Bates spring sports teams reaching new heights
While at least two of Bates’ spring sports teams, men’s track and field and women’s rowing, are in the midst of what is shaping up to be special years, two more have already made 2009 their finest seasons in some time.
The Bates softball team qualified for the NESCAC Championship for the first time in the tournament’s nine-year history, and did so in dramatic fashion on Saturday. Trinity came to Bates for a three-game series needing a sweep to wrest second place in the NESCAC East Division away from the Bobcats. The Bantams came from behind on Friday to take the series’ first game, but on Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader, Bates repaid the favor by scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 8-8 and send it into extra innings. Bates first-year pitcher Kristen Finn held the Bantams scoreless in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings, before classmate Leah Maciejewski delivered an RBI double in the bottom of the 11th, scoring another first-year, Karen Ullmann, with the game-ending run. Bates moves on to the four-team NESCACs this weekend at Tufts, facing NESCAC West champion Wesleyan in the first round.
After several years of just missing NESCACs, Bates women’s lacrosse made it in this year, earning the sixth seed in the eight-team tournament, even despite a pair of heartbreaking, one-goal conference losses along the way to Tufts and Bowdoin. With a nice mix of veteran players, led by senior Caroline Thomas (46 goals, 16 assists in 2009), and standout rookies like Jenna Dannis, Joan O’Neill and Caroline Pierce, Bates went 8-7 in the regular season before falling in the NESCAC quarterfinals at Middlebury on Sunday.
Men’s track and field regularly finished among the top four teams at the NESCAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships, but until last Saturday it hadn’t finished as high as second since 2004. The Bobcats, ranked No. 15 in Division III by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, nipped Tufts by half a point (116.5 to 116.0) to place second out of 11 teams at the meet, held at Connecticut College. Junior Rich McNeil won both the discus throw (141-05) and the hammer throw (170-11) and came in second place in the shot put at 50-02.00, and sophomore Chris Murtagh won the javelin throw for the second consecutive year, with a top throw of 175-07. First-year Candido Bousquet displayed incredible versatility, placing third in the long jump (22-01.75), third in the discus (139-06) and eighth in the shot put (42-00.50).
The women’s track and field team placed fifth at NESCACs, matching its best finish there over the past decade with the 2006 team. Among the team’s highlights, senior Izzy Alexander won the 400-meter hurdles at the meet for the third time in her career, and junior Vantiel Elizabeth Duncan won the shot put and was third in the discus throw.
Women’s rowing, on the heels of two consecutive trips to the NCAA Division III Women’s Rowing Championships, is enjoying a regular season that so far is even better than the previous two. The varsity women’s eight is ranked No. 2 in Division III, second only to Williams, which dealt the Bobcats their first loss of the spring last weekend in Pittsfield, Mass. Bates moved up in the rankings from No. 3 after defeating then-No. 2 Trinity on April 18 in Worcester.
Men’s rowing is also having a strong season. By outrowing quality opponents the likes of New Hampshire, Tufts and Ithaca, the Bobcats have moved up from No. 6 to No. 3 in the New England Rowing Championship coaches’ poll in recent weeks.
ALSO: The men’s lacrosse team had a bit of a tough season, going 4-9, but finished in style, scoring five straight goals to come from behind and win 9-8 at Colby…. Women’s tennis captain and lone senior Caryn Benisch also finished out well, winning at No. 1 singles in a 7-2 setback against Wesleyan…. At 8-19 right now, the baseball team has had its ups and downs. One of the Bobcats’ better games this year was actually a loss, when they got ahead 3-0 before losing 5-3 to the University of Southern Maine, ranked by one Web site as the No. 1 team in Division III. The Bobcats are running the base paths more under the tutelage of first-year head coach Edwin Thompson, and junior Tom Beaton is currently seven short of the single-season Bates record of 23 stolen bases, set by Steve Mrowka in 1984.