The Jumbos opened their 2019 season with a comeback victory against the Brandeis Judges at the New England Baseball Complex, edging out their opponents in a 17–15 shootout. This marks the first official outdoor game for Tufts baseball since their loss to Amherst last season in the NESCAC Championship.
“Well, having it be our first game and the first time we were outside, I feel like it was really high energy. Everyone was really excited to get outside,” junior catcher Ryan Day said. “There were a lot of mistakes too, which we can hopefully work to fix, but the energy was really good.”
Junior outfielder Justin Mills kickstarted the game for Tufts with a home run to right center field in the first inning. Soon after, senior outfielder Casey Santos-Ocampo extended the lead with a home run to left center field. With two outs and two men on base, junior infielder Elias Varinos stepped to the plate and hit a single to center field, scoring in junior outfielder JP Knight and sophomore infielder Kyle Cortese, giving Tufts a strong 4–0 lead moving into the second inning.
Brandeis recovered the lead in the next two innings, scoring three runs in the second and two more in the third. Following a double from sophomore outfielder Dan Frey, junior right fielder Dan O’Leary hit a home run to left field, earning two RBIs and landing Brandeis on the scoreboard. Brandeis then earned one more RBI off of a ground ball to third.
At the top of the third inning, Brandeis tied the game 4–4 after earning a run off of a Tufts error, then took the lead with a double to left center field. Brandeis was shut out in the top of the fourth inning, making the score 5–4 entering the bottom of the inning.
Senior co-captain Harrison Frickman started the fourth with a lead-off home run to left field, tying the game 5–5. Day advanced the lead, doubling to right field and scoring in senior co-captain Will Shackelford.
“I think it was a tie game at that point, so I was really trying to get on base and let the guys behind me get to the plate,” Frickman said. “I had an immense amount of trust in Will Shackelford behind me and once our lineup turns over, we have Mills and Day up next and they both have been seeing the ball well all preseason, and it showed yesterday.”
This lead was short-lived, however. Brandeis went on a scoring spree in the top of the fifth, totaling five runs with two singles, two doubles and a triple, taking a 10-6 lead in the process. The Jumbos were unable to retaliate in the bottom of the inning, managing just one hit and no runs.
Frey and O’Leary hit back-to-back doubles in the top of the sixth to put the Judges’ up 12–6. Sophomore infielder Ryan Daues answered in the bottom of the inning with a double to left center field, scoring in Day and Santos-Ocampo for two runs and narrowing the deficit to four runs, with the score standing at 12–8.
Frey responded once again with a double to right center field and two RBIs. Entering the bottom of the seventh, the Jumbos were down 14–8.
Despite the increasing lead for Brandeis, the Tufts offense exploded in the seventh, totaling six runs in the inning to tie the game at 14 runs apiece. Santos-Ocampo got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, scoring in Shackelford with the unearned run. Daues then grounded out to first, scoring in Mills. Following a walk and a single from senior catcher Eric Schnepf, the Jumbos tallied two more unearned runs. Shackelford then singled, scoring in Varinos.
“The [seventh] inning really was a shoot-out, but we did a really good job at the plate,” Frickman said. “Obviously, there are areas of our game that [we] are looking to improve and will improve, but we competed the entire game, which is what put us in a great place late in the game to win it. Our guys just really wanted it more.”
There was no response in the eighth from the Judges, who were held scoreless. The Jumbos capitalized on this and continued their offensive barrage in the bottom of the inning. Knight hit a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring in Day. Schnepf was walked, scoring in Santos-Ocampo, and Shackelford was hit by a pitch, which scored in Daues to end the inning with a 17–14 lead. Brandeis tallied just one run in the top of the ninth to bring the game to a close at 17–15.
With their first win under their belts, the Jumbos are now preparing for their 10-game spring break trip.
“As it gets more into the field, we need to fine-tune the mental aspect more, because a lot of times games are won by one or two plays when, if you make the heads-up play, you win, and if you don’t make the play, you lose,” Day said. “So I feel like that’s a primary focus for us as we continue to play outside and head down south.”
The trip kicks off in Virginia with a doubleheader against Castleton on March 15.