Just when the Tufts baseball team appeared to be hitting its stride, it stumbled again. After registering convincing victories in both legs of its doubleheader against Nichols, followed by a 23–7 romp over Keene State, Tufts (10–9) conceded three late runs to fall to Roger Williams on Tuesday.
The Jumbos’ three-game winning streak — their longest of the 2018 season — gave them confidence heading into Tuesday’s road matchup with the Roger Williams Hawks (10–13), whom they defeated 14–2 last year. Tufts first-year starter Jamie Weiss pitched tremendously through the first seven innings, scattering three hits and a walk, while receiving help from the Jumbos’ offense.
Senior first baseman and co-captain Nick Falkson led off the top of the fourth inning with a home run, his team-leading fourth of the season. Tufts added another run an inning later with some effective small ball, as junior catcher Eric Schnepf got things going with a single to right field and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Roger Williams’ starter, sophomore Michael Farrell, then attempted to pick off Schnepf, but threw the ball into center field, sending Schnepf to third. Tufts senior center fielder Christian Zazzali followed with a sacrifice fly to right that doubled the visitors’ lead.
Weiss got into trouble immediately in the bottom of the seventh, surrendering a double and a walk to the first two Hawks batters. Sophomore right fielder Joey Gulino, batting .250 this season, then launched a pitch over the center field fence to give Roger Williams the lead. Weiss got through the rest of the inning unscathed, but the damage was done.
Tufts senior third baseman and co-captain Tommy O’Hara led off with a single in the top of the eighth, but did not advance past first base, as sophomore pitcher Ty Sarra came on to extinguish the threat. Sarra ran into trouble in the top of the ninth, however, allowing a walk to senior left fielder Stephan White. Sophomore Justin Mills, pinch running for White, advanced to second thanks to an error, and sophomore Elias Varinos reached first to bring the go-ahead run to the plate for the Jumbos. Schnepf moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, but junior shortstop Will Shackelford struck out looking in a critical spot. Sarra then got Tufts sophomore Ryan Day to ground out to shortstop for a five-out save.
“They definitely had some good pitching, and we knew that going in,” first-year outfielder Brandon Bay said. “Jamie Weiss pitched a great game. The home run they hit to get ahead was a heartbreaker, but we put guys on in the eighth and ninth and had good [at-bats]. It just didn’t work out the way we wanted, but overall … good performances during a tough loss.”
Two days earlier, the Jumbos walloped the visiting Keene State Owls (11–9) by a score of 23–7. Five Tufts players recorded multi-hit games, including junior designated hitter John Moschella, who went 4-for-6 to extend his hitting streak to five games. With 24 hits in 15 games, Moschella is currently batting .421 — the top mark on the team. Varinos led the Jumbos with five runs batted in, and senior right fielder Malcolm Nachmanoff added four RBIs of his own.
Despite the hosts’ explosive offense, the game remained even through two innings. Keene State matched Tufts’ six runs by putting up a run of its own in the first inning and five in the second. The Jumbos pulled away in the third, though, thanks to junior catcher Harrison Frickman’s two-run home run. While Tufts’ pitching settled into the game, the team continued to light up the scoreboard at the plate, adding three runs in both the fifth and sixth innings and six runs in the seventh.
First-year pitcher Manny Ray went the last five innings for the Jumbos, allowing just one run on three hits to earn the save in his first career outing.
“[Ray] went out there, competed and gave us exactly what we needed,” Bay said. “Changing momentum… pitching always helps with hitting — just knowing that you have a pitcher out there [who] always has your back, putting up zeros on the board. That was definitely a needed relief outing.”
Tufts entered its doubleheader with Nichols (7–16) on Saturday coming off consecutive losses to Salem State and MIT. The Jumbos responded with a strong showing against the Bison, winning the first game 8–2 and the second 11–5.
Zazzali, hitting in the leadoff spot, provided the big hit for the Jumbos in the opening contest with a three-run bomb past the left field fence in the bottom of the second. Tufts added singular runs in the third and the fourth before O’Hara’s two-run homer in the sixth sealed the victory. Moschella went 3-for-4 in the contest with two singles and a double, while sophomore Brent Greeley (4–0) pitched all seven innings for the Jumbos to claim the win.
“We lost a lot of pitching last year, so we needed some guys to step up on the pitching staff,” Bay said. “[Greeley’s] definitely done that for us. He’s been a great No. 2 throughout the year. He goes out every time and competes and gets the job done.”
Zazzali again provided a spark for Tufts in its second game of the day, going 3-for-5 at the top of the lineup. The hosts broke it open in the fourth and fifth innings, scoring four runs in each. Nine of the team’s 11 runs were driven in by its Nos. 3–5 hitters, with Moschella’s four RBIs leading the team. Zazzali, O’Hara and Varinos all crossed the plate three times for the Jumbos.
“The games before [Nichols, we] had a little trouble getting those clutch hits that we needed,” Bay said. “Our goal is to get the next guy up to bat [and] work one base at a time. Whenever we can get someone on, get them to second and get that clutch hit to get them in, that’s always our goal. Moschella’s been a great contributor. [Zazzali’s] definitely stepped up as a senior this year.”
Meanwhile, sophomore pitcher Spencer Langdon (2–0) kept the Bison at bay. The Westlake, Texas native allowed two earned runs in five innings of work, striking out four. Senior Kevin Galasso closed the door on Nichols, giving up just one earned run in his four innings.
Tufts now enters a busy stretch of the season, as it will visit Bowdoin (9–10) for a three-game set this weekend before hosting UMass Dartmouth (13–8) in a doubleheader on Monday.