Baseball | Jumbos bring back young core in spring season
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 01:03
Few college teams have the luxury of bringing back all but two starters in the field and three in the rotation. But few also have had to deal with the struggle of starting so many underclassmen, like the men’s baseball team did last year — a season in which the Jumbos went 22-12, but only 4-8 in conference play.
“Last year was definitely a disappointment,” junior infielder Tim Mitropolous told the Daily in an email. “We as a team did not reach our goals. This year we are working extremely hard on the field and in the weight room, and making sure we are mentally and physically prepared for the season.”
That disappointment was partly due to a lineup that looked extremely strong heading into the 2012 season, with first baseman Matt Collins (LA ‘12) and shortstop Sam Sager (LA ‘12), who hit .374 and .400, respectively, leading the way. But even with the two All-NESCAC selections and classmate Kevin Gilchrist on the mound — he recorded a 3.44 ERA in six games for the Jumbos — the team had a season filled with ups and downs, partially due to last year’s young players.
But with only five seniors graduating last May, the stability that comes with keeping the core of the team intact will be beneficial for a squad that is looking to bounce back from last year’s campaign.
“So far this year, our team chemistry has been evident,” junior tri-captain Christian Sbily said. “It’s something that’s hard to quantify, but we really have a tight group of guys. It’s a special thing because every guy cares about the guy next to him, and we’ve done a better job about coming together as a team.”
Last year, the chemistry that can be so essential to a successful season was tougher to build, with Tufts having to incorporate so many new faces into its everyday lineup.
After starting conference play 3-0 with three consecutive victories against Bates, the Jumbos ended the year on a 1-8 skid in the NESCAC, with a lone win against Colby providing some respite from sweeps by Bowdoin and Trinity.
This year, however, the Jumbos will be fielding a team led by particularly strong junior and sophomore classes, including tri-captains Sbily and junior Nick Cutsumpas. Senior Eric Weikert completes the triumvirate as captain, and balanced by that youth the Jumbos are confident that the players on the roster now are capable of submitting a strong season and are only getting better as they gain more college experience.
“We have guys coming back who are looking to make a name for themselves this year,” Sbily said.
The Jumbos will be putting their team to the test quickly this season, as they set off this weekend for Virginia and North Carolina with 11 games to play before they return to Tufts.
They open with a pair against Castleton in Newport News, Va. and will play nine more games over the break, including two doubleheaders. The team is hoping to gauge how far along they are in their training before coming back and beginning a daunting NESCAC slate, though they are aware that the season will be a long process that they are just starting.
“We really try to do the best job that we can on the 200 feet ahead of us,” Sbily said. “While we have obvious team goals down the road, of winning conference games, our team goal right now is just playing hard every day. When we get to NESCAC games, we’ll think about them, but right now we’re just focusing on the present.”