WATERVILLE, Maine - Middlebury College moved into the driver's seat at the 2017 NESCAC Baseball Championship with a 5-1 victory over Tufts University in game four of the tournament on Saturday afternoon at Colby College's Coombs Field.
The Panthers (22-14) advanced into the championship round and will play either the Jumbos or Amherst College on Sunday at 9 a.m. Tufts (27-8-1) and the Mammoths are playing in game five of the tournament on Saturday afternoon. The winner will advance to the championship round on Sunday and will need to defeat Middlebury twice in order to win the conference crown.
Middlebury sophomore pitchers Colin Waters and Conor Himstead combined to limit the Jumbos to one run on six hits in the game. Waters started and went 6.1 innings allowing the six hits and one run to earn his third victory. Himstead entered in the seventh and retired all eight batters that he faced. Panther LF Sam Graf finished 2 for 4 with two runs batted in and two runs scored.
The Jumbos grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second after junior 1B Nick Falkson led off with a double. Waters retired the next two hitters, but senior CF Harry Brown delivered an rbi single to right field. Freshman DH Ryan Day followed with a single and stole second to put runners on second and third, but Waters got a strikeout to end the inning.
Jumbo starter Tim Superko cruised through the first three innings before Middlebury scored twice in the fourth. Andrew Hennings led off with a single to right, went to second when Jason Lock was hit by a pitch and scored on a single by Graf. Raj Palekar later hit a two-out single to left that scored Graf and gave Middlebury a lead (2-1) that it would not relinquish.
After a 1-2-3 fourth inning for Waters, Middlebury added a run in the fifth. With two outs Graf hit a double to left-center scoring Hennings, who had singled.
Down 3-1, the Jumbos wasted a one-out double by senior RF Oscar Kutch in the bottom of the fifth.
Neither team would score in the sixth and seventh, though both had chances in the seventh. Middlebury had put two runners on base with no outs in the seventh on a single by Brooks Carroll and a Tufts error. However, the Jumbos got out of the inning with the help of a 5-4-3 double play. Tufts had runners on first and second after a walk by sophomore SS Will Shackelford and a base hit by senior 2B Tom Petry, but Himstead came on and shut the door.
The Panthers added single runs in the eighth and ninth. Graf walked, stole second, went to third on an infield single by Justin Han and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Alan Guild. In the ninth, Carroll singled to center, stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch.
Hennings and Carroll were also 2 for 4 for Middlebury and Hennings scored twice. Rizzo finished 2 for 5 at the top of the order. The save by Himstead was his eighth of the season.
Falkson had two of Tufts' six hits, both doubles. Superko absorbed his first loss of the year, dropping to 6-1 after allowing six hits and three runs in four innings. Juniors Kevin Galasso (3 IP, 2 H, 1 R) and Ian Kinney (2 IP, 2 H, 1 R) also pitched for the Jumbos.