Tufts baseball ends its long home stretch on high note

First-year infielder Peter DeMaria jogs to first base after earning a walk during Tufts' 24–6 win over Mass. Maritime on March 27. (Evan Slack / The Tufts Daily)

The Tufts Jumbos finished their 14-game home stand strong against the Roger Williams Hawks, Bowdoin Polar Bears and UMass Dartmouth Corsairs. The Jumbos went 4–1 in these four games, completing an 11–3 home stretch to improve their overall record to 19–5 (6–2 NESCAC).

After losing to Roger Williams on April 9, Tufts finished strong, defeating Bowdoin three times and ending its run at home against UMass Dartmouth on April 16, winning 9–4.

The Jumbos exploded for six runs in the bottom of the first inning against the Corsairs on Tuesday. Junior outfielder Justin Mills singled home junior infielder Elias Varinos with the first run of the game, and Mills later scored with senior outfielder Casey Santos-Ocampo on a RBI double by sophomore infielder Kyle Cortese, putting the Jumbos up 3–0.

Varinos spoke to the Jumbos’ quick start to the game.

“You want to come out in the first inning, and you really want to jump on them quickly,” Varinos said. “It sets the tone for the rest of the game. It was nice today to score first, and … I think the first inning was a great all-around effort.”

The Corsairs scored a run in the top of the second inning to cut the lead to 6–1, but the Jumbos quickly responded with a run of their own in the inning on an RBI double by Cortese to score Santos-Ocampo, bringing the lead back to six at 7–1. The Jumbos added another run in the inning on an RBI single by first-year infielder Peter DeMaria to score Cortese, putting the Jumbos up 8–1 after two innings.

The Corsairs attempted a comeback, scoring two times in the third inning and once in the fourth to cut the lead to 8–4. The Jumbos prevented the Corsairs from scoring again for the rest of the game, and they added another run of their own in the seventh inning when Mills scored to put the finishing touches on a 9–4 victory for the Jumbos.

On April 14, Tufts faced off against Bowdoin in a doubleheader. In the second of these two games, the Jumbos blanked the Polar Bears 16–0. The offense came early and often in the game, as Santos-Ocampo hit a two-run home run in the second inning to score Shackelford and put the Jumbos up 6–0 after two innings. In the third inning, senior catcher Eric Schnepf got an RBI to score DeMaria, and Mills got an RBI single to score Day to increase the lead to 8–0 after three.

The Jumbos concluded their scoring with three runs in the sixth inning.  Junior outfielder J.P. Knight started the scoring in the inning with a two-run double, scoring Mills and Burgess. Sophomore outfielder Brandon Bay concluded the scoring for the Jumbos in this game with an RBI single to score DeMaria and put the Jumbos up by a final score of 16–0.

In the first game of the doubleheader, the Jumbos won a hard-fought game against the Polar Bears, 5–4. Bowdoin scored two runs in the first inning to start off strong, but Tufts answered with two runs of its own to tie the game at two runs apiece after one inning.

The Polar Bears scored again in the second and fourth inning to go up 4–2. The Jumbos started their comeback in the fifth inning with two solo home runs by Mills and Cortese to tie the game at four. Varinos hit the game-winning run on an RBI triple to score Shackelford to put the Jumbos up 5–4, completing the come-from-behind win for the Jumbos.

Junior pitcher Brent Greeley started the game on the mound for the Jumbos, throwing one inning and giving up three runs on two hits. First-year pitcher Brendan McFall earned his first win of the season, throwing five relief innings of one-run ball on two hits and three strikeouts. First-year pitcher Tucker picked up his second save of the season, giving up no runs and striking out two batters in his inning of work to secure the 5–4 win for the Jumbos.

Tufts first played Bowdoin on April 13, winning another close game by a 7–6 scoreline. The Polar Bears scored struck first in the second inning, but the Jumbos tied the game up at one run apiece in the bottom half of the frame when Cortese scored on a walk. Cortese talked about his stretch of strong play this past weekend.

“I was seeing the ball real well all weekend,” Cortese said. “I was just sticking with my approach the entire season. I am sticking with the program that the coaches have put in place … If I do my job at the plate, the guy behind me is going to do his job and down the entire lineup those guys are going to continue to do their jobs, get on base, get that 90 feet. That is basically the whole principle of Tufts baseball.”

The Jumbos took the lead in the third inning on an RBI single by Cortese to score Santos-Ocampo and continued the scoring later in the inning when DeMaria scored to take a 3–1 lead. The Polar Bears came back strong and scored four runs in the fifth inning to take a 5–3 lead.

Cortese was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score Mills in the seventh inning, and Day walked later in the frame with the bases loaded to score Bay and tie the game at five runs apiece. The Polar Bears took the lead in the ninth inning, but the Jumbos came away with a walk-off victory when Cortese and first-year infielder/outfielder Miles Reid scored on an error by the Polar Bears to secure a 7–6 win for the Jumbos.

Cortese spoke about his team’s methodology when approaching their at-bats.

“Our approach the entire time is trying to get quality at-bats, whether [that is] be walking, getting hit by a pitch, working long counts [or doing] anything to get on base. It is so important for us.”

On April 9, Tufts fell to Roger Williams 8–5 in its third loss of the season. The Hawks scored first with two runs in the second inning, but the Jumbos took back the lead in the fourth inning. Schnepf tied the game in the inning on a two-run double to score Burgess and Cortese, and Shackelford took the lead for the Jumbos on an RBI double to score Schnepf.

Mills continued the scoring in the inning for the Jumbos with a two-run home run to score Shackelford, putting the Jumbos up 5–2 after four. The Hawks hit a grand slam in the sixth inning to take a 6–5 lead, and they added an insurance run in both the eighth and ninth innings to win 8–5.  

Varinos talked about the value of the team’s long home stretch.

“It was nice starting off playing a lot of games at home,” Varinos said. “Obviously, we love our home field. We love playing in front of our home fans and our family, so I think it was definitely good for us. We really were able to build some momentum coming back up north from the trip.”

The Jumbos start a 10-game road stretch with a game against Colby at 4 p.m. this Friday.