WATERVILLE — Bowdoin College junior Brendan O’Neil couldn’t have dreamed of a better start to the baseball season. The slugging first baseman was batting .588 through five games and was on the verge of a breakout start to the spring.

And then came the word Wednesday, when the New England Small Colleges Athletic Conference reacted to the spread and rising concern of the coronavirus outbreak, announcing that all conference regular season and postseason play for the spring had been canceled.

Spring was over.

“Tough bounce on that,” he said.

O’Neil spoke before Bowdoin and Colby met in what was supposed to be a sleepy, early-season game, but had instead become a farewell.

The decision to cancel the spring season meant several teams saw their seasons end soon after they began. Furthermore, athletes lost a year of their careers — which for seniors meant their last one.

“It’s obviously not the best-case scenario, whatsoever,” O’Neil said. “I understand it, but it definitely hurts, taking away an entire season from the boys.”

The NESCAC’s decision came via unanimous approval from all conference presidents, and preceded an avalanche of similar decisions made at the local and national levels. Bates and Bowdoin canceled their entire spring seasons. The NCAA announced the cancellation of the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The NBA, and then NHL suspended their seasons.

On Thursday, the bad news got worse. The NCAA took the next step and canceled its winter and spring championships, which ended seasons for the University of Maine women’s basketball and men’s hockey teams. Major League Baseball halted spring training. The sports world came to a standstill.

So the NESCAC’s decision was hardly unique. But that didn’t make it easier for its athletes to accept.

“Personally, for me, I characterize it as a lot of disappointment and I guess a little bit of anger,” O’Neil said. “It’s definitely tough. It’s definitely hard for us, knowing this is going to be the last time we step out on a field as this team.”

“We’ve been here for four years, we’ve worked so hard, so obviously it is difficult to hear that your senior season’s going to get cut short,” Colby outfielder Cam Drew said. “(But) they kind of made the right decision. It’s bigger than just baseball. … It was definitely tough to hear, but I think they made the right decision.”

Drew acknowledged that it was tough to see the good in the decision at first.

“At first, I feel like it’s natural to be angry or upset. We had meetings with coaches, other players, talking about how hard we worked,” he said. “We’ve been doing this since the season ended last year, we’ve been working hard. Me and (senior catcher and pitcher) Taimu (Ito) both had surgery to come back.”

The players were determined to weather the disappointment. There were no slumped shoulders or shuffled gaits in the field. The Bowdoin players posed for a picture before the game. Players tried to go about the afternoon as business as usual, even if it was anything but.

“Any time you get to touch the diamond, you want to play as hard as you possibly can,” O’Neil said. “You’ve got to play every game like it’s your last.”

For Bowdoin, it was. For Colby, which still has games scheduled this weekend, a 5-4 walk-off win provided some memories in a fleeting season.

“We did this for us,” Ito said. “As a team, as a family. … It was an emotional win, for sure.”

SOFTBALL

BATES 5, WHEATON 0: Janell Sato had three hits for Bates (6-1), knocking home two runs and scoring twice, during a victory over Wheaton (2-7) at Clermont, Florida.

Kirsten Pelletier struck out eight over 6 1/3 innings of three-hit ball, with Jevan Sandhu coming on to retire the final two batters for Bates.

Caroline Bass and Mary Collette each had two of the Bobcats’ nine singles, with Bass scoring twice and Collette knocking home a run. Aleah Pagan added two RBI.

SIMMONS 1, BATES 0: Molly Hennessey’s single down the left-field line scored Marissa Santoro in the top of the third, providing all the scoring as the Sharks (6-1) beat the Bobcats (6-2) at Clermont, Florida.

Bates did not have a hit against Simmons’ Maddie Castigliego until Julia Panepinto singled wth two outs in the bottom of the fifth. The Bobcats threatened to tie the game in the sixth on consecutive one-out singles by Emily Samar, Caroline Bass and Kennedy Ishii. However, Hennessey threw out Samar at the plate to blunt the rally.

Hennessey had three of the Sharks’ eight hits.

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