This Week in Tufts Athletics: May 15 - 21

MEDFORD – Though the students are gone and things are quiet in Medford, some of our spring teams are heating up and getting ready for post-season competition.  The baseball team won their second consecutive NECSAC Championship this weekend and heads to Syracuse, N.Y. for NCAA Regional play this weekend.  Men’s and women’s track and field head to MIT on Thursday for a last chance qualifier and will look to hit some last qualifying marks for the NCAA Championships next week.

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Baseball to New York for NCAA Regional


After winning their second consecutive and the program’s fifth NESCAC Championship this past weekend, the baseball team is headed to Syracuse, New York for NCAA Regional play.  The Jumbos are in a six-team regional and are the fourth seed.  Joining them are number one seeded Oswego State, second seeded Southern Maine, third seeded TCNJ, fifth seeded Castleton and sixth seeded Ithaca.  Play opens on Thursday and a regional winner should be crowned on Saturday.  The Regional is hosted by the State University of New York Athletics Conference (SUNYAC) and Onondaga Community College.

The Jumbos will face TCNJ (31-11), the New Jersey Athletic Conference champions, on Thursday. 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.

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.

First up for the Jumbos will be TCNJ.  The Lions are 31-11 overall this year, most recently winning the NJAC Tournament with a come-from-behind walk-off win over Ramapo. They erased an early 5-0 deficit, and then scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win, 7-6.  Zachary Shindler is leading the offense, hitting .356 with a team-leading 37 RBIs and a .454 on base percentage and 20 stolen bases.  Catcher CJ Gearhart is hitting .326 with 24 RBIs.  On the mound for the Lions Joe Cirillo is 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA in 77.1 innings of work.  Matt Curry has collected eight wins with a 0.87 ERA in 31.0 innings of relief work.

On Friday the loser of game one (Oswego/Ithaca) plays the loser of game two (Southern Maine/Castleton), and the winner of game one takes on the loser of the game between the Jumbos and the Lions.  The winner of the Jumbos game plays the winner of game two on Friday.  The tournament is double elimination, so Saturday’s schedule depends on how many teams are still alive after Friday.

Men's and Women's Track at Last Chance Meet


The men’s and women’s track and field teams have put together impressive 2017 campaigns so far this year, and they have one last chance to hit some qualifying marks this week before the NCAA Championship selections are announced.  The Jumbos will run in one of nine last chance qualifying meets nation wide, looking to hit some top marks and pick up more NCAA qualifiers.  All results are due by midnight eastern time on Thursday, so the Jumbos should have a pretty good idea then who will be heading to Geneva, Ohio that following Thursday for the NCAA Championships.  The top 16 relay times and top 20 individuals for each event qualify for the four-day championship meet to be held Thursday, May 25 to Sunday, May 28 in Geneva, Ohio.

On the men’s side, it looks like the Jumbos have at least six qualifiers, plus a relay that should qualify.   Senior Luke O’Connor currently has the nation’s top time it the 3000 meter steeplechase, junior Stefan Duvivier has the second best mark in the country in the high jump, senior Tim Nichols is third in the 10k and fourth in the 5k, junior Andrew DiMaiti is sixth in the 400 meter hurdles, sophomore Josh Etkind is seven the 110 meter hurdles and the 4x100 relay has run a time that almost always makes it, but has a chance to lower that time and be more confident they make it this weekend.  That group equals the largest group the men’s team has taken to the outdoor championships, and any added qualifiers would give the Jumbos the largest group in program history.

So, who is still looking to join that group? The 4x100 relay of sophomore Brandon Levenstein, classmate Anthony Kardonsky, senior Blake Coolidge and freshman Robert Jones is currently tied for 11th in the country.  They will run again this weekend, looking to lower their time and hopefully secure themselves a trip to Ohio next week.  Senior Nick Usoff will run in the 400 meter hurdles and currently has a time that is tied for the 20th in the country.  Sophomore Henry Hintermeister will compete in javelin, looking to better a mark that is currently ranked 20th in the country.  Kardonsky will run in the 100 meters and the 200 meters, as will Coolidge.  The 4x400 meter relay team of freshman Jordan Abate, Usoff, sophomore Thomas Doyle and DiMaiti will also look to hit a qualifying mark this Thursday.  Sophomore Hiroto Watanabe will run the 800 meters on Thursday and sophomores Christian Swenson and Colin Raposo will both compete in the 1500 with a chance of qualifying.

On the women’s side a smaller group of Jumbos heading to MIT on Thursday.  Junior Annalisa DeBari will head over to Cambridge to compete in the 100 meter hurdles.  She is just outside NCAA qualifying range now with a 14.75 that she ran at the Bates College Invitational back in the beginning of April and is the 28th best time in the country.  If she is able to shave a bit of time off that, she could sneak into the top 20 and head to Ohio next week.  Junior Jen Sherwill and freshman Julia Kissel will look to qualify in the discus and javelin, respectively.  Both will need to improve on their current best marks to qualify, but that is possible for both.  Rounding out the Jumbos group head to MIT on Thursday will be freshman Nehalem Kunkle-Read.  The rookie was injured for all of the indoor season, so she is just getting back into the swing of things and will head over to MIT to run in the 100 meter hurdles and the 400 meter hurdles with a chance to qualify in the 400 hurdles.

Junior Brittany Bowman currently has the eighth best time in the country in the 10k and the 18th best time in the 5k, so it is likely she will head to Ohio next week to run in one or both of those events.

Racing begins at 6 pm at MIT and the Jumbos should know shortly after the event concludes who will be heading to Ohio next week to compete in the NCAA Championships.



Tommy O’Hara, Junior, Baseball

Junior Tommy O’Hara was an offensive sparkplug for the baseball team this weekend, helping the Jumbos win their second consecutive NESCAC Championship in dramatic fashion.  The Jumbos are 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.  In Friday night’s ninth-inning heroics against Amherst, O’Hara doubled and then beat the throw on a close play at the plate to score the game-winning run on a base hit by junior Nick Falkson.  O’Hara’s two-run double in the third inning provided all of the offense in Tufts’ 2-1 win over Amherst in an elimination game on Saturday.  Then in Sunday’s two wins over Middlebury, he went 4-for-9 with two doubles, six RBIs and three runs scored.



Tomo Iwasaki, Sophomore, Women’s Tennis

Sophomore Tomo Iwasaki had a great weekend for the women’s tennis team in NCAA Regional play.  On Saturday against Nichols in NCAA Second Round action, Iwasaki and doubles partner Otilia Popa beat their Nichols counterpart at No. 2 doubles, 8-2.  Iwasaki then cruised to a win at No. 2 singles, beating Megan Nathanson, 6-0, 6-0.  On Sunday in a extremely close match against No. 14 Johns Hopkins, Iwasaki was big again.  She and Popa picked up the lone Jumbo win in doubles action, winning 8-3 at No. 2 doubles.  Then at No. 3 singles, she lost the first set to 24th ranked Sophia Strickland, but came from behind to win the second set in a tie breaker and then won the third set, 6-3, to give the Jumbos a vital win and tie the match at four each.



The baseball team won their second consecutive and the program’s fifth NESCAC Championship this past weekend. The Jumbos became just the second team in the 17-year championship history to win two on Sunday to claim the league title.  Junior Tommy O’Hara and freshman Elias Varinos were named the NESCAC Player and Pitcher of the Week.  The Jumbos head to Syracuse, New York this weekend for NCAA Regional play.

Senior Luke O’Connor won the 3000 meter steeplechase and classmate Tim Nichols won the 5K as the men’s track and field team scored in seven events on Saturday alone and finished fourth overall at the New England Intercollegiate Amateur Athletic Association Championships at Williams.  The meet features schools from Division I, II and III from around the region.

The women’s track and field team was also at Williams this past weekend for the New England Amateur Athletic Association Championships.  Senior Lindsay Atkeson and sophomore Sarah Perkins both had strong performances in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and junior Jennifer Sherwill placed pretty well in the discus and shot put. The meet featured teams from Division I, II and III.

The women’s tennis team hosted NCAA Regional play this past weekend.  The Jumbos opened up play with a second round win over Nichols on Saturday.  They were then narrowly edged by No. 14 Johns Hopkins on Sunday as the match came down to the No. 5 singles match and that went to a tie breaker in the third set to determine a winner.

The men’s lacrosse team fell to Wesleyan this past Saturday in NCAA tournament play.  The Jumbos had beaten Keene State on Wednesday in NCAA Second Round play to advance to take on the Cardinals in third round play on Saturday. The Jumbos finished their season with a 13-6 mark.

The women’s rowing team had a good showing at the National Invitational Rowing Championships this past Friday.  The event also serves as the New England Small College Athletic Conference championship and the Jumbos finished third behind conference winner Bates.  The Jumbos were just edged of an NCAA Tournament bid which was announced on Monday night.

The men’s crew team also wrapped up their 2017 campaign at the National Invitational Rowing Championships this past Friday.  The Jumbos finished third in the first varsity eight and second in second varsity eight against league competition.  They also had teams in third varsity eight and novice eight, and with their finishes in each race, the Jumbos won the men’s point trophy.