Panthers Split Season-Opening Twinbill With New England College

Colby Morris tossed a shutout in Saturday's opener against New England College.
Colby Morris tossed a shutout in Saturday's opener against New England College.

Middlebury's Colby Morris tossed a shutout in the season opener as head coach Mike Leonard won his Panther debut with a 5-0 seven-inning victory over New England College. The Pilgrims grabbed the nightcap of the doubleheader to earn the split by a 6-4 score in nine innings. The twinbill was played on a turf field at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, Massachusetts. New England College (1-7) was playing its seventh and eighth games of the spring. Middlebury returns to the diamond Wednesday on the road for a single game at Castleton starting at 3:30 p.m.

In game one, the Panthers opened the scoring in the bottom of the third inning with a pair of unearned runs. Brooks Carroll made it 1-0, racing home from third on an outfield error, while Jason Lock made it a two-run difference with a sacrifice fly to right field.

Middlebury tacked on three more runs in the last of the fourth, starting with a RBI double off the bat of Phil Bernstein. Bernstein and Carroll scored later in the inning on a two-out single to center by Justin Han, extending the lead to 5-0.

Bernstein led the Panthers with a pair of hits at the plate, including a double, while Han drove in two runs. Luis Atiles went 2-3 at the plate for New England College.

Morris earned the victory on the mound for the Panthers, going seven strong innings. He scattered seven hits and allowed only one runner to reach third base, while striking out five. Stanley Vargas suffered the loss for the Pilgrims, giving up five runs (three earned) over five innings with six strikeouts.

The Panthers got off to the early lead in the second game, plating a pair of runs in the top of the first. Sam Graf belted a solo home run to left, while Kevin Woodring added a RBI double to score Lock for a 2-0 led.

The Pilgrims got the two runs back in their half of the inning, starting with a sacrifice fly by Vargas and a run-scoring single by Evan Delaney.

New England College took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the second with a run. Aneury Lara led off with a walk, coming around to score on a single off the bat of Vargas. The Pilgrims maintained the one-run lead until the top of the seventh when Middlebury struck for a pair. Ryan Rizzo started the inning with a bunt single and moved to second when Graf walked. Rizzo and Graf scored on a two-run double to left center off the bat of Lock for a 4-3 lead.

The Pilgrims took the lead in the home half of the eighth inning with three runs on four hits. Castillo smacked a two-run single to left field, scoring on a base hit by Crouse for the 6-4 lead.

Lock led the Panthers in the nightcap with a 3-5 performance at the plate, including a pair of doubles and two RBI, while Woodring (2-5) and Andrew Hennings (2-4) both had multi-hit games for Middlebury.

Spencer Shores tossed the first three innings allowing three runs (one earned) on four hits. Robert Erickson pitched the next 4.1 innings with two runs on one hit and seven strikeouts and was tagged with the loss, while Conor Himstead gave up one run on three hits and recorded the final two outs.

Vincent Backert went 6.1 innings for New England College, allowing four runs on nine hits, walking three and striking out seven to earn the victory, while Joseph Pascucci went the final 2.2 innings with three strikeouts.