WATERVILLE — It started in a fashion that couldn’t have been any better for the Colby College baseball team.

It ended with the Mules losing in walk-off fashion on their own field — and now, they’ll have to do it the hard way if they want to keep their 2023 season alive.

Colby fell to Middlebury 7-6 after leading 5-0 much of the way in Friday’s NESCAC baseball tournament opener at Coombs Baseball Field. Middlebury tied the game in the ninth on a home run by Mitch Schroeder, and won later in the inning when Colby pitcher Ryan Grecco was called for a balk to score Sammy Smith for the winning run.

The loss sent the host Mules to the loser’s bracket, where they’ll face either Tufts or rival Bowdoin at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.

“They just came back and beat us today,” said Colby head coach Jesse Woods. “You’ve got to tip your cap to them. We played hard, and we didn’t necessarily beat ourselves; they came back and took this one from us. They’re a good team, and they showed why.”

Colby (24-11) sent eight batters to the plate in the first inning as part of an eight-run frame. Clint Flippo came across with the first run for the Mules on a passed ball before RBI singles from Marcus Forrester and Matthew Panker made it 4-0. Pat McConnell added Colby’s fifth run of the first with a sacrifice fly.


Jack Pletter took a no-hitter into the fifth inning for Colby, navigating his only difficult inning during that stretch in the second as he forced an inning-ending popout after issuing three walks. After Beau Root finally put Middlebury (26-9) in the hit column, Pletter struck out the side to maintain the 5-0 lead going into the sixth.

“I thought their starter was unbelievable today,” said Middlebury head coach Peter Leonard. “I thought he did a great job of pitching to our strength and making that a weakness for us. We were in swing mode, and I think he exploited that a little bit. I think as we got a little more patient, we did a much better job.”

Colby College’s Clint Flippo, left, scores from third base on a passed ball as Middlebury College pitcher Alex Price covers the plate during Friday’s NESCAC baseball tournament game at Colby College in Waterville. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

That patience paid off in the form of two runs in the bottom of the sixth, though Middlebury missed an opportunity to cut into the lead further as it left the bases loaded with two outs. Colby scored a run in the top of the seventh to make it 6-2, but the Panthers answered with three in the bottom half to make it a one-run game.

Trailing 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth, Middlebury tied it on the first pitch it saw as Schroeder blasted a home run to left-center field. Four batters later and with the bases loaded, the Panthers walked it off in unusual fashion as Grecco was called for a balk to score Smith for the win.

Joe Sylvester took the loss for Colby, giving up two earned runs in 1 2/3 innings pitched. Pletter (eight strikeouts, seven walks, two earned runs) went five innings for the Mules, and Julian Erro went 1 1/3 with two earned runs allowed. Forrester led the way offensively with two of the Mules’ eight hits.

Middlebury’s Jackson Atwood threw 1 2/3 innings of no-hit relief to earn the win. Starting pitcher Alex Price went 7 1/3 innings and allowed four earned runs while striking out three and walking five, overcoming his rough first inning to set up his team for the comeback victory.


“I don’t think it was us or anything we didn’t do; I think it was more him getting into that groove,” Woods said of Price. “That guy’s a good pitcher, and he found his stuff and was able to go into the eighth inning. He really went into shutdown mode to give his team a chance.”

Middlebury finished with nine hits, three from Schroeder. None were bigger than his home run in the ninth, which gave the Panthers some momentum back after Colby’s Brady O’Brien had ended the eighth inning by snagging a scorching liner out of the air and doubling off Alex Ritch at first.

“Baseball certainly has those swings to it, and you could kind of sense then that something was going to happen,” Leonard said. “It’s a great thing to have when you feel like one through nine in your lineup can all hit the ball out. We needed that because Colby’s a good team; we knew they weren’t going to make it easy.”

Middlebury will play the winner of Bowdoin and Tufts at 2 p.m. on Saturday following the conclusion of Colby’s loser’s bracket battle. With a win, the Panthers would get an opportunity to clinch their third consecutive NESCAC tournament championship at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Colby, on the other hand, must now win four straight games to claim the championship on its own field. The Mules can reach Sunday with two wins Saturday, a task that starts with beating either a Bowdoin team with one of the conference’s top pitching staffs or a Tufts squad that took two of three from them in the regular season.

“It’s tough to come out of the loser’s bracket, but it’s been done before, and I think our team is capable of doing it,” Woods said. “We have plenty of pitching left, and that’s what we’re going to need. It’s all hands on deck.”

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