WATERVILLE — Thomas College baseball coach Greg King walked off the field on Saturday afternoon shaking his head. He’d seen this movie before. Another doubleheader, another split for the Terriers.

“I don’t like splits. Too many splits. I don’t know what it is with these guys. We’ve got pretty good talent, but we only get half the job done. It’s getting kind of frustrating,” King said.

What made Saturday’s split with New England College so frustrating for King was the way the Terriers let the sweep slip away. After taking Game 1, 5-0, Thomas held a 2-0 lead going into the sixth inning of Game 2. The Pilgrims got a run back in the sixth. In the top of the seventh, the Terriers committed three errors to hand New England College a pair of unearned runs and a 3-2 win.

“We kind of take the first game for granted. We say ‘Oh, this team’s not good,’ and we come out and we don’t execute the plays in the last couple of innings,” Thomas senior pitcher/shortstop Nik Beeson said. “We just let it go. We’re like ‘We’re leading? We might as well just let it go.'”

Thomas (12-12, 6-6 in North Atlantic Conference play) has turned the doubleheader split into performance art. The Terriers have played eight doubleheaders so far this season. They split seven of them. Thomas is in third place in the NAC, and a sweep Saturday would have put a little distance between the Terriers and fourth place New England College (5-5). Now, Thomas looks to Sunday’s doubleheader as the chance to create that space.

“We can’t play 14 good innings together. We just haven’t done it all year. A couple games ago I said we have to try to put 14 innings together, because that’s the only way we’re going to win the conference tournament. That’s something we have to keep working on,” King said. “Everybody in this conference so far has been pretty equal. I just think we’re too talented to split.”

On Saturday, everything the Terriers have done well this season was on display, as well as the things they’ve done wrong. In the first inning of Game 1, the first six Terriers to hit reached base on an error and five straight hits. Thomas only scored three runs in the day’s next 13 innings. The Terriers hit into five double plays on Saturday. The two in Game 1 ended up being harmless. The three in Game 2, however, turned into rally killers.

“I get frustrated with the hitters. I’ve been very pleased with all of our pitching. It’s the hitters. Sometimes we get too lazy at the plate, and I didn’t realize we had that many double plays. That’s not going to win you many games,” King said.

“We’ve just got to keep our heads strong. We’ve got to get out there and make the plays every time. We’ve got to make every game a championship game, and go out there and execute and play hard every inning. We seem to give up all the time,” Beeson said.

In Game 1, Beeson pitched as if he was throwing in a championship game. Beeson was perfect through four innings, and seven of his eight strikeouts came in the first three innings.

“My fastball, I was hitting my spots. My curveball was hitting my spots. My slider was kind of dipping away towards the lefty’s feet, so they couldn’t really touch it,” Beeson said. “Then I started losing my fastball a little bit, started getting tired and they started putting the bat on the ball. The first couple innings they couldn’t touch it.”

Beeson knew he was perfect after four innings. Vincent Backert broke up the no hitter with a single to right field to lead off the fifth for the Pilgrims. Thomas right fielder Joe Quinlan charged hard on the ball, and almost threw Backert out at first.

“I heard someone in the dugout say (perfect game) and then I knew from there something was going to happen,” Beeson said. “Kid hit a high, outside fastball and put it in the hole. We almost got him at first.”

Beeson finished with a four-hitter and walked none to lower his earned run average to 1.20. In Game 2, Matt Rutherford took the tough loss, allowing just three hits and no walks in 6 1/3 innings before being undone by the Terriers defense in the seventh. As a team, Thomas has a 4.34 ERA, which is third-best in the conference behind Castleton and Husson.

A bright spot offensively on Saturday was freshman left fielder Zach Mathieu. The Oakland native went 4 for 5 over the two games with an RBI and run scored. With 13 games left in the regular season — including six conference doubleheaders — King is looking for more consistency from his team, particularly at the plate.

“When we’re on, we’re fun to watch. When we’re in the game and we’re ready to go every single pitch, we’re really fun to watch. It’s almost like it’s good enough, and it’s not good enough,” King said. “I think we should be a lot better. I honestly think we should be a heck of a lot better. That’s going to be half the battle, trying to get these guys to compete even harder. What we’re doing right now, being .500, isn’t enough. This team has a lot more than what they’re showing. I’ve got to find a way to get it out of them over the next couple weeks.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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</URL>Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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