Jumbos fall to Mammoths in NESCAC title game

Junior infielder Casey Santos-Ocampo bats during Tufts' 14–1 win against Colby on April 21. Evan Slack / The Tufts Daily

After clinching the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC East division with an 8–4 conference record, the Tufts baseball team won two of its four games in the conference tournament. The Jumbos defeated the Wesleyan Cardinals on May 11 and May 12, sandwiching a 9–2 loss to the Amherst Mammoths. The next day, Tufts again fell to Amherst, which clinched the NESCAC title with its 3–2 victory.

The team closed the regular season with a three-game set against Bates, a 15–12 win over Eastern Conn. State and a 13–10 loss to UMass Dartmouth.

Tufts and Bates were tied with a win apiece entering the last game of the series on April 28, with the winner clinching the NESCAC East pennant. In the fourth inning, rising junior shortstop Elias Varinos started the scoring-spree for the Jumbos with a single to right field, scoring rising senior infielder Casey Santos-Ocampo. Rising junior outfielder Justin Mills followed with another single to right field. Up 3–1, rising junior catcher Ryan Day stepped to the plate and hit the third single to the right on the inning. Finally, graduating senior co-captain Tommy O’Hara followed with another single to give the Jumbos a 5–1 lead.

“My [first] and sophomore years, we had never really been in this situation of ‘Oh we have to win this game to make the NESCAC playoffs,’ so there were definitely nerves there for me and for everyone on the team,” Santos-Ocampo said. “I think we handled it the right way where we increased our focus and took it pitch by pitch, rather than focusing on the result of the game.”

The Jumbos scored four more in the sixth, and the Bobcats were unable to recover, scoring just twice more. Tufts tacked on three more runs in the ninth to come away with an easy 12–2 victory.

“We just had confidence in our pitchers to do the job and we had confidence in our hitters to continue swinging the bats and putting pressure on their defense,” Santos-Ocampo said.

Tufts did not have the same success at the plate earlier that day, as Bates rising junior pitcher Nolan Collins threw a three-hit shutout. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth, when the Bobcats hit three singles, scoring three runs. They added two more runs to their lead in the sixth to secure a 5–0 victory.

The first game of the series mirrored the second, though the 5–0 shutout went in Tufts’ favor. Santos-Ocampo and graduating senior right fielder Malcolm Nachmanoff earned one RBI each, while Mills had two RBIs on the game. Rising senior pitcher R.J. Hall allowed two hits and totaled 13 strikeouts on the game.

With the series win, the team improved to 8–4 in the NESCAC and 18–14 overall. The Jumbos’ late-season success contrasts against their earlier struggles, which included a 1–2 set against Trinity, and highlights their maturity.

“This year I feel like the seniors have done a great job of being leaders. We didn’t win as many games as we did last year but they’re still staying in it in the end and fighting,” Day said. “I think that’s a testament to them of staying with it, not giving up on us and pushing us every day.”

Hall earned his second NESCAC Pitcher of the Week award of the season following the three-game set against Bates. The Jumbos earned a number of individual honors this season, as Nachmanoff leads the conference with a .412 batting average, while Nachmanoff is tops with seven home runs.

The team will graduate integral seniors this season in O’Hara, Nachmanoff, infielder and co-captain Nick Falcon, infielder Christian Zazzali, infielder Boomer Saraga, outfielder Stephan White, pitcher Kevin Galasso, outfielder Mike McLaughlin and pitcher Ian Kinney.

“For me especially ,these nine seniors pulled the wagon and showed our class the way for next year,” Santos-Ocampo said. “All nine of them have been great whether it’s on or off the field. I feel like our relationship throughout the entire team starts with the upperclassmen because they have done such a good job of incorporating the underclassmen, and they’ve really created a family-like atmosphere.”