Baseball wins thrilling opening series

Tufts baseball plays Colby College on April 10, 2021. Sophie Dolan / The Tufts Daily

Tufts baseball got the series win in its conference opener, beating Colby twice in a three-game set. Both teams were coming off of their respective spring break trips with strong records, with Tufts sitting at 12–1 and Colby’s record at 10–1. Going into the series, both teams knew it would be a tough matchup.

 “Colby is a great team. They were beating us most of the first game, and they took one from us the next game and we’re gonna learn from it,” sophomore third baseman Patrick Solomon said.

The Jumbos were ranked 24th in the nation in the Division III preseason poll and were coming off a 2021 season where they were only a game away from going to the division World Series. Last year, Colby finished third in the Eastern Division of the NESCAC with a conference record of 2–6. 

In the first game of the series on Friday afternoon, the Jumbos found themselves in an early hole as the Mules took a 5–0 lead in the second inning. The runs came from two RBI singles, a two-run double and an RBI groundout. In the third inning, they tacked on another run with a solo shot by catcher Cole Palmeri. The Jumbos were able to respond, however, notching a solo home run for themselves from senior first baseman Peter DeMaria. 

Entering the fourth inning, the Mules led 6–1. They scored another run in the top of the frame on a sacrifice fly to increase their lead to 6. In the bottom of the fifth, DeMaria recorded another RBI, singling to score sophomore outfielder Ozzie Fleischer. The Mules answered once again with a run off of an RBI single in the top of the sixth to make the score 8–2. 

The score remained the same until the bottom of the eighth inning, when the Jumbos mounted a ferocious comeback. Senior outfielder Miles Reid singled down the right field line and was brought around to score by a sacrifice fly from senior designated hitter Ryan Noone. Patrick Solomon was brought in as a pinch hitter and singled to score DeMaria. Then, first-year outfielder Ben Leonard hit an RBI single, followed by another RBI single by Fleischer to make the score 8–6. In the top of the ninth, Colby scored once more on another solo home run by Palmeri to put the lead back to three runs.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Jumbos found themselves with two outs and the bases empty. The team didn’t lose hope, though.

 “We always have the mindset that we can come back and win a game, no matter what the situation is, even against a great great team like Colby,” Solomon said

Two singles and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for Solomon. He got behind in the count 1–2 but then took the next pitch he saw over the left field fence to walk it off for the Jumbos, 10–9. 

“My teammates did a great job, and we were able to get into a situation where we could make something happen. … It was a great, great team win,” Solomon said.

Both DeMaria and Fleischer went 4 for 5 on the day. The walk-off grand slam was the first home run of Solomon’s collegiate career.

Following Friday’s excitement, Saturday proved to be a different tune for the Jumbos. In the seven-inning first game of a doubleheader, Tufts took a 3–0 lead in the second inning through a two-run single by junior catcher Connor Bowman and a sacrifice fly by junior outfielder Jackson Duffy. Colby then scored nine consecutive runs in the fourth inning to take the lead 9–3. Connor Bowman got one back for the Jumbos with a solo home run in the bottom half of the inning, but Colby ended up scoring once more to win the game 10–4. 

In the second game of the doubleheader, Tufts took the lead in the first inning thanks to a run home run by junior left fielder Jimmy Evans. Second baseman Kyle Cortese scored off of an error. The Mules scored on a sacrifice fly, and then the Jumbos scored on an RBI single by Fleischer. In the top of the fourth inning, Colby tied the game 4–4 by a walked-in run and a two-RBI single. Tufts scored on a fielder’s choice to retake the lead and then scored once more on back-to-back RBI doubles by DeMaria and Cortese. DeMaria doubled in the eighth to make it 8–4 for Tufts. First-year righty pitcher Connor Podeszwa finished out the game with a 5.1 inning effort, surrendering no runs on five hits. 

“[I wanted to] try to get the win for my team, just do my best, and I trust our bats just to get the job done,” Podezswa said.

Fleischer is leading the team in batting average, hitting .448, enough for the second best in the NESCAC. 

Tufts finished the weekend with a 2–1 conference record and a 14–2 overall record. The team looks in good shape to take on the rest of the teams from the NESCAC in the coming weeks, with crucial matchups against Bates, Bowdoin and Trinity. 

“I think we showed a lot of teams in the NESCAC that we’re here to play,” Podeszwa said. 

If the Jumbos can keep this energy going, they will have no problem sailing through the rest of the regular season.