Baseball season review: Cats could take a leap forward
|Gordy Webb ’11 became Bates’ first NESCAC Baseball Player of the Week since 2004.|
The 2009 baseball season was a roller coaster one for a very young and inexperienced Bates team. Following the loss of seven everyday starters and two primary pitchers from a year ago, the Bobcats had seven sophomores, a freshman and a junior as everyday starters.
The Bobcats experienced some growing pains but they also played one of the toughest schedules in recent memory, playing nine teams that made their conference playoffs, including a three-game series against Division II University of West Georgia. Eight of Bates’ opponents posted 19 wins or more, with four teams that won 30-plus games. Bates also hosted the the top-ranked team in the country in the University of Southern Maine and the No. 5-ranked team in the country in Trinity — in all, three teams that competed in the the NCAA tournament and one that went on to the College World Series (Trinity). The Bobcats were competitive in their games, losing by two runs or less in 11 games.
Chris Burke ’11 set the team’s single-season records for hits and singles while driving in 33 runs.
“This year we saw what it was like to play against some of the best teams in the country,” said first-year head coach Edwin Thompson. “We want to challenge ourselves by playing a tough non-conference schedule, because it helps us prepare for NESCAC play.”
The Bobcats won a conference series for the first time in three years after beating Colby two out of three, ultimately finishing 12-22. The Bobcats lost five games in conference play by two runs or less.
“Next year we will learn how to win those close games,” said Thompson. “In our conference you have to take advantage of every opportunity you have. This year we didn’t execute when it mattered, and that’s why we struggled.”
Although at times the Bobcats played inconsistently, when they played to their ability they were able to play right along with any opponent. The Cats beat two NESCAC playoff teams in Tufts and Wesleyan. The team also had the longest winning streak in the program since 2004.
Other season highlights included sophomore Gordy Webb becoming the team’s first NESCAC Player of the Week since 2004.
The record book was also a place that got a lot of work in this year. Senior captain Ben Shwartz capped off a terrific career by tying for team record for the most career starts with 27. Senior Chuck Murphy-Romboletti rewrote the record books to become the program’s best relief pitchers, setting the season record of most games pitched in relief with 16, as well as career records for most appearances (42) and most games pitched in relief (35).
Sophomore Chris Burke had one of the best offensive seasons in the history of the program, breaking the single-season record with most hits 52 and most singles in a season with 41. He also had a hitting streak of 18 games and got hits in 31 out of 34 games. In the NESCAC he was seventh in batting, hitting .406, and fifth in total hits. He also had the most RBIs (33) by a Bobcat in over a decade. For his efforts, Burke was selected as an All-NESCAC member the first in the program since 2005.
The team right away showed signs of Coach Thompson’s philosophy of being aggressive, stealing a school-record and conference-leading 66 bases. Leading the way was junior Tom Beaton, who led the conference in stolen bases with 19, while also ranking fourth in the league in walks with 23. Murphy-Romboletti led the conference in appearances with 17, and most games in relief with 16. The pitching staff also broke a team record for the most strikeouts in a season with 181 and most pitchers used in a season, at 14.
“We’ll return 21 players and only two senior players from this year’s team,” said Thompson. “It will be interesting to see how hard they work to improve so we can have better success in 2010. Our goals for our program will never change: we want to get into the NESCAC playoffs, win that and go on to the NCAA Regionals. We have to put our hard hats on and get to work.”