WATERVILLE, Maine --- Thomas College split a North Atlantic Conference (NAC) doubleheader with New England College Saturday afternoon, winning game one by a 5-0 score but falling in game two 3-2.
With the split, the Terriers are now 12-12 overall and 6-6 in the NAC. The Pilgrims are 6-12 overall and 5-5 in league play.
Game 1: Thomas 5, New England College 0
The Terriers struck for four runs in the bottom of the first as the first six batters reached safely. Senior Anree Benitez (Orlando, Fla. / University) led off the inning by reaching on an error, then moved to second on a Derek Kane (sr., Natick, Mass. / Natick) single through the right side. Zach Mathieu (fr., Oakland, Maine / Messalonskee), Nik Beeson (sr., Manchester, N.H. / Trinity), Joe Quinlan (sr., Westbrook, Maine / Westbrook) and Michael De Los Santos (so., Robstown, Texas / Robstown) all followed with RBI hits to put Thomas up 4-0 before Tristan Pena (so., Portland, Texas / Gregory-Portland) flew out to center for the first out of the inning. The Pilgrims then turned an inning-ending double play to get out of the frame without any further damage being done.
When the lineup turned over in the second inning, Benitez singled through the left side and stole second base before scoring on another NEC error to make it 5-0. The Terriers might have added more in the frame but De Los Santos grounded out to second with the bases loaded to end the inning.
That would be all the offense that would be needed for Beeson, who also threw a complete game shutout on the mound for Thomas. He pitched a solid game, striking out six of the first nine batters he faced and was perfect through four innings before Vincent Backert broke through with a single to shallow right field to lead off the fifth. He finished the game allowing just five hits and striking out eight while walking none to improve to 2-1 overall.
Benitez finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two stolen bases. He added an infield single to lead off the fourth inning to his second-inning hit. De Los Santos also had a pair of hits, while Beeson helped his own cause with an RBI double in the first inning.
The Pilgrims nearly avoided the shutout as leadoff hitter Lonnie Cohen reached on a single through the right side in the seventh and moved to third on a single by Backert. Backert was thrown out at second base trying to stretch the hit into a double. A pair of groundouts followed to end the game.
Manuel Alejandro took the loss for NEC, falling to 1-3 overall. He allowed five runs (three earned) off nine hits and a pair of walks with two strikeouts in six innings of work.
Backert had two of NEC's five hits, while Garrett Waldron added a double in the fifth inning.
Game 2: New England College 3, Thomas 2
In game two, Thomas starter Matt Rutherford (so., Saco, Maine / Thornton Academy) started out much like Beeson did in game one, cruising through the first five innings with just one batter reaching safely.
Vincent Backert, his NEC counterpart, did not have it near as easy, but he weathered the storm early on.
The Terriers failed to push a run across in the first two innings despite leaving the bases loaded in the first and wasting a leadoff single by Tristan Pena in the second. Thomas' first run finally came in the third. Derek Kane led off the frame with a double down the left-field line and moved to third on a Zach Mathieu single through the left side before scoring when Beeson grounded into a double play up the middle.
Thomas added a run in the fourth when Michael De Los Santos scored on an Isaiah Arana single through the right side. De Los Santos had led off the inning with a double to left center.
Neither team was able to score in the fifth inning. In the sixth, however, the Pilgrims' bats came alive. Myles Comeau led off the inning with a double to right field and moved to third on a single to left by Greg Appleman. After Appleman was retired after attempting to steal second, Comeau scored on an RBI groundout by Crouse to cut the Thomas lead to 2-1.
Thomas looked to extend its lead in its half of the sixth. De Los Santos reached on a one-out single to right field, then moved to third on a Pena single to right, but Aron Smestad (so., Corinna, Maine / Nokomis Regional) lined a ball back to Backert who then made the throw to first to double off Pena and get the Pilgrims out of the inning unscathed.
NEC grabbed the lead with a pair of runs in the seventh inning courtesy of a trio of Thomas errors. Rutherford struck out Lonnie Cohen to open the inning, but back-to-back miscues in the field put runners at second and third. An intentional walk to Garrett Waldron loaded the bases and brought an end to Rutherford's day on the mound as head coach Greg King called for Dominic Esposito (jr., Portland, Maine / Deering) out of the bullpen.
Joe Paliotte, Esposito's first batter, hit a 2-2 pitch back to Kane at first base, who was unable to field it cleanly resulting in two runs coming across. Esposito got the next two batters to pop out to Nik Beeson at shortstop but the damage had been done.
Backert sent the Terriers down in order in the seventh to get the complete-game win. He scattered 10 hits and struck out three to improve to 3-1 overall.
Offensively, the Pilgrims were led by Comeau's double. Singles by Backert and DeLeon accounted for NEC's other two hits.
Rutherford (2-3) allowed just three hits and walked one in 6 2/3 innings, but was stung by the three Thomas errors in the sixth. Only one of NEC's three runs was earned.
Thomas rapped 10 hits off Backert, led by a 3-for-3 effort from Mathieu. De Los Santos and Pena also finished 2-for-3, while Arana was 1-for-3 with an RBI and a stolen base.
The teams return to H. Allen Ryan Field at noon tomorrow to concluded the four-game weekend set.