Panther nine opens with split

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — The Middlebury College opened its season by splitting a Saturday doubleheader vs. Bates played on a turf field at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, Mass. The Bobcats took game one 2-1 in the regulation seven innings, and the Panthers grabbed the nightcap, 4-3 victory in nine innings as Sam Graf drilled a walk-off homer. Bates (5-6) was playing its 10th and 11th games of the spring.
Middlebury returns to action on Saturday for a doubleheader against Oberlin that begins its annual spring trip to Arizona.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning of game one. With two away, Max Araya doubled to deep left center. Araya scored as Jason Lock reached on a Bates error.
Bates responded in the bottom of the second against Middlebury starter Colby Morris. Eric Vilanova drilled a homer after Asher MacDonald singled.
Middlebury put two runners on in both the third and fourth innings, but Bates starting pitcher Connor Colombo worked out of the jams.
In the seventh, Middlebury’s John Luke singled and Johnny Read walked to put runners at first and second with nobody out. The Panthers bunted Luke and Read to second and third, but Bates reliever Rob DiFranco got the next two hitters to ground back to the mound, ending the game and securing his first save of the year.
Morris went the distance in his first career start for the Panthers on the mound. He allowed seven hits with five strikeouts and a walk in six innings.
Colombo tossed the first six innings for the Bobcats, surrendering two hits while fanning seven and walking two. 
In the nightcap the Panthers were the home team. Middlebury scored twice off Bates starter Connor Speed in the second inning. With one out, MacDonald walked and Phil Bernstein singled before Brendan Donohue smacked a double, plating both runners. Donohue finished with three hits. Middlebury made it 3-0 in the third. With two outs and nobody on, Araya singled and scored on a Luke double.
John Dinucci started a three-run fourth for the Bobcats with a double off Middlebury starter John Bunting. Conor Reenstierna doubled in Dinucci to cut the deficit to 3-1. Brendan Fox followed with an opposite field two-run home run to tie the game at 3-3.
The Panthers loaded the bases with one out off Bates reliever Chris Ward. Ward worked out of the jam with two strikeouts. But with one away in the bottom of the ninth, Graf hit a Ward offering over the left field fence to win the game for the Panthers.
Bunting tossed the first four innings allowing three runs on four hits with five strikeouts and a walk. The Middlebury bullpen turned in an effective performance with Conor Himstead, Jake Stalcup and Dylan Takamori, who earned the win, combining to toss five shutout innings with just one hit and four strikeouts.

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