MEDFORD – The Tufts University baseball team will play for its sixth NESCAC title on Sunday after winning a pair of games on Saturday at the 2019 conference tournament hosted by Colby College.
The Jumbos (28-8) defeated Middlebury College 5-0 in Game 2 of the tournament and then won the winner's bracket Game 3 by a 6-1 score against Williams College. Middlebury and Williams will play Game 5 on Sunday starting at 9 am with the winner taking on Tufts in the championship round starting at 12:15 pm. In the double-elimination format, the Jumbos will need just one win to capture the title. An if necessary Game 7 would follow.
Friday's opening round games were rained out. Tufts, the #1 seed from the East Division, started tournament action against #2 West seed Middlebury on Saturday. Jumbo senior pitcher RJ Hall threw a five-hit shutout with 10 Ks and just one walk to improve to 7-0 and sophomore DH Kyle Cortese hit two home runs.
Tufts took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning when junior 2B Elias Varinos (3 for 4) singled to right and scored when junior CF Justin Mills followed with a double to left. Cortese made it a 2-0 game the following inning when he led off with a solo homer. Freshman 1B Peter DeMaria was hit by a pitch and scored when senior catcher Harrison Frickman hit a two-run homer for a 4-0 advantage later in the fourth.
Middlebury (24-12) had back-to-back one-out singles by sophomore CF Henry Strmecki and junior 1B Alan Guild in the in the fifth, but could not score. The Panthers threatened again in the sixth with a lead-off walk by junior catcher Gray Goolsby and a single from junior 2B Andrew Hennings, but runners were left on first and third. Middlebury also had a runner on in the seventh and eighth, but could not get on the board.
The Jumbos made it a 5-0 game in the eighth with a solo homer from Cortese, his second of the game.
Colby Morris (5-3) also went the distance for the Panthers, allowing five runs on seven hits over eight innings with four strikeouts.
Tufts got another strong pitching performance in the winner's bracket game against Williams as freshman Aidan Tucker went seven innings allowing just one run to also improve to 7-0. Senior LF Casey Santos-Ocampo was 3 for 5 with three rbis and a run in the game.
Santos-Ocampo's solo home run with one out in the first put Tufts up 1-0 early. The Ephs tied the score in the second when freshman DH David Driscoll doubled to lead off and scored on a base hit by senior catcher Alex Panstares.
The Jumbos would take the lead for good by leading off the fourth with a pair of walks from Cortese and junior 3B JP Knight that scored. Frickman had an rbi single and senior SS Will Shackelford brought home the third Tufts run with a sac fly.
Williams threated in the fourth when sophomore LF Erik Mini hit a lead-off double, and in the sixth when Mini doubled again and advanced to third. However, both times Tucker left him on base. Singles by sophomore 2B Eric Pappas and senior Tom Benz with one out in the seventh were also wasted as Tucker finished his outing with a pop-up and a swinging strikeout.
The Jumbos then padded their lead with three in the bottom of the eighth highlighted by a Santos-Ocampo two-run double. Shackelford also had a run-scoring double in the frame as Tufts took a 6-1 advantage.
Junior Spencer Langdon pitched the final two innings for the Jumbos and earned his sixth save by retiring six of the seven batters he faced.
Williams out-hit Tufts 11-8 as Benz finished with three hits while Driscoll and Mini both had two. Junior John Lamont took the pitching loss for the Ephs (6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R).
Portions of recap courtesy of Middlebury College