MEDFORD - The Tufts University baseball team will defend its New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title at the 2017 conference championship hosted by Colby College this weekend (May 12-14). The Jumbos face Amherst College in their first game on Friday night at 7 p.m.
Head coach John Casey's Jumbos won their fourth NESCAC championship last season at Holman Stadium in Nashua, New Hampshire by posting a 3-0 record in the double-elimination tournament. Tufts previously won conference crowns in 2002, 2010 and 2011.
Tufts is the top seed in the NESCAC East Division after winning the pennant for the fourth straight year and ninth time overall this spring. The Jumbos finished 9-3 in the division and enter the weekend at 26-7-1 overall. They are ranked 13th in this week's D3baseball.com national poll.
Amherst College (19-14) finished second in the NESCAC West Division this spring at 8-4. West Division top seed Middlebury College (20-14) also went 8-4, but the Panthers took two out of three from the Mammoths when the teams met during the regular season. Middlebury and East Divsion second-seed Bates College (15-15, 7-5) play the weekend's first game on Friday at 3 p.m. Play continues at Colby College's brand new Coombs Field on Saturday and Sunday.
Tufts leads the league in runs scored by its offense, earned run average by its pitching and fielding percentage by its defense. The Jumbos have scored 294 runs in 34 games for an 8.6 average. Their .428 on-base percentage is also NESCAC's best mark. On the mound, the Jumbos' 3.24 earned run average and 8.03 strikeouts per nine innings are both at the top of the conference's team statistics. Tufts' lead-leading fielding percentage is .966.
Senior tri-captain Speros Varinos, the returning NESCAC Pitcher of the Year, leads the league's "Triple Crown" pitching categories this spring with eight victories, a 1.60 ERA and 68 strikeouts. Senior tri-captain Tim Superko is third in NESCAC with six wins and 48 strikeouts to go with a 3.51 ERA. Junior Ian Kinney's five saves are second-most in the league.
The Jumbos have been led offensively by junior 1B Nick Falkson and junior 3B Tommy O'Hara. Among NESCAC players Falkson is fourth in batting average (.394) and third in rbis (34), while O'Hara ranks second in rbis (35) and is tied for second with four home runs. Sophomore SS Will Shackelford is second in the conference batting race with a .405 mark.
This will be Tufts' 14th appearance at the NESCAC Championship, the most of any school in the conference. The team's four titles are tied with Trinity College for the most in the league, and the Jumbos have a 22-19 overall record in conference tournament play. Tufts has been the runner-up five times. Among the other teams vying for the conference title this weekend, Amherst has won three times and been runner-up three times. Middlebury has one league title.
This is the fourth straight year that Tufts and Amherst have met on Friday of the NESCAC Tournament. Tufts won 9-5 in 2014 and 5-4 last season, sandwiched around a 5-2 Amherst victory in 2015. During the 2017 regular season, Tufts did not play Amherst. The Jumbos swept a three-game NESCAC East weekend over Bates and split a double-header with Middlebury.
Amherst's .320 batting average is the best in NESCAC and their 7.3 runs per game rates second. They are fifth in fielding (.958) and sixth in ERA (4.63). Middlebury is one of three teams in the league along with Amherst and Tufts hitting over .300 with a .302 mark. Their 6.2 runs per game are fourth, but their 4.89 ERA and .949 fielding percenatage are both ninth in NESCAC. Though Bates is last in the league for batting average (.243) and runs per game (4.4), they are second in ERA (3.37) and third in fielding (.961).
Every game of the 2017 NESCAC Baseball Championship will be webcast at https://www.nsnsports.net/conferences/nescac/.
Read NESCAC's Championship Preview at http://nescac.com/sports/bsb/2016-17/championship/preview.