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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Tufts baseball wins crucial series at Amherst

This past weekend, the Tufts Jumbos baseball program traveled to Amherst for a three-game series. Though typically NESCAC rivals, the three-game series did not count towards either team’s conference record since NESCAC baseball is divided into two divisions with the Jumbos residing in the East Division and the Mammoths residing in the West Division. The Jumbos’ victory in Saturday’s rubber match meant that they won the series by a margin of two games to one.

On Friday, for the first game of the series, right-handed pitcher E.J. Nevills took the mound for the Mammoths in the top of the first inning, where he allowed a single to Jumbos’ senior right fielder Jimmy Evans up the middle. Evans punished Nevills for his lack of command of his pitches ― advancing to second base on a passed ball, advancing to third base on a wild pitch and scoring on a passed ball on a swinging third strike to make the score 1–0. Nevills was strong throughout the rest of his outing, finishing with a line of three hits, three walks, five strikeouts and one unearned run allowed across five innings pitched.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, senior right-handed pitcher Connor Kinney gave up a one-out double down the left field line to the Mammoths’ catcher Ben Smith. Smith scored on a two-out double to center field hit by designated hitter Jack Sampedro to tie the game 1–1. Kinney was subsequently replaced by senior right-handed pitcher Jack Schwartz with a final line of four hits, one walk, one earned run and two strikeouts across 4 2/3 innings pitched.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Mammoths took a 2–1 lead on another two-out double ― this time hit by left fielder Jack Dove down the left field line. 

The Jumbos responded as sophomore left fielder Ben Leonard led off the top of the seventh inning with a single to right-center field. With one out, Leonard stole second base, and with two outs he advanced to third base on a passed ball and scored on a fielding error by the Mammoths’ third baseman to tie the game 2–2.  

Senior center fielder Jackson Duffy led off the top of the eighth inning with a single through the left side of the infield. He advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by senior catcher Connor Bowman and scored on a single by sophomore second baseman Henry Fleckner down the right field line to give the Jumbos a late 3–2 lead. Fleckner advanced to second base on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Leonard down the left-field line to extend the Jumbos’ lead to 4–2.

Tasked with protecting a 4–3 lead, Jumbos’ graduate closer Brendan McFall allowed no hits, no walks and no runs across 1 2/3 innings and struck out the final two batters of the ballgame. The 4–3 win marked Tufts’ sixth straight, following a pair of wins against UMass Boston and MIT as well as a NESCAC home series sweep against Bates.

Following a 15–2 beatdown in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Jumbos came back to win the second game 8–7 in extra innings. Trailing 2–0 in the top of the fifth inning of the rubber match, Tufts’ junior third baseman Patrick Solomon and Fleckner singled back-to-back. Junior shortstop Ozzie Fleischer singled to the Mammoths’ pitcher in the next at-bat and Solomon scored on the pitcher’s throwing error. The error set up runners on second and third base for Evans, who drove in a run on a groundout to the Mammoths’ first baseman to tie the game 2–2.

Later in the game trailing again 5–2, the Jumbos lineup put together a huge eighth inning to jump out to a 7–5 lead. Two walks and a hit-by-pitch set up bases loaded and one out for Bowman, who drove in a run with a single to center field and reloaded the bases in the process. A walk by Leonard in the following at-bat cut the Jumbos’ deficit to one run. With two outs and the bases still loaded, Fleckner smacked a three-RBI double to left field, which gave the Jumbos a 7–5 lead.

“When I came up to bat all that was going through my head was ‘find a way on by any means’ as that would mean the tying run would cross the plate for us,” Fleckner wrote in a message to the Daily. “[I knew] a fastball was coming. Coach Svagdis told me if it was right there I could rip it, so I just locked all in on a fastball down the middle and that’s exactly what I got. Overall, [I] was just trying to do anything I could to keep the inning and rally alive for my team, and [I] couldn’t be any more happy with the outcome of the at-bat.”

Despite pitching dominantly in the seventh and eighth innings, McFall struggled in the ninth, allowing the first two batters to reach base and allowing the game-tying RBI single when there were two outs. The two earned runs were McFall’s first allowed of the season and came at the back end of a season-high 2 ⅔ innings pitched.

In the top of the 10th inning, the Jumbos loaded the bases with no outs via a walk by Duffy, a single by Bowman through the left side and a walk by Leonard. Duffy scored to put the Jumbos in front 8–7 when Solomon grounded into a double play. Junior right-handed pitcher Liam Wilson got the win in the bottom of the 10th, only allowing a single in the process.

“I think the team did a fantastic job competing throughout the series,” Fleckner wrote. “Game 1 was a very tight one and we were in it the whole way. We remained focused on the task at hand of finding any way to get a W and we persevered.  After a tough outcome in game 2, our main focus was to come out and give it our best and compete. ... The team did a very good job of staying in the game knowing we could come away with a W in the end.”

Tufts will take on Bowdoin at home for a weekend NESCAC series with one game on Friday at 3 p.m. and a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 12 p.m.