WILLIMANTIC, CT - Tufts scored five runs in the first inning off Mitchell College ace Al Jordan Johnson and got a stand-out start from their own ace Speros Varinos to win their first game at the NCAA New England Baseball Regional, 8-1, on Wednesday.
The Jumbos (33-6) advance in the winner's bracket to play tomorrow night at 7:45 pm against the winner of Wednesday's game four of the Regional between host Eastern Connecticut and Oswego State.
Varinos, selected as NESCAC Pitcher of the Year this week, had 10 strikeouts through five innings and finished with 14. He went 8.2 innings overall allowing five hits and one run for his seventh victory.
Tufts' first six batters of the game reached against Johnson. Harry Brown led off with a single, Christian Zazzali was hit by a pitch, and then Tommy O'Hara singled to right field scoring Brown. An error on the play allowed Zazzali to score and the Jumbos quickly led 2-0.
The inning continued as Matt Moser singled and Dan Kelly walked to load the bases. Mike McLaughlin walked in a run, and then back-to-back fielder's choices by Stephan White and Tom Petry scored runs to make it 5-0.
The Jumbos would chase Johnson with two more runs in the second. Zazzali singled to right field with one out, took second on a wild pitch, and scored on an error by the Mariners. After Kelly walked again, reliever Eddie Santiago came on and was greeted by an rbi single from McLaughlin making it 7-0.
Meanwhile, Varinos had allowed two base-runners in the first as Mitchell's Tristan Hurley led off with a single and Tyler Pina walked. However, Varinos struck out three in the inning and the Mariners did not score. He did not allow another hit until the top of the sixth when Jack Finnegan singled up the middle. Varinos picked him off first base to end the inning though.
Santiago worked well in relief for Mitchell, holding the Jumbos scoreless from the third through the seventh. Singles by Kelly and Tom Petry helped put two on for Tufts in the fifth, but they could not capitalize. Brown doubled to open the sixth, but was stranded.
Tufts added one in the eighth to lead 8-0. Brown walked to start the inning, went to third on O'Hara's single, and scored on a single through the left side by Moser.
Varinos lost the shutout and the complete game in the ninth. Singles by Hurley, Kyle Hartenstein, and Pina loaded the bases with one out. After getting a strikeout for the second out, Varinos issued a walk to Chandler Whitney scoring the run. Rory Ziomek came on to finish the game for the Jumbos with a strikeout.
Brown was effective at the top of the Tufts order going 2 for 4 with two runs. O'Hara and Moser both had two hits while Zazzali scored twice. The Jumbos finished with 11 hits.
Hurley had two hits at the top of the Mitchell order. The loss was the first of the season for Johnson, who dropped to 7-1. He allowed four hits and seven runs (five earned) in 1.2 innings. Santiago's relief outing was 5.2 innings giving up seven hits and one run.
Mithcell (27-10) will play the Eastern Connecticut-SUNY Oswego loser tomorrow at 1:15 pm.