MEDFORD - The Tufts University baseball team, NESCAC champions for the second straight year and fifth time overall, will travel to Syracuse, New York this week to play in a six-team NCAA Division III Regional at the Onondaga Baseball Complex.
The Jumbos (30-8-1) earned the NESCAC's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament by winning the conference championship at Colby College over the weekend (May 12-14). The NCAA Division III Baseball Committee announced the 56 teams that will compete in the 2017 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship late Sunday night.
Tufts is the fourth seed at the Regional, which will be hosted by the State University of New York Athletics Conference (SUNYAC) and Onondaga Community College. Oswego State is the top seed at the Regional followed by Southern Maine, the College of New Jersey (TCNJ), Tufts, Castleton and Ithaca. Play will begin on Thursday (May 18).
The Jumbos will face TCNJ (31-11), the New Jersey Athletic Conference champions, on Thursday at 6 p.m. Oswego State (28-8) from the SUNYAC and Empire 8 Conference champion Ithaca College (28-11) will also meet on Thursday, as will the University of Southern Maine (30-11) from the Little East Conference and Castleton University (34-11), the North Atlantic Conference champ. The double-elimination tournament continues through Monday (May 22) if necessary.
Head coach John Casey's Jumbos became just the second team in the 17-year history of the NESCAC Championship to sweep a pair of games on Sunday to win the title. Tufts started the weekend by scoring twice after two were out in the bottom of the ninth to stun Amherst College 5-4 on Friday night. After losing to Middlebury College 5-1 in the winner's bracket on Saturday, the Jumbos stayed alive with a 2-1 victory against Amherst later on Saturday. Needing to beat Middlebury twice on Sunday to win the championship, the Jumbos prevailed 11-2 and 10-6. With five conference titles, Tufts now has more than any other team in the league.
This is the seventh NCAA appearance for the Tufts program. The Jumbos have been in the tournament two years in a row and five times in the last eight years, including 2016, 2014, 2011, and 2010. The 1995 and 2002 Jumbo teams also played in NCAA's.
Last year's Tufts squad advanced further in the NCAA's than any other team in New England. The Jumbos lost in the Regional final to Keystone College 7-5. The 2010 team also advanced to the championship round before losing to UMass Boston. Tufts is seeking its first-ever trip to the NCAA Division III Finals to be held May 26-31 in Appleton, Wisconsin.
The 2017 Jumbos are an experienced NCAA squad. Seniors Harry Brown, Oscar Kutch, Tom Petry, and Christian Zazzali, juniors Nick Falkson, Mike McLaughlin, Tommy O'Hara, and Stephan White and sophomores Harrison Frickman, Casey Santos-Ocampo and Eric Schnepf are returning position players who started games at the 2016 NCAA Regional. Brown and Petry played at the 2014 Regional. Seniors Tim Superko, Speros Varinos and Rory Ziomek, junior Ian Kinney and sophomores R.J. Hall and Joe Thomas pitched during the NCAA's in 2016, while Superko and Varinos had outings in the 2014 tournament.
The Jumbos enter the tournament with several top 25 national rankings statistically. The pitching staff, led at the top of the rotation by senior tri-captains Varinos and Superko, ranks 16th in ERA (3.23), 14th in WHIP (1.24), 13th in Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio (2.93) and 25th in Hits Allowed Per Nine Innings (8.49). On offense, Tufts is 17th among Division III teams in scoring at 8.3 runs per game. Their .420 on-base percentage that ranks 20th nationally includes national top-20 marks for walks and hit by pitches. Falkson and O'Hara have paced the Jumbo bats this spring.
Stay tuned for more information regarding the Jumbos in the NCAA Regional.