there.”
Bates threatened to break the game open in the seventh against UMF reliever Will Griffiths of Mechanic Falls. Sophomore third baseman Mike Ciummei (two hits) cracked an opposite field double to lead off the frame, then Kevin McGregor walked.
The pair took second and third on a double steal, but Griffiths, who has been battling elbow problems and was making his first appearance of the season, fanned Pat Murphy. Tom Beaton beat out an infield single to load the bases, but then Webb fouled out to the catcher. Dale Winchenbach relieved Griffiths and got Burke to pop out to the shortstop to preserve the one-run deficit.
The fired-up Beavers tied it in the eighth. Demitrios Gatzogiannis, the Bobcats eighth pitcher of the day, hit Schmelzer to start the inning. Schmelzer stole second, then went to third on Peake’s infield hit, and scored on a wild pitch to make it 1-1. With Peake representing the go-ahead run at second, Matt Levine flew out to left. Gatzogiannis intentionally walked Josh Garneau. then got McNeill on a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play as Webb threw out Peake trying to swipe third.
“We didn’t win games like this last year,” Simon said. “It doesn’t matter who you beat. To get a win is to get a win.”