BOWDOIN COLLEGE starting pitcher Henry Van Zant leads the Polar Bears against rival Bates College this weekend in a key Eastern Division series.

BOWDOIN COLLEGE starting pitcher Henry Van Zant leads the Polar Bears against rival Bates College this weekend in a key Eastern Division series.

BRUNSWICK

If fans add up the numbers for the start and the finish of the Bowdoin College baseball team’s recently completed Florida excursion, things were not good.

The Polar Bears began the early March trip with four losses in their first five games, and ended the same way.

But, a solid mid-trip stretch, including a threegame winning streak that featured a Polar Bears scoring advantage of 41-13, allowed Bowdoin to come home with a 5-8 mark and showed what the Polar Bears are capable of when the team clicks.

“We played really good defense and had stretches of really good baseball,” said Bowdoin coach Mike Connolly. “We ran into the injury bug, but I thought we weathered things OK. It was a grind, with 13 games in 13 days, and that seemed to wear us down.”

Once returning home, Bowdoin went inside, first to practice at Farley Field House, then to Northboro, Mass., to face New England Small College Athletic Conference Eastern Division rival Tufts for three games inside the New England Baseball Complex. The Polar Bears and Jumbos split last Friday’s doubleheader, with Bowdoin hurler Henry Van Zant going the distance in an opening 6-1 win. He allowed just four hits and was named the NESCAC Co- Pitcher of the Week.

Outside of Van Zant, who sports a sterling 1.71 earnedrun average and 2-1 record with 23 strikeouts and just three walks, the Polar Bears’ pitching staff has struggled, entering Sunday’s doubleheader against Bates with a 5.59 team ERA while allowing opponents to hit .293. Erik Jacobsen has pitched a team-leading 26.2 innings. He has a 1-3 record, 5.40 ERA, 21 strikeouts and three walks. Juniors Harry Ridge (1-2, 4.63 ERA) and Michael Staes (1-0, 2.84 ERA) have provided some solid starts.

“Henry is pitching great,” said Connolly. “He has been in a groove and has stayed within himself. He will be tough down the stretch. As for our staff, we need to not panic and stay confident. We have to pound the zone and continue to play good defense. That will lead to our success.”

Tufts bounced back for a 6-0 victory in the Friday nightcap, and rolled to a 10-1 victory on Monday to take two-of-three in the all-important conference battle, dropping the Polar Bears to 6-10 overall. With nine conference games remaining, including this weekend’s double dip against Bates College at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire (Sunday, 1 p.m.), the Polar Bears need to get on a roll. The two top two teams in the NESCAC Eastern Division advance to the NESCAC Tournament.

“Every weekend is a playoff weekend,” said Connolly. “I have been here for 17 years, and the NESCAC season always plays out the same. If you win a weekend series, two out of three, you own the tiebreaker with that team. It almost always come down to tiebreakers at the end.

“All five teams in the East are really good and extremely competitive with each other. The teams are going to beat each other up, and it will likely come down to that last weekend. The key is winning that first game of each series.”

Bowdoin has been led at the top of the lineup by senior second baseman Aaron Rosen, who sports a .404 batting average with eight runs scored, three doubles, three home runs and six RBIs. In the series against Tufts, Rosen was 6- for-12 (.500).

Seniors Cole DiRoberto (third baseman, .333, six runs, three doubles, nine RBIs), Tom Wells (outfield, .234, four runs, five doubles, five RBIs), Buddy Shea (catcher, .242, five runs) and Jacobsen (infielder/pitcher, .290, three runs, three doubles, four RBIs) have contributed, along with junior first baseman Chad Martin, who has a team-leading 15 RBIs and 12 runs scored, along with four doubles and three dingers. Sophomore shortstop Sean Mullaney is hitting .304 with 10 runs and eight RBIs as Bowdoin is hitting .286 as a team.

“Our hitters had great approaches,” said the Bowdoin coach. “Aaron has been playing great. Every at-bat he seems to be locked in and squaring the ball up.”

Bowdoin will be busy over the final month of the regular season, which is slated to end May 3. After facing Bates, conference games the rest of the way include Trinity (home April 17-18) and Colby (home April 24, at Colby for doubleheader April 25).

At Pickard Baseball Field, Bowdoin is also slated to host St. Joseph’s College (Thursday), the University of Southern Maine (April 28) and Middlebury (doubleheader, May 2). The Polar Bears are on the road a ton. Bowdoin visits USM in make-up action on Wednesday, is at Wesleyan April 11 for a doubleheader, Husson for two games on April 14 and the regular season finale on May 3 at St. Joseph’s.


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