WATERVILLE — For years, it was a slow buildup to success for the Colby College baseball team.

Then, a year ago, came the breakthrough.

Twenty-four wins, including three victories in the New England Small College Athletic Conference Tournament, an event for which the Mules had never previously qualified. It was a banner season for a program that had been a NESCAC afterthought for years.

Fast-forward to 2023, and Colby looks to be on a similar trajectory to last year’s. At 12-5 with a dominant non-conference stint under their belt, the Mules are hoping a now-established program can make another big push in NESCAC.

“You’re kind of like a farmer; you make the conditions right for growth, and then you watch them grow,” Colby head coach Jesse Woods said Tuesday following a 7-4 home victory over Plymouth State. “We’ve done that over the past few years here, and now, we’re at the point where we have some lofty expectations.”

Colby’s emergence as a NESCAC player last year came as the Mules posted a stellar offensive season. The team posted a .306 batting average and finished third in the conference in runs scored (299), hits (386), on-base percentage (.404) and stolen bases (81).


Five of the six Colby players who hit .300 or better last season — Brady O’Brien (.376), Clint Flippo (.346), Charlie Furlong (.312), Cole Palmeri (.302) and Patrick O’Connell (.300) — are back in 2023. Yet the team’s top hitter this year fell just short of that mark a year ago: Marcus Forrester.

Forrester was no slouch as a sophomore last season, hitting .299 and finishing second on the team in hits with 40. This year, though, that average has exploded to .414 as the junior from Marshfield, Mass., has produced 10 multi-hit games and is on pace for a 50-hit season.

“I put in a lot of work in the offseason, and I think it’s really paid off,” Forrester said. “I’ve been sticking with my approach, and I’ve been seeing the ball well. I’ve been able to stick with what’s working and make adjustments when I need to, and think that’s been key for me.”

The team went 36-94-1 from 2016 through 2019, Woods’s first season as coach, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 season after a single game.

The current players, though, are removed from those struggles. This year’s juniors and seniors gave the program a 12-10 record in 2021, its first winning season in six years, doubled that win total in 2022 and have the program in contention again in 2023.

“I have to give it all to Coach Woods because he’s done a great job of turning this program around,” Forrester said. “From recruiting to on-field coaching to everything, I think the culture here has just changed so much. It’s a real testament to the way he runs the program.”


The true breakthrough moment, Forrester said, was the team’s NESCAC tournament run last year. Colby beat Wesleyan twice to open the tournament and then added a win over Hamilton before a 16-14 loss to Middlebury and a defeat to Hamilton in the rematch brought the Mules’ season to an end.

“That was the first time really being in a big spot for us, and the way we came through, it was awesome,” Forrester said. “We had a lot to prove, and we got off to a great start. We ran into some COVID issues in the semifinals, but it was still a great tournament. We want to get back this year and show what we can do.”

Doing so is going to be a slog. Prior to the non-conference win over Plymouth State, Colby dropped its opening series against Trinity College over the weekend as the Bantams took two of three games. The Mules will also have to go through Hamilton as well as reigning NESCAC champ Middlebury, which is receiving votes nationally.

Still, the early results for Colby have been promising. The Mules recently went 6-1 against tough opponents in Florida, where they capped off a weeklong stay with a 6-1 victory over Augustana (Ill.), a top Division III team that’s 16-4 so far. They’ll be tested again later this week against a Bates team that Woods said is having a bounce-back year.

At 8-7, the Bobcats have already surpassed last season’s win total (7-26).

“You look at Bates, Trinity, Bowdoin and Tufts, and I think it’s anybody’s game on our side (East Division), and the Middleburys and and Hamiltons are good on the other side (West Division),” Woods said. “We’re happy to be at a point now where we feel we can compete with those teams, and we’re out to do it.”

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