Jumbos continue mercurial regular season with 2–3 stretch

Senior first baseman and co-captain Nick Falkson gestures with the ball in Tufts' 6–-5 loss to Trinity on March 30. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

Playing five games in a span of six days, the Tufts baseball team recorded two wins and three losses to make its overall record 7–7, including a 1–2 mark in the NESCAC.

On Monday, the team lost 7–5 to Salem St. in a game that began as a pitching duel and ended with fireworks. First-year pitcher Jamie Weiss (0–2) started the game on the mound for the visiting Jumbos, pitching six innings and allowing five hits and four runs. For Salem St., junior pitcher Brock Riley went six innings, allowing six hits and three runs to clinch his fourth win of the season.

“We just need to a better job of putting together good at-bats. Going into the season, we were pretty confident in our lineup’s ability, and so far we have underperformed,” Tufts senior outfielder Malcolm Nachmanoff said. “We need to do a better job at the plate of stringing together hits, coming up in big situations and having a consistent approach throughout the game.”

The Jumbos trailed the Vikings 4–1 in the top of the seventh inning, when sophomore center fielder Justin Mills singled to score junior catcher Eric Schnepf. Three batters later, Nachmanoff hit a sacrifice fly to center field, plating sophomore second baseman Elias Varinos to narrow Tufts’ deficit to one.

The Vikings responded in the bottom of the inning, increasing their lead to 6–4 with two doubles and a single. Tufts clawed its way back again in the top of the eighth, as Varinos singled in a run with the bases loaded and Mills followed with a sacrifice fly. After Salem St. added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning, sophomore pitcher Ed Duran closed it out for the hosts in the ninth.

Over the weekend, Tufts played a three-game series against Trinity (7–8) in its first NESCAC action of the season. After falling short in the first two games, the Jumbos avenged their losses with a low-scoring win in the final game of the weekend, defeating the Bantams 4–2.

In the bottom of the second, junior left fielder Casey Santos-Ocampo singled up the middle, scoring first-year shortstop Ryan Daues to put the Jumbos up a run. It wasn’t until the bottom of the fourth that either team scored again, as Tufts sophomore right fielder JP Knight scored Daues with his sacrifice fly to right, and senior second baseman Christian Zazzali doubled to cement the hosts’ 3-0 lead. The Bantams scored their first run on a fielder’s choice in the top of the sixth and tacked on another in the eighth, but they were ultimately unable to close the gap.

Sophomore pitcher Spencer Langdon clinched his first collegiate win, allowing just three hits and one run in six innings. First-year pitcher Owen Copps earned the save, pitching three innings of one-hit baseball.

In the first game of the double-header, the contest remained scoreless until the bottom of the fifth, when the Jumbos took a fleeting lead. Mills roped a single into right field that scored Daues and sophomore left fielder Ryan Day. Trinity quickly responded in the top of the sixth, as senior centerfielder Brendan Pierce hit a single to the right, bringing junior outfielder Geoffrey Stillman to the plate. The visitors broke the game open two batters later with sophomore catcher Alex Rodriguez’s bases-clearing triple. The Bantams tacked on one more run in the inning, on an error by Jumbos third baseman and co-captain senior Tommy O’Hara, to solidify their 5–2 victory.

“I don’t think we played well in any of the games. I think our pitching did well enough to keep us in the games, but I don’t think we took advantage of our chances at the plate,” Tufts coach John Casey said.

Sophomore pitcher Brent Greeley started on the mound for the Jumbos, pitching five scoreless innings. Senior pitcher Ian Kinney (0–2) closed out the game and took the loss.

In the first game of the series on Friday, the Jumbos mounted their comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning, down 4–0. O’Hara singled to center, scoring Daues to put the hosts on the board. Nachmanoff followed with an infield single that scored O’Hara — the second unearned run of the inning. Then, junior shortstop Will Shackelford doubled down the right field line to drive in senior first baseman and co-captain Nick Falkson, making the score 4–3 entering the eighth.

The Bantams responded with timely runs in the eighth and the ninth to extend their lead, and the game went to the bottom of the ninth 6–3. Day earned the first hit of the inning with a pinch-hit single through the right side of the infield. With two outs, senior catcher/infielder Boomer Saraga singled down the right field line, scoring Falcon and narrowing the deficit to two. Day then scored on a wild pitch to pull Tufts within a run, but first-year outfielder Brandon Bay struck out swinging to end the game.

“Just some level of consistency is what we are looking for,” Casey said. “We are a different team this year — we have relied on pitching the last several years, and this year, we are relying on our offense a little bit and it’s got to show up. We just have to be better defensively. Pitching can cover up a lot of mistakes, and we’ve got young pitching. I think those guys are working really hard and doing a good job.”

On March 28, Tufts dominated Mass. Maritime with a 19–3 away win, as 12 different players scored for the visitors. Varinos totaled three RBIs in the game, while six Jumbos added two. Tufts tallied a combined nine runs in the third and fourth innings and tacked on seven more in the top of the sixth. The team did not concede a run until the bottom of the sixth, when the Buccaneers earned all three of their runs.

“In the games we’ve won this year, that’s been the theme. We’ve had pitchers step up and then we’ve had guys just grind out at-bats,” Nachmanoff said. “We want to come out with better at-bats and score early and often, so we can help support our pitching staff.”

Tufts will face MIT (7–5) on Friday afternoon in a non-conference matchup. Last year, the teams tied 8–8 in a game that was called due to darkness.