Middlebury's Sam Graf drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom ninth inning, lifting the Panthers to a 3-2 triumph over Bates in the opening round of the NESCAC Tournament on Friday. Middlebury (21-14), which is making its first conference tournament appearance since 2006, plays Tufts on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in the winner's bracket.
The Panthers and Bobcats traded two-run singles in the first inning with Bates (16-17) striking first. Brendon Canavan brought home two runs for the Bobcats with a single through the right side, while Alan Guild ripped a base hit up the middle for Middlebury, plating Jason Lock and Graf, who each got aboard with two-out singles, to tie the score at 2-2.
The game remained scoreless through the middle innings, as Panther starter Colby Morris settled down and allowed only two hits over the next eight frames. In the seventh, he came up with a nice sliding catch of a sacrifice bunt attempt by Asher MacDonald and quickly threw to first for a double play.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Panthers had a chance to take the lead when Justin Han led off with a double down the line in left field. Bates starting pitcher Anthony Telesca retired the next batter, before giving way to Connor Speed. Speed set down the next two batters as the game stayed tied heading into the ninth inning.
In the last of the ninth, Middlebury manufactured the deciding run without getting the ball out of the infield. With one out, Ryan Rizzo singled off of the pitcher and Andrew Hennings followed with a bunt single to the left side. Lock was hit by a pitch, loading the bases to set up Graf's game-winning RBI.
Morris (6-3) was stellar for the Panthers, throwing his team-leading fourth complete game. Morris gave up only four hits over nine innings with two strikeouts. The win was his sixth of the season, tying him for third place on the program's single-season list.
Guild finished a perfect 2-2 for Middlebury at the plate with two RBI, while Rizzo and Han also picked up a pair of hits.
Speed (1-6) took the loss for the Bobcats, pitching one inning of relief. He allowed two hits and struck out a pair. Telesca went 7.1 innings with four strikeouts. At the plate, Brendan Fox went 2-4 with a run scored.