WATERVILLE, Maine – The Tufts University baseball team completed a two-game sweep of Middlebury College in the championship round of the 2017 NESCAC Tournament on Sunday with a 10-6 win over the Panthers which gave the Jumbos their fifth conference title.
Tufts entered Sunday needing to defeat Middlebury twice in order to take the NESCAC crown. They won the first game 11-2 and then were led by five rbis from junior 3B Tommy O'Hara in the title-clinching victory. Head coach John Casey's team has won two straight NESCAC championships and four of the last eight.
The Jumbos (30-8-1) earn NESCAC's automatic berth into the NCAA Championship. The official NCAA announcement will be released this evening. Middlebury (22-17) will await a potential at-large berth.
In the decisive NESCAC game seven today, the Panthers scored after two were out in the top of the first to take a 1-0 lead. Justin Han doubled to right field and scored when Sam Graf followed with another double.
Panther sophomore starter Colby Morris retired the first six Jumbos in order including three strikeouts. However, Tufts rallied to score three times in the third. Sophomore C Harrison Frickman drew a one-out walk and advanced to second on a single by senior SS Christian Zazzali. Both runners scored when senior CF Harry Brown tripled to right-center. A ground out by O'Hara scored Brown as Tufts took a 3-1 lead.
The back-and-forth scoring pace continued in the Middlebury fourth as Andrew Hennings hit a two-out solo shot to left field pulling the Panthers within 3-2. The bomb was Hennings' first of the year.
Middlebury then tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth after Alan Guild led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second. A single by Ryan Rizzo was misplayed allowing Guild to score unearned and tie the game. With a runner on second and one out, junior reliever Ian Kinney replaced Rory Ziomek on the mound for Tufts and got a pair of fly-ball outs to end the inning.
In the fifth, after an error and a walk put Jumbos on first and second with one out, Middlebury brought senior Dylan Takamori on in relief. Tufts senior RF Oscar Kutch and O'Hara met him with consecutive rbi singles for a 5-3 Tufts lead. The Jumbos later loaded the bases in the inning and junior LF Stephan White was hit by a pitch bringing the score to 6-3 Tufts. Freshman Andrew Martinson came on to pitch and got a ground ball to end the inning.
After a 1-2-3 inning by Tufts senior Tim Superko in relief, the Jumbos put up three more in the sixth. Frickman was hit by a pitch and Brown walked to start it off. O'Hara hit a two-run double to left extending the Jumbo advantage to 8-3, and then he scored when junior 1B Nick Falkson followed with a base hit to center.
Middlebury loaded the bases in the seventh, including a single by Kevin Woodring. The all-hands-on-deck approach on the mound continued as the Jumbos brought in senior Speros Varinos, who had gone six innings in a start on Friday night. Middlebury responded with an rbi single by Han and a two-run single by Graf closing the gap to 9-6. The Panthers had the tying run at first, but Varinos got a strikeout to end the inning. Middlebury's three runs all came with two outs.
Varinos put down the Panthers 1-2-3 in the eighth before O'Hara added an insurance run, his fifth rbi of the game, with a double to left in the bottom of the inning. Kutch, who hit a one-out single, scored on the play.
In the bottom of the ninth, Varinos pitched another 1-2-3 inning and the Jumbos charged the field to celebrate another conference title.
O'Hara finished 3 for 5 for Tufts while Brown and Frickman both scored three runs. Kutch was 2 for 4 with two runs. Varinos picked up a save with 2.1 innings allowing two hits and no runs with three strikeouts. Kinney gets the win in relief.
Graf finished 2 for 4 with three rbis for Middlebury. Han and Woodring both had two hits.
The Jumbos became just the second team since the NESCAC Baseball Championship started in 2001 to win games six and seven to earn the conference title. Trinity College was the first in 2003. Tufts won three elmination games on their way to capturing the 2017 conference crown this weekend.