LEWISTON, Maine - Oliver Van Zant tossed eight innings of shutout ball to lead the Bowdoin College baseball team to a 7-5 win over Bates in the opener of a three-game NESCAC series Friday afternoon.
The Polar Bears improve to 10-9 (2-2 NESCAC) with the win as the Bobcats fall to 8-6 (2-2 NESCAC). The teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday in Brunswick beginning at 1:00 p.m.
While Van Zant was scattering five hits and striking out eight for Bowdoin, the Polar Bear bats got to Bates starter Tom Baroni early. Bowdoin assumed a lead it never relinquished in the second inning with a pair of unearned runs. The Polar Bears loaded the bases with three straight one-out singles by Luke Regan, Sam Canales and Aaron Rosen. Baroni induced a ground ball to first base out of Bowdoin DH Harry Ridge, but an errant throw trying to force out Regan at home allowed the first run to cross the plate. Peter Cimini popped up for the second out, but John Lefeber drew an RBI walk to make it 2-0 before Erik Jacobson's lineout ended the inning.
Bowdoin added another run in the third, as Timothy McGarry and Duncan Taylor led off with back-to-back singles, and Regan moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt. Canales followed with an RBI grounder to second to score McGarry, making it 3-0.
Bates didn't see a baserunner reach third base until the seventh inning, when Kevin Davis singled up the middle, moved to second on Steve Burke's infield single, then on to third on Kevin McGregor's groundout, putting Bates runners on second and third with one out. Oliver Van Zant then struck out Jeff Gunn and induced Nate Pajka into a grounder to end the threat.
Baroni came on to start the ninth inning and got the first two outs in short order, but the third out proved elusive. Pinch hitter Kyle LeBlanc hit a sharp grounder toward Bates first baseman McGregor, but the ball took a big hop over McGregor's head and into right field, where it was bobbled, allowing LeBlanc to reach second base as Rosen, who had singled, came home. Lefeber then ripped a double to left field to score LeBlanc, and the two-out rally continued with an RBI single by Jacobson, a hit batsmen, and Taylor's RBI single to right, which widened the gap to 7-0. At that, Aidan Sullivan was summoned in relief of Baroni and got Dan Findley with a groundout to end the damage.
Bowdoin's four insurance runs from the top of the ninth proved essential in the bottom of the ninth, as Bates rallied for five runs (two earned) on four hits off of Bowdoin reliever Dave Bernstein. Pinch hitter Rockwell Jackson led off with a single to right, and moved to second on Davis's groundout. Burke was hit by a pitch, and Bates then had runners at the corners as Burke was cut down on McGregor's fielder's choice. Jeff Gunn then roped a single into right to score Jackson with Bates' first run. Pajka singled into center to score McGregor from second, and the Bobcats stayed alive when Sonberg reached on a throwing error and Gunn scored to make it 7-3. Hyde then came up and singled to center, scoring both Pajka and Sonberg to make it 7-5. Bernstein was then lifted in favor of Henry Van Zant, who rang up the game-ending strikeout of Conor Reenstierna.
McGarry, Taylor and Rosen had two hits apiece among Bowdoin's 11 total. Among Bates' nine hits, both Gunn and Pajka were 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI apiece in the eighth and ninth spots in the batting order.