Derek Bowen’s college baseball career hadn’t even started, but he was hearing the kind of words that sure made it sound like it was over.
The Lawrence High School graduate had completed one tryout at Roger Williams University when coach Jason Tower called him into his office. He didn’t hit well enough, he told Bowen, and he didn’t throw hard enough. The school had recruited him in high school, and now it was telling him it didn’t want him.
“It was pretty quick and to the point. He called me into the office the next day and told me I was cut from the team,” Bowen said. “It was very disappointing, because I had team gear, I had everything ready to go. I was ready for fall ball, and I didn’t even get the opportunity to play.”
Nearly seven months later, Bowen is getting that opportunity, and it’d be hard to think of more he could be doing with it. Now a freshman at UMaine Farmington, Bowen entered Monday’s game against Colby with a .423 average, and leads the team in that category as well as in hits, RBIs and slugging. It’s only been nine games, but it’s a promising start, and it’s had a significant impact on the Benton resident’s confidence.
“I’m trying not to think too, too much about it,” he said. “I’m trying to do what’s best for the team and keep doing what I’ve been doing these past couple of games, and try not to get ahead of myself.”
That confidence was dragging after his Roger Williams career came to a sudden halt. With the fall ball season scheduled to start soon, Bowen went to the tryout for his debut with the team. It lasted an hour and a half, and the Hawks coaches weren’t impressed.
“He said I needed to work on balancing the field better, hitting to all parts of the field,” Bowen said. “That’s pretty much all he gave me. He didn’t say much in detail. … I didn’t really get much of a shot.”
After the meeting, Bowen called Lawrence coach Rusty Mercier, who knew the right man. Mercier is friends with UMF coach Chris Bessey, who had started recruiting Bowen as a sophomore at Lawrence. Bessey reached out to Bowen soon after he was cut, and on January, he showed up in Farmington.
“I didn’t know about being a starter. I knew he could be a contributor,” Bessey said. “Being a left-handed bat, I knew he could contribute in some way. I didn’t expect him to get off to the start that he is. He’s actually contributed a lot more than I expected.”
Bowen got into the Beavers’ first game, started the second, and it’s been tough for Bessey to take him out since. The first baseman and outfielder has picked up a hit in each game since, driving in eight of the team’s 29 runs and totaling three multi-hit games.
He’s made it look easy, but Bowen said he’s had to adjust his hitting approach to handle the advanced repertoires of college pitchers.
“Probably the hardest part is seeing different pitches, like sliders and changeups. You see them a lot more, because in high school it was pretty much only fastball, curveball,” he said. “What I found worked best for me was getting my front foot down earlier and just my load earlier. Getting everything ready to go before the pitch is actually coming.”
Bessey said that approach has allowed Bowen to progress faster than most freshmen do.
“He’s had a lot of individual work on his swing, and usually with somebody like that, they’re usually ahead of the game,” he said. “He’s got a nice swing path to the ball, and I think he was ahead of a lot of freshmen.”
Now the challenge is to keep it going, a task that Bowen, considering where he was in September, is all too happy to have.
“I think it definitely boosted my confidence,” he said. “Just knowing that I got my second shot at playing college baseball.”
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Just in time for warmer weather, the Colby women’s lacrosse team is heating up.
The Mules have been on a recent tear, winning five straight to bump their record to 7-3. Colby has scored 77 goals in that stretch, and 19 goals in three of the five games, but coach Karen Henning said the defense has been the biggest asset in the surge.
“I actually think it’s building out from the defense. I think our defense is really on the same page,” said Henning, whose team has held nine of 10 opponents to single digits. “Our offense is taking some of the momentum from them, and we’re giving them some more time. I think our possession time is up this year. We’re creating more opportunities for ourselves, which our offense has been able to capitalize on.”
Kendall Smith leads the way with 23 goals and Lexie Perticone has a team-high 38 assists (19-19), leading Colby back from a slow start to the season. Even at 2-3, however, Henning liked what she saw, and felt a turnaround was in the wings.
“I think the wins and losses weren’t what we wanted, but the level of play and our effort was,” she said. “We knew if we could continue to keep that up and clean it up, with fewer turnovers and taking advantage of our opportunities, some of those results could have been different.”
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After a sluggish start to her career, Kiana Thompson is having it all come together in her junior season with the UMF softball team.
The Mt. Blue product is thriving in her third season with the Beavers, batting .326 with 15 hits and eight runs. Those are all good for second on the team, and Thompson also leads the team with seven stolen bases.
It’s been an emergence for the Industry native, who scuffled in her first two seasons with the team. She batted only .134 as a freshman, then hit .243 as a sophomore.
While the Beavers (2-12) have struggled to win games, Thompson has heated up as of late. She had seven hits in her last four games entering Monday, and went 3-for-4 in an 11-10 loss to Colby. She also drove in a run and stole two bases in that game.
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The Colby baseball and softball programs are hosting everyone these days.
With a turf field that has been an asset in these days of wet fields, Colby has been a common home venue as teams try to finish their schedules on time. The Colby baseball team played Wednesday night, then got off the field so that the Bowdoin and Southern Maine baseball teams could play. With the Mules out of town for the weekend, Bowdoin and Bates baseball played once on Friday and twice on Saturday. And the trend continued in softball, with Bowdoin and Husson playing a pair of games last Friday.
Colby will stay busy this week. The Colby softball team will play what was a road game against Thomas on Tuesday at home, and the baseball team will host what was supposed to be a Wednesday game at Southern Maine on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
Drew Bonifant — 621-5638