WATERVILLE — The first pitch thrown at Colby College’s new artificial turf softball field was fouled off by University of Maine at Farmington junior Alison Hamilton straight back into the protective netting behind home plate, causing a few fans in the bleachers to flinch.

The first fan flinch on the first foul ball. Those were just a couple of firsts celebrated at Colby’s new softball field Wednesday afternoon.

“I think we’re really fortunate to have this beautiful facility, and to come out strong today with two wins was quite exceptional,” Colby junior shortstop Katie McLaughlin said. “A really good way to set the tone for what’s to come on this field.”

The two most important firsts, at least to Colby, were the first two wins, and McLaughlin played a big role in both to help the Mules sweep the Beavers. McLaughlin’s inside the park home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning won the opener, 2-1, and her old-fashioned over-the-left-field-wall home run scored three runs and gave the Mules an 11-1, five-inning walkoff win in the nightcap.

McLaughlin’s inside the park homer was down the right field line, just out of the reach of UMF right fielder Ashley Bosio. McLaughlin never broke stride, rounding the bases and scoring without a throw to the plate.

“I was thinking that girl was going to catch it, or it was going to land foul. I saw the ball drop on the fair side of the fence and I went for it,” said McLaughlin, Colby’s leadoff hitter.

“(McLaughlin) has really good wheels. The kid never stops. She did a great job,” Colby coach Lisa-Ann Wallace said.

McLaughlin’s three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 2 was the Mules’ third home run of the game. Skylar Labbe led off the second inning with a solo shot, and Paige Hartnett’s two-run homer in the third gave Colby a 6-1 lead.

“We started to drive the ball. When Skylar hit that ball, that first bomb, I think it kind of relaxed everybody, and the kids did a nice job throwing the barrel and making contact,” Wallace said.

In the opener, both teams squandered numerous chances to score. Colby (5-5) left eight runners on base and came away with just one run after loading the bases with one out in the first, when McLaughlin scored on a wild pitch. UMF (1-12) stranded seven runners on base in the first game, one in each inning. The Beavers had a runner thrown out at the plate in the third, and had two runners thrown out on the bases in the fourth inning.

Colby’s starting pitchers — Julia Saul in Game 1 and Wiley Holton in Game 2 — were effective. Saul struck out five and allowed seven hits, while Holton gave up five hits. Three of those came in the first inning, when UMF scored its only run of Game 2 on a Margaret Fogarty sacrifice fly to left.

“We controlled what we needed to control. We kept the ball in the park. Not a lot of walks, so we did what we’re supposed to do. I think we can get even better,” Wallace said.

Wednesday’s doubleheader was a soft opening of the new facility. The Colby baseball team will play its first games on its new artificial turf field on Thursday, when it hosts UMF for two. The fields will be officially dedicated on April 9 when softball hosts Tufts and baseball hosts Trinity, both at noon.

While Wednesday was the first game on the new field, the Colby softball team has benefited from it for some time, through preseason practices on the turf instead of in the fieldhouse.

“We’ve been out here since Feb. 18. We’ve been out here almost every day practicing, except for three days. It’s been a game-changer,” Wallace said.

Added McLaughlin: “We started out here before spring break. We had some really cold weather, but still made it out here. Why not take advantage of this beautiful place? We’re lucky.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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