Coming off a NESCAC title and a deep run in the NCAA Div. III tournament, the Jumbos are looking for continuity this season. Tufts is historically a reliable force in NESCAC baseball, with strong showings expected every year.
“I think for me what defines Tufts baseball is perseverance,” coach John Casey said. “It’s written on our scoreboard, and it’s something that’s very important to me. It’s a grind sometimes, especially at the end of the season. You win a game and no one pats you on the back. It’s right back to the library.”
Last year, according to Casey, the players made it their goal to claim the pennant and refused to let anything stand in their way.
“I think they played really hard all year,” Casey said. “It’s really a tribute to our players. It was one of those years. Coaches always say this, but it was honestly a team effort. A bunch of guys stepped up across the board.”
The team received strong contributions from players of all ages, with first-years such as pitcher R.J. Hall (7-0, 3.53 ERA) stepping up and carving out permanent spaces for themselves in the lineup.
One key loss for Tufts since last season is shortstop Matt Moser (LA ’16). A shortstop is essential to a successful defense, and the Jumbos will need someone to assume the integral role Moser played on the team.
This season, Tufts will once again need contributions from the whole team to make a deep run. As with every year, the team will elect captains and will rely on the leadership and guidance of seniors, especially pitchers Speros Varinos and Tim Superko and outfielder Harry Brown.
“They’ve been leaders already for us, long before they had the title,” Casey said. “The responsibility is really on those three, but the one thing we tell all our guys is to motivate themselves and inspire others.”
Tufts’ pitchers were among the team’s greatest strengths last year, with a combined team ERA of just 3.25, a value 1.05 less than any other team in the NESCAC. The Jumbos allowed the fewest runs in the league, despite playing 13 more games than the second place team in the statistic, the Hamilton Continentals.
Although occasionally inconsistent, Tufts offense was a force to be reckoned with throughout the year. The Jumbos scored a total of 328 runs, which was over 40 more than the next best NESCAC team. With power coming from a number of strong hitters, notably Brown and senior Oscar Kutch, the Jumbos often jumped out to early leads.
Tufts saw its season end in their fifth game of the NCAA Div. III Regionals, a 7-5 loss to Keystone College. The Jumbos accomplished their goal a few weeks earlier though, when they won the NESCAC title after defeating Trinity 18-6.
“It didn’t really sink in right away,” Brown said. “We felt good when we knew we were up against Trinity. What was really awesome was being able to do that for the seniors in their last NESCAC tournament.”
The goals this year are to continue building on last year’s success and to ensure the team takes steps forward rather than backward.
“We never go into a season saying we’re [definitely] going to win a NESCAC championship,” Brown said. “We just want to keep the team chemistry we had last year; that’s what made playing so much fun.”
Though it is still early in the offseason, the team uses its time primarily for lifting and getting into premier shape while awaiting the beginning of the season in March.
“Our focus is becoming better, stronger, more physical athletes,” Casey said. “That’s what helps us down the stretch. We’ve gotten a reputation for closing well, but I think the truth is we don’t close at all — we stay the same while other teams fade at the end of the season.”
With the baseball season still far off, the Jumbos are focused on maintaining their winning history.
“We’ve been doing pretty well for a long time,” Casey said. “There’s nowhere to hide. There’s a strong tradition and a lot of support from the university and I think our guys really enjoy living up to the level we expect them to play at. We’re not hoping to win a couple games — our goal is to win the NESCAC championship.”