WATERVILLE — Cole Palmeri was nearly in a rage.

The star catcher of the Colby College baseball team was sitting in a conference room at the Alfond Center on Monday afternoon, waiting patiently to see if the Mules would be selected as an at-large bid for the NCAA Division III tournament.

But then the computer playing the broadcast needed to reboot.

“(The feeling) was complete rage, I won’t lie,” Palmeri laughed. “I was very angry, because I didn’t want (the computer) to lag behind. When I saw our name across the screen, that all went away.”

After a few minutes of reboots and upgrades, Palmeri and the Mules (29-10) received the news they had long waited for. They were selected, for the first time since joining NCAA Division III in the 1970s.

No. 4 Colby will travel eight hours to Cortland, New York to play No. 1 Salve Regina (33-8) on Friday. The double-elimination tournament takes place this weekend at Cortland State University. No. 2 Cortland State (30-12-1) and No. 3 Washington & Jefferson (31-10) are also in the regional. Colby did not meet Salve Regina during the regular season.


“It’s the most unbelievable feeling I’ve ever experienced,” said Palmeri, a senior. “Seeing our name pop across that screen. especially with everybody here, was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of. It’s great to have hard work pay off.”

The selection of the baseball team to the NCAA tourney comes on the heels of a successful weekend of another Colby program — the women’s lacrosse team. The Mules, who are in the NCAA D-III tournament for the third consecutive season, beat The College of New Jersey 15-11 on Sunday in a second-round game. Colby (12-6) will play Wesleyan (16-3), a fellow member of the New England Small College Athletic Conference, in the third round at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday in Middletown, Connecticut. Colby beat Wesleyan 10-8 in the regular season opener March 2.

The women’s lacrosse team has reached the quarterfinal round of the NCAA tournament each of the last two seasons. Both times, the Mules were eliminated by fellow NESCAC rival Middlebury, which went on to win the national title in 2022 and 2023. Middlebury (19-0) is still alive in the tournament, hosting Colorado College on Saturday in Vermont.

The Colby baseball team fell short of winning a NESCAC title last weekend. The Mules beat Amherst 11-3 on Friday — snapping a 16-game losing streak to the Mammoths dating back to 2001 — before falling to Middlebury and Tufts on Saturday. Middlebury beat Tufts on Sunday to capture its third consecutive NESCAC title.

Colby College baseball team members Cole Palmeri, front left, Ryan Grace, front center, and Tony Silva jump up as their team is selected during the the NCAA Division III tournament selection show that was telecast Monday at the Alfond Athletic Center at Colby College in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

A NESCAC title win would have given an automatic berth to the Mules. Instead, their fate laid in the hands of the selection committee for an at-large bid.

“Saturday night we were pretty nervous (of our chances),” senior infielder Brady O’Brien said. “We were a little nervous, but we were confident in our resume. We were kind of expecting it, but we were lucky (the selection) went our way.”


Colby is currently No. 25 in the D3baseball.com/NCBWA national poll. The Mules have been strongest at the plate this season, carrying a team batting average of .329 with a .425 on-base percentage. Palmeri has been Colby’s top hitter all season, with a .416 batting average, 11 home runs and 38 RBIs. Palmeri has been forced to miss time due to an injured wrist, but said he’s confident he’ll be able to play this weekend.

“Our grit (stands out),” Palmeri said. “We’ve had a few games this year where we’ve gotten into a hole, but then we manage to come back. The grit of this team is unbelievable. There’s been a few games this season where we could have (laid down) and just taken a loss, but we didn’t, because we knew we had a team that had potential to make a regional, with a chance to win a national championship. We’ve stuck our foot in the ground and now we’re ready to go to war.”

Colby head coach Jesse Woods had only moments to celebrate the team’s selection before openly worrying about the team’s practice schedule and logistics. It’s finals week at Colby, and the team has just as much pressure in the classroom as it does on the diamond.

“It’s funny, I didn’t even see where we were going until after (the announcement), and it’s Cortland (New York),” Woods said. “We’re in finals, and finals are a challenging week everywhere, and challenging here. Then, there’s the logistics of getting our team there. Where’s the hotel? We’ve got to feed these guys a lot when you’re anywhere, so you have to figure out meals and food. But, those are all welcome problems to work through right now. We’d rather be worried about that than think about next year.

“This is a very experienced group, and we talked a lot this week about how experience tells you a lot, if you listen,” Woods continued. “We played teams that are moving on to a regional this year. We’ve won games against them, we’ve lost games against them. Over the past few years, we’ve played a tough schedule. I think they know that the team on the other side of the field is a talented group that comes with a lot of accomplishments, too. It’s (all about) who is going to play the best on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”

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