WATERVILLE, Maine – Making the first start of his collegiate career, freshman Elias Varinos pitched eight-plus strong innings and the Tufts University baseball team forced a game seven at the 2017 NESCAC Championship with an 11-2 victory over Middlebury College on Sunday morning.
Freshman DH Ryan Day had five rbis in the game as the Jumbo first-years helped Tufts stay alive. The teams will now play a winner-takes-all game to determine the conference champion on Sunday starting at 12:25 p.m. An automatic berth into the NCAA Championship is also on the line.
Tufts (29-8-1) staved off elimination for the second straight game. They defeated Amherst College, 2-1, in game five of the tournament on Saturday. With a 9 a.m. start to game six on Sunday, the Jumbos were playing their third game in a 24-hour span. The Panthers dropped to 22-15 with the loss.
Varinos, the younger brother of Tufts ace Speros Varinos, allowed six hits and two runs (one earned) with four walks and seven K's in 8.1 innings. He lost a shutout bid in the bottom of the ninth and was relieved by junior Ian Kinney.
After the Jumbos loaded the bases with one out and didn't score in the second due to a double play, they scored four times in the third. Senior CF Harry Brown walked and stole second with one out. After junior 3B Tommy O'Hara singled with Brown moving to third, junior 1B Nick Falkson plated Tufts' first run with a single to right. O'Hara scored when Day doubled to right field making it 2-0. With Falkson on third, sophomore LF Casey Santos-Ocampo brought him in with a sac fly which also moved Day to third. He then scored on a wild pitch for a 4-0 Jumbo lead.
Robert Erickson relieved Middlebury starter Spencer Shores in the third. The Jumbos loaded the bases on him with two outs in the fifth, but a line drive by Brown was caught by Panther CF Ryan Rizzo for the final out. The Jumbos did not score in the sixth despite two walks and a hit as O'Hara was caught stealing third for the second out and Erickson got the third out on a pop-up.
A pair of Middlebury errors helped the Jumbos break the game open in the seventh. Senior 2B Tom Petry reached on one to lead off. After an out was made, Middlebury couldn't convert a ground ball by sophomore SS Will Shackelford. Brown then singled to load the bases for Tufts. Senior RF Oscar Kutch forced home a run when he was hit by a pitch, and then O'Hara's fielder's choice brought another run in for a 6-0 Tufts lead. After a walk to Falkson loaded the bases again, Middlebury replaced Erickson with senior Jake Stalcup. Day then cleared the bases with a three-run double to right giving the Jumbos a 9-0 advantage. All five runs in the inning were unearned.
With just two hits through six innings off Varinos, Middlebury doubled that total with seventh-inning singles by Guild and Gray Goolsby. However, the Tufts freshman recorded an infield fly and a ground out to end the inning.
The Jumbos added two in the top of the ninth. Brown led off with a single and eventually scored on a passed ball. Kutch also singled and scored on a ground out by Day, his fifth rbi of the game.
For Middlebury, freshman DH Justin Han doubled to lead off the bottom of the ninth. After a walk and an out, Goolsby singled home Han to break up the shutout. Following a Tufts error, Rizzo's fielder's choice scored the second run unearned.
Day finished 3 for 6 to lead Tufts' 11-hit attack. Brown was 2 for 4 and scored three times out of the top spot of the Jumbo order. Frickman was also 2 for 4, while O'Hara and Falkson both scored a pair of runs.
Middlebury's Guild was 2 for 3 with a run. Shores took the pitching loss allowing three hits and four runs in 2.2 innings. Erickson gave up five hits and five runs in four innings, but only one run was earned. Stalcup threw 2.1 innings of relief allowing three hits and two runs (one earned).