It’s never confused with March Madness, but the NCAA baseball tournament awards automatic bids with the same wacky conference tournaments that make college basketball second-to-none during mud season.

That clean slate inevitably gives at least one school the momentum to turn around a middle-of-the-pack campaign and excel when it matters most.

Lewiston High School graduate Ron Plourde filled out the lineup card for one such resurgent team in this year’s Division III baseball tourney.

Plourde guided Skidmore College of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to its third Liberty League championship in his eight-year tenure and its second NCAA berth in the last three seasons.

Little more than two weeks ago, that finishing kick seemed miles away from reality. But the Thoroughbreds (aptly named for another major attraction in Saratoga) scratched out a No.4 seed in the conference playoff and then threw their weight around as if they’d been the favorite all along.

In its final three contests, Skidmore edged St. Lawrence, 6-3; eliminated No. 1 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 10-3; and routed St. Lawrence in the title game, 11-3.

Winners of seven straight games after a 13-18 start, Skidmore scored the sixth seed in the New York Regional.

The Thoroughbreds were scheduled to open with St. John Fisher, weather permitting, on Wednesday afternoon.

Plourde also steered Skidmore to a conference crown in his first season of 1999. Prior to his first major head coaching position, Plourde was a four-year letter winner at Saint Joseph’s College.

He later coached at the Standish school under his mentor, Will Sanborn, for four seasons.

Best in class

Three area baseball players ended their college careers last weekend as part of Bowdoin’s winningest class in school history.

Nick Lawler of Auburn (Edward Little), Tyler Turgeon of Auburn (St. Dom’s) and Mike Buckley of Manchester (Maranacook) were part of a group that captured 90 victories over the last four seasons.

Each enjoyed a solid farewell campaign.

Lawler batted .277 with four home runs and 22 RBIs. Turgeon swung the bat at a .261 clip and was the Polar Bears’ stopper in the bullpen, winning twice and spinning six saves with a 2.86 ERA.

Buckley batted a steady .280, belted a home run and also emerged as a dependable reliever (1-0, 4.26).

Bowdoin tumbled 11-6 against Tufts in the New England Small College Athletic Conference tournament, concluding with an 18-16 mark.

Another trio of locals will return next spring. Tyler’s younger brother Ryan Turgeon led the staff with five victories as a junior. Lewiston’s Luke Potter was steady as a freshman, posting a deceiving 1-3 record with a stingy 3.43 ERA. And junior first baseman Patrick Duchette of Wales (Oak Hill) knocked in 16 runs while batting a robust .340.

Sailing through another season

Mt. Blue High School products Nate Bolduc and Garrett Lake anchored a solid men’s lacrosse season at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, catching all-North Atlantic Conference honors in the process.

Bolduc scored five goals and chalked up an assist in a 17-1 victory over Becker College to round out the docket. It was the Mariners’ fourth win against six losses, and their third triumph in league play.

Lake, a junior attacker, rifled home 24 goals and dished out four assists on his way to first-team NAC recognition.

Bolduc, also a junior, snagged a second-team award in the midfield, coupling 16 goals with seven assists.

She’s good, she’s nationwide

Amy Sarrazin of Lewiston capped her tennis career at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., with what became a familiar refrain: An NCAA Division I tournament appearance against one of the top programs in the nation.

Northeast Conference champion Quinnipiac dropped a 4-0 decision to UCLA in the opening round of the national tourney, wrapping up its season at 12-7.

The Bobcats ruled the league and received an NCAA berth in each of Sarrazin’s four years, losing three of those encounters to a team from the Pacific-10 Conference.

Sarrazin received all-conference laurels for the second time in her career, pairing with fellow senior Danielle Rodriguez for a NEC second-team nod at No. 3 doubles. Sarrazin and Rodriguez reached the first team as sophomores with a sterling 11-3 mark.

Although more celebrated for her doubles work, Sarrazin posted a 9-4 singles record over her final two seasons.

Bates update

Matt Capone of Auburn (Edward Little) set a personal record of 49.75 seconds in the 400-meter dash at the Open New England meet in Hanover, N.H., last weekend. Capone placed seventh in the all-division event.

Bates’ Noah Gauthier won the hammer throw and wound up eighth in the shot put. The pair will compete this weekend at the ECAC Championship in Oneonta, N.Y.

It has been a memorable spring on the water for the Bobcats, who will send two women’s crews of eight to the NCAA Rowing Championships for the first time. That event is scheduled for May 25 and 26 in Tennessee.

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