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Bates baseball season is one to remember

Noah Lynd '11 stands alone atop Bates' lists for home runs, total bases and extra-base hits in a season.
Ryan Heide '11 earned his eighth victory on Saturday, passing Pete Shibley's 1976 team record for wins in a season.

LEWISTON, Maine -- As they approached the biggest series of their remarkable 2010 season, three games against Bowdoin on April 30 and May 1, the Bates College baseball team had a single mission in mind: qualifying for the four-team field of the NESCAC Baseball Championship for the first time in the tournament's 10-year history.

With first place in the NESCAC East Division already ceded to Tufts, the Bobcats needed to finish in second place in the division to make the playoffs. But the Bobcats learned that making the conference playoffs is no easy task: they, along with recent NCAA champion Trinity, finished the league slate tied for second place with Bowdoin, but the Polar Bears advance after winning two out of three in their series against Trinity and, this past weekend, doing the same against Bates.

Regardless of how the weekend Bowdoin series went, the 2010 season is already one destined to be remembered for a long time. In head coach Edwin Thompson's second year on the job, the Bobcats have about-faced from a team that finished 12-22 in 2009 to one that now stands at 23-10. True, over the past decade the team has had more games on its schedule than it used to. But consider that before this year, the most wins the Bobcats had ever captured in a season was 18, going back to the 1984 team that finished 18-6 under longtime coach Chick Leahey.

And it isn't as if the Bobcats have loaded up on creampuffs, either. One of their 10 losses was a 7-2 result at Division I Maine. Another came against a Division II team, Washington Adventist University. Three others have come against teams ranked in the top 10 among all Division III teams at the time: one at Shenandoah University, and another two at Trinity. Another was at the University of Mary Washington, and the remaining four were against Tufts, currently the top-ranked Division III team in New England, and Bowdoin.

Total wins is just one of the more obvious examples of the way the Bobcats have treated the team record book like a piñata. The Bobcats are a team with no glaring weaknesses: they're in line to set new team standards in hitting, hitting for power, baserunning, pitching and fielding.

With three games remaining on their schedule here are some of the single-season records that have fallen or been met (those with math phobia may want to stop reading here):

Team Records:

Wins, 22 (previous record: 18, set in 1984)

Away games won, 16 (previous record: 10, from 1984)

Hits, 377 (previous record: 371, from 2008)

Runs, 274 (previous record: 271, from 1984)

Doubles, 72 (previous record: 57, from 2002)

Total bases, 534 (previous record: 500, from 2008)

Runs batted in, 248 (previous record: 213, from 1984)

Stolen bases, 73 (previous record: 66, from 2009)

Team strikeouts, 187 (previous record: 181, from 2009)

Individual Records:

Home runs, 11, Noah Lynd '11 (previous record: 9, set in 1979 and 1984)

Extra-base hits, 23, Lynd (previous record: 20, set in 1990)

Total bases, 83, Lynd (previous record: 70, set in 1990 and 2000)

Games won, 8, Ryan Heide '11 (previous record: 7, set in 1976)

Other team records likely to have fallen when the season ends include: team home runs, team fielding percentage, individual hits (by Tom Beaton '10), individual runs (by Jacob Simon '11), individual slugging percentage (by Lynd), individual stolen bases (by Beaton) and individual strikeouts (by Paul Chiampa '11).

It probably isn't any coincidence that many of the Bobcats' most productive players this season participated in collegiate wooden-bat summer leagues around the country last summer. This is one of Thompson's central tenets for player development, and something he labors over, finding spots for players in leagues as far away as Iowa and Kentucky, where they have the opportunity to not only play more baseball, but to play against higher competition as well.

Bates' top three pitchers all played summer ball in 2009: following the Bowdoin series, Heide was 8-1 with a 3.70 earned-run average, after going 2-5 with a 7.96 ERA in 2009. Chiampa was 4-3 with a 3.57 ERA, after posting a 2-6 record and a 6.92 ERA in 2009. Karl Alexander '12 was 5-2 with a 3.09 ERA; last year he was 1-5 with a 5.94 ERA.

The most striking example is Lynd, a first baseman, designated hitter and also an effective pitcher this season, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Lynd was a full-time starter last year as well who finished with one home run and six RBIs in 2009. Now he's a strong candidate to be the NESCAC Player of the Year, leading the conference in home runs and standing among league leaders in batting average (.392), on-base percentage (.511), slugging (.833) and RBIs (35). Simon is also posting big offensive numbers, including seven homers, 38 runs scored and 30 RBIs. Right fielder Chris Burke '11, who made the All-NESCAC team in 2009 and set the team hits record with 52, is posting similar numbers in 2010, but has doubled his home run total from two to four. Second baseman Noah Burke '11 (.349, 12 doubles, 19 RBIs) and center fielder Pat Murphy '11 (.337, 17 RBIs, 17 stolen bases) are other summer leaguers who have also boosted their offensive production while playing outstanding defense at key positions.

There are many other prime contributors than have been listed here, but it suffices to say that the 138th season of Bates baseball serves as a classic example of a turnaround year.