Tufts freshman southpaw Tim Superko snuffed Bates’bid for another seventh-inning rally for a 4-2 win in Game 2 that earned the Jumbos the right to host the four-team tournament.

But even though the Bobcats fell shy of their goal to host, a split with the top-ranked team in the conference gives them something to build on for their first conference playoff appearance in the program’s history.

“We went out there today and knocked around two really good pitchers,” said Bates junior right fielder Nate Pajka, whose two-run triple tied Game 1 with the Bobcats down to their final out. “We’re not discouraged whatsoever (with the loss in Game 2). We played a good game. They just got two more runs than us.”

Bates rallied from a 5-0 deficit to win Game 1, 6-5, scoring two in the seventh to tie it before Kevin Davis won it with a sacrifice fly.

Junior catcher Mekae Hyde of Lewiston led Bates (19-15, 7-5 NESCAC)  offensively going 4-for-7 on the day with two doubles, three runs scored and two RBIs. Senior left fielder Steve Burke went 3-for-6 with three RBIs, a run scored and a big outfield assist in Game 1.

Connor McDavitt led Tufts (28-5, 9-3) going 4-for-6 with a double, a run scored and three RBIs.

After digging themselves into an early hole in the opener, the Bobcats found themselves facing a 3-0 deficit after an inning-and-a-half of the nightcap.

Bates finally broke through against Superko in the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Davis and Hyde and an RBI single by Burke to make it 3-2.

The Jumbos plated an insurance run on Max Freccia’s RBI single in the sixth. Davis and Hyde singled to lead off the bottom of the frame, but Superko emerged unscathed with a ground out to third, a soft liner to second and a fly out to center.

“The defense was awesome all day,” Superko said. “I just trust the guys behind me, throw pitches and let them hit it and good things happen.”

Superko scattered nine hits and walked one while striking out three for the complete game win.

With one out in the seventh, he hit a batter and allowed a single to Samuel Warren, but got Griff Tewksbury to pop out to short and clean-up hitter Davis to fly out to left to end it.

“He was a tough out. He’s been grinding all day,” Superko said of Davis. “Really, the plan of the day was to just keep the ball down, establish the fastball and then change his eye-line with the curve ball. But the last pitch was just a fastball knee-high that luckily we got him out with.”

“They capitalized more than we did in Game 2, but we had every opportunity to win the game,” Bates coach Mike Leonard said. “We got good pitching. We just didn’t get timely hitting when we needed to get five runs.”

Lack of timely hitting plagued Bates early in the opener. The Bobcats loaded the bases with no one out in the first but came up empty, then stranded a runner at second in the second.

Tufts, meanwhile, touched Bates starter Brad Reynolds for three in the second on RBI singles by Cody McCallum and McDavitt, then added two more in the third on an error and RBI single by Tom Petry.

The Bobcats finally broke through for three runs against Kyle Slinger in the third on Hyde’s RBI single and Burke’s two-run single to make it 5-3.

Reynolds (7 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 7 K, 3 BB) settled down and kept the Jumbos off the board the rest of the way, allowing the Bobcats to rally for two off reliever Tom Ryan in the seventh.

Hyde started it with a two-out double. After Burke walked, Pajka pulled his triple down the right field line to tie it.

“I was just looking for a pitch that I could handle,” Pajka said. “He’d just thrown me a first-pitch curve ball. He was throwing a lot of curve balls, so I sat on it and was lucky to get a good piece.”

Tufts loaded the bases with one out against Dean Bonneau in the eighth. James Howard then lifted a fly ball to medium depth left field, where Burke caught it and fired a strike to the plate. McCallum tried to leap over Hyde to get to the plate, but the Bates catcher had braced himself for whatever the Tufts runner had planned.

“I was remembering all of the times I got run over at home plate. I thought he was going to run me over,” Hyde said. “When he tried jumping over me, I was just ready to put the tag on.”

Bates loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth against Ryan. Davis hit a 3-2 pitch to deep left and Rockwell Jackson scored easily from third with the game-winner.

“One of the cool things about having the senior leadership that we do is that it doesn’t really matter what happens early in the game, our guys know that we’ve got to play the whole game,” Leonard said. “They’re going to battle the entire time because they know they can come back and win.”

Bates wraps up its regular season with non-conference doubleheaders against Suffolk and St. Joseph’s this week, then will face West Division winner Wesleyan in the NESCAC playoffs on Friday. Tufts will face Amherst in the other game of the double-elimination tournament.

“It will be a good tournament. The four teams that are in it are all very, very good,” said Leonard, whose team clinched a playoff berth last week. “That was our goal. We wanted to make the NESCAC playoffs. It had never happened and we had been close last year. I think everybody here that experienced that season felt a little sour taste not achieving it. But our guys have bonded together. They’re absolutely a team in every sense of the word, and our seniors especially.”


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