On a bus ride back to campus Tuesday after two games in central Massachusetts, Bowdoin College infielder Nick Merrill was holding out hope that the coronavirus outbreak would not end his team’s baseball season.

Reality hit with a thud on Wednesday morning.

Bowdoin announced students would not be allowed back on campus after the spring break and that its spring semester would be completed through remote learning. All spring sports at the school will come to an end by Saturday.

“It’s crazy how out of control it is for us. We literally have no control,” said Merrill, a sophomore from Bowdoinham. “And as a student-athlete to have not just athletics but also what I’ve come to know as Bowdoin College schooling taken away on the same day, it’s difficult.”

Bowdoin’s announcement was one of several dramatic measures taken in Maine and across the nation on a day when the World Health Organization deemed the coronavirus a pandemic. Early on Wednesday, the New England Small College Athletic Conference canceled all spring sport conference events, including championships. Bowdoin is one of three Maine colleges that compete in the league, along with Bates and Colby.

Later in the day, the University of Maine System, which includes its flagship Division I school in Orono and the University of Southern Maine, announced all academic activities would be through “distance modalities” as of March 23. Bates also announced that it would terminate spring sports, and the NCAA announced its March Madness men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played without fans.

The full impact on spring sports at UMaine and USM remains unclear but USM’s spring trips for baseball and softball, scheduled to begin this weekend, were canceled on Wednesday, according to Al Bean, USM’s athletic director.

Tyson McHatten, a senior associate director of athletics at UMaine, said Wednesday afternoon that “as of right now, nothing has changed for us” regarding the rest of the school’s athletic schedule.

Even if the schools are allowed to continue with athletics, putting together a schedule will be increasingly difficult as opposing schools halt their athletic programs.

Bates College Athletic Director Jason Fein sent a message to student-athletes and their families Wednesday morning, stating the NESCAC’s decision, combined with the school’s measures to limit travel and exposure to the coronavirus “make it impossible, as a practical matter, to move forward with athletic competition” this spring.

“I realize this is very difficult and disappointing news, particularly for our seniors, who were looking forward to a final season of hard work and competition. I am mindful of just how important the athletic experience is to our students, as teams provide a sense of community, connection, and purpose. However, we find ourselves in a situation where we have an obligation, with respect to all college activities, to mitigate health risks to the Bates community as a whole.”

At Bowdoin, spring teams will be allowed to practice and play through Saturday. The men’s lacrosse team hosted Babson on campus Wednesday night in what might be its last game of the spring. The baseball team is hopeful it can play one final game, Thursday at Colby College in Waterville.

Colby is one NESCAC school that has not reached a decision regarding its spring sports seasons.

Danny Noyes, an associate athletic director/communications, said Colby administrators were meeting throughout Wednesday, but were not yet prepared to make a statement.

Colby College softball coach Terren Allen said she’s talked to the team about the situation.

“We are hoping to have some clarity on the season in the next few days,” Allen said. “This is changing daily, with what’s going on in the world and in our country. We could come up with a plan and then it can change. We just have to take this day by day and see what happens.”

Colby junior track athlete Ben Smith of Winslow said he doubts there will be a spring season.

“At this point, I think most people … understand there’s really no viable option to keep athletics going,” he said. “I’d say everyone here is pretty down about it, but at the same time, I think we really understand that it makes the most sense at this time.”

Meanwhile, some college teams and athletes in Maine are still trying to complete their winter seasons.

The Bowdoin women’s basketball team will be hosting an NCAA Division III sectional tournament Friday and Saturday but no fans will be allowed to attend. The winner of the sectional advances to the national Final Four in Columbus, Ohio, on March 20-21.

The UMaine women’s basketball team will be at Stony Brook University in New York on Friday to play in the America East Conference championship game, with an automatic bid to the Division I NCAA tournament at stake.

Six athletes from the University of Southern Maine, along with their coaches and athletic trainers, traveled Wednesday to NCAA Division III championship events being held later this week.

Senior Peter Del Gallo of Gardiner and junior Brad Beaulieu of Waterboro will represent USM at the national wrestling championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday. Seniors C.J. Moody of Old Town, Adela Kalilwa of Lewiston, sophomore Sophia Slovenski of Cape Neddick and freshman Carson Gross of Livermore will be in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Friday and Saturday at the indoor track and field championships.

Bowdoin freshman baseball player Jack Mullen of Freeport and Cheverus High School said Wednesday’s news hit his team’s seniors particularly hard. Mullen started the first of two games against St. Michael’s on Tuesday, pitching six innings of one-hit ball for his first collegiate win.

“I tried to play well for the seniors,” Mullen said. “Our coach talked about it before the game, that it was not looking good for a full season and you want to play these two games like they were the last of the season.”

Bowdoin won both games, 7-0 and 8-0, to improve to 4-1.

“I do feel for (the seniors),” Mullen said. “I can’t put myself directly in their shoes but thinking back to last year, my senior year in high school and knowing how much I looked forward to that, if that was taken away it would be heartbreaking. Also, we were all so looking forward to this season and we were really optimistic, especially after the first five games.”

— Staff writer Mike Lowe and Kennebec Journal reporters Bill Stewart and Drew Bonifant contributed to this story.


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