Baseball | Silent, focused Jumbos move forward

Shut up and show up.

After the baseball team (12?6, 3?3 NESCAC) was swept at home in a conference series for the first time since 2008, the mantra heading into this weekend’s set against Colby (9?10, 0?3 NESCAC) at Huskins Field is simple: Focus on the task at hand, don’t dwell on the three losses to Trinity by a combined 33?13 margin and only take advantage of the present.

In short, be quiet and let the on?field performance speak for itself.

“We’re probably going to hold to that for the rest of the season,” junior Eric Weikert said. “We just have to keep our heads down and keep grinding out games.”

The grind will begin on Friday. Tufts is 32?3 versus Colby since 2000, and the Mules enter having lost five of their last seven games. The players won’t get their scouting report on Colby until this afternoon, so practices to this point have been full steam ahead, working on tightening everything and preparing for the weekend.

“There are certain things in a baseball game that are out of your control. The only thing you can control is effort and how hard you play every day,” senior co?captain Matt Collins said. “It’s just making sure they’re staying focused in the present moment, and that they’re not getting caught up in anything that happened in the past.”

Once the scouting report on the Mules comes out, senior Mike Mastrocola, who is hitting a NESCAC?best .469 with 23 RBIs, will likely be atop the list of players to watch. No Colby pitcher, however, has an ERA under 3.00. Nate Sugarbaker and Dakota Rabbitt, two of Colby’s three pitchers who have each started four games this season, sport ERAs of 7.02 and 5.40, respectively.

The Jumbos, meanwhile, doubled their loss total in the three?game set against the Bantams that began with an 18?5 drubbing on Friday and ended on Saturday when the Jumbos led 6?0 through two innings of the finale but wound up losing 8?7. The defeat sparked the Jumbos to a new level of focus – and silence.

Talk to any player, senior or freshman, and each will reiterate the same basic tenet about keeping the focus on the future, a task that can become increasingly difficult with a young roster.

“It’s preached to us from day one at Tufts,” Weikert said. “It’s something that’s bred into us, so it’s become second nature.”

Weikert called the Trinity series a “wake?up call,” though coach John Casey may have seen this coming. After Tufts needed a homer from Weikert in the eighth and a walk?off single from senior co?captain Sam Sager in the ninth just to eke out a 5?4 win over Brandeis on April 3, Casey said that his team was playing like it planned to get swept by Trinity.

He was right.

“It humbled us. It brought us back to reality that we can’t pass up opportunities when they’re presented to us,” Weikert said. “After the weekend we just had, we’re more motivated and I feel like we have to be more focused. It’s definitely all business from here on out.”

That makes this weekend’s series against Colby all the more critical in Tufts’ pursuit of a third consecutive NESCAC title. Trinity can gain the inside track to the East Division’s top seed by taking two of three from Bowdoin at home this weekend. And even if the Jumbos sweep the Mules, the Polar Bears would host the Jumbos in late April with the division’s second playoff berth on the line.

Not that any of this matters to the Jumbos.

“Nothing really changes. It’s still about our performance and our ability to live in the present moment and focus only on things we can control,” Collins said. “In terms of changing our mentality, nothing has changed. It’s just a matter of working on things that we can control, like playing hard every pitch and having a good attitude when we approach the game.”