WATERVILLE — Bowdoin College coach Mike Connolly got the start he was looking for, both from his team and his starting pitcher.

Max Vogel-Freedman survived a 32-pitch opening frame, throwing six solid innings in the Polar Bears’ 3-1 NESCAC win over rival Bates at Colby College on Friday.

The three-game series, which continues Saturday at noon with a doubleheader, was moved to the home of the Mules due to unplayable field conditions in both Brunswick and Lewiston.

Unlike last season when the Bobcats captured three close wins for the Eastern Division sweep of Bowdoin at Colby, the Polar Bears used a bit of small ball and three key hits to score single runs in the second, sixth and seventh frames.

“We played good defense and had timely hitting,” said Connolly, whose Polar Bears improved to 7-6 (1-0 NESCAC). “Today we got the big hits and hopefully tomorrow we will be in the position to get those timely hits again.”

On the mound, Vogel-Freedman went pitch for pitch with Bates starter Connor Russell. Both went six innings, with Vogel-Freedman allowing one run on six hits with five strikeouts, one walk and two hit batters. Russell struck out three, walked two, also permitted six hits, and two earned runs.

Tough start

Vogel-Freedman retired the first two Bobcats to open the game, but ran into trouble when Dan Trulli doubled off the fence in center field, followed by a 10-pitch walk to Pat Beaton and a hit batter to load the bases. Vogel-Freedman escaped with a ground-ball third out and pitched in and out of trouble over four more scoreless innings.

“Max had to fight through four of his six innings, and he just never gave in and stayed the course,” Connolly said.

“They are a good ball club, and the game was well-played on both sides, and I told my team that in games like that, there are one or two plays on each side of the ball that could be in the first, last inning, or in the middle of the game that need to be made,” Bates coach Jon Martin said. “We had one or two spots where we needed to make a play and we didn’t make it.”

Bowdoin claimed a 1-0 lead in the second. Jack Wilhoite singled to begin the frame, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Nick Sadler. One out later, Colby Joncas delivered a two-out RBI single to left field.

Bates, after leaving six runners on base over the first five innings, scratched the tying run across in the sixth. Beaton singled and moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt by Zach Avila. Jack Arend launched a long double to left-center field to score Beaton.

However, Bowdoin answered in the home half of the sixth, with Connor Lee beating a throw to first on an attempted double play by Bates, scoring Austin Zakow from third with the go-ahead run.

“We knew they were going to stay in the game, and when they tied it up we knew we couldn’t sit back on our heels, so answering was big,” Wilhoite said.

Both teams turned in sterling defensive plays. Bates center fielder Connor DiVincenzo dove to haul in a long fly ball with two Bowdoin runners on base to end the sixth. For the Polar Bears, Vogel-Freedman snatched a line drive back at him to end the Bates fifth.

Bowdoin added an insurance run in the seventh against Bobcats reliever Miles Michaud. Ben Suski reached on the game’s only error and later scored on a ground-rule double by Joe Gentile for a 3-1 Polar Bears lead.

Bowdoin reliever Colby Lewis earned a hold with a hitless seventh, and Wilhoite came on to close out the win, striking out the final hitter with two Bobcats on base, followed by a fist-pump as he and his teammates celebrated a big win.

“It was a great baseball game, just like the three last year against them, and today we got some timely hits and Max, Colby and Jack all pitched great today,” Connolly said. “It was fun to watch Jack fire the baseball and get fired up.”

“The first game really sets the tone for the whole series, so we knew that we had to come out and get this one,” said Wilhoite, who struck out five Bobcats over the final two innings. “It was a tough game, but we pulled it out.

“Last year, they came in here, same park, and swept us, and that one hurt. This one was emotional for us. We really wanted it bad.”

Brandon Lopez, Wilhoite and Lee each had two hits for the Polar Bears, while Connor DiVincenzo was 2-for-4 for the Bobcats.

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