Baseball sweeps Patriot’s Day doubleheader

Tufts outfielder Jimmy Evans is pictured during a game against Colby College on April 2. Courtesy Jennifer Bowman

The Tufts University men’s baseball team swept its two-game series against nonconference opponent University of Massachusetts Dartmouth this past weekend. In a Patriots’ Day doubleheader, the Jumbos were able to soundly defeat the Corsairs in both games. After being swept by Bowdoin Polar Bears the previous weekend, the Jumbos wanted to get back on track with wins against a lower ranked opponent.

“We had a pretty significant sense of urgency,” senior pitcher Brendan McFall said. “We have this opportunity to come in, and kind of take care of business now, … and get the ship moving in the right direction again.”

The Tufts team found itself ranked 23rd among Division III teams with an overall record of 17–6 at the beginning of the weekend. Conversely, UMass Dartmouth had been having a mediocre season overall, entering the weekend with an 11–13 overall record. UMass Dartmouth snapped a five-game losing streak in the second game of a Friday doubleheader against Little East Conference opponent Castleton and was hoping to keep the momentum going through the weekend.

In the first game, McFall got the start and delivered a stellar performance. However, in the top of the first inning, the Corsairs were able to get on the board first off of an RBI single by Jared Neikam. Tufts quickly responded in the bottom of the second inning, scoring two runs. Senior designated hitter Ryan Noone singled and took second base on a wild pitch. A walk to junior catcher Connor Bowman and graduate student second baseman Kyle Cortese was hit by a pitch to load the bases for sophomore third baseman Patrick Solomon. He singled to center field to tie the game at 1–1. In his first start of the season, sophomore left fielder Johnny Briody hit a sacrifice fly to score another run for the Jumbos and take the lead 2–1. 

Neither team was able to score again until the top of the fifth inning, when UMass Dartmouth tied the game with an RBI single down the right field line by third baseman DJ Perron. The game didn’t stay tied for long, as the Jumbos broke the game open in the bottom of the inning. Two walks and another hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, and then Noone hit a single that drove in two runs. Cortese followed that up with an RBI double of his own to make the score 5–2. 

McFall went the distance in the seven-inning game, surrendering one earned run while striking out a whopping 10 batters. He improved his record to 2–1 on the year as Tufts took the opening game of the doubleheader.

In the second game, both teams had scoreless first innings, and then the scoring started in the second inning. UMass Dartmouth once again scored first in the top of the second. The Corsairs were able to load the bases and then second baseman Adam Horowitz hit a ground ball up the middle that was mishandled by Tufts sophomore shortstop Ozzie Fleischer and two runs were allowed to score. Fleischer attempted to turn the double play before he secured the ball in his glove, and the result was two unearned runs to put the Jumbos in an early hole. UMass Dartmouth followed that up with an RBI single from center fielder Scott Cromack to make it 3–0.

However, Tufts was once again able to respond. In the bottom half of the inning, Cortese hit a two-run homer over the right field fence to cut the lead to one run. The wind was blowing steadily out to right field all game, and Cortese was able to turn on a pitch and take it over the fence. Fleischer was able to follow that up with a two-run single to take the lead for the Jumbos. Fleischer then scored later in the inning on a wild pitch, making it 5–3 Tufts. 

The scoring stopped for a couple of innings until Tufts picked up another run in the bottom of the fourth inning on an RBI groundout by senior center fielder Miles Reid. More poor defense put the Jumbos in a trickier situation, as the Corsairs were able to score two runs in the top of the fifth off of another error resulting from a failed double play attempt which scored one, while another was scored off of an RBI single.

Entering the sixth inning, the score remained 6–5 Tufts, and once again the bats got hot to blow the game open. Reid hit a two-run single through the hole between the shortstop and third baseman, and senior designated hitter Peter DeMaria hit an RBI single. The bases were then loaded once more for junior left fielder Jackson Duffy, who hit into a double play but also brought in a run to make it 10–5 Tufts. Cortese capped off his excellent hitting day at the plate with another home run to right field, this time a solo shot. The home run was his fifth of the year and gave the Jumbos lots of insurance heading into the top of the seventh inning.

Junior starting pitcher Connor Kinney had a solid day on the mound, having gone six innings and only having surrendered one earned run. He collected the win and improved his record to 3–0 on the season. In the seventh inning, he allowed two runners on base and was then relieved by senior Steven Landry. The first batter Landry faced hit a sharp ground ball to Cortese at second. Cortese made a diving stop and tossed the ball from his knees to Fleischer at second base. Landry struck the second batter out and then induced a ground ball to Fleischer at second for the final out of the game

“The emphasis is just always make the simple play and then when the opportunity comes you’ve got to dive,” Cortese said.

Landry closed the game out without giving up a hit, and the Jumbos swept the series on the weekend.

Tufts improved their overall record to 19–6 and look to ride the momentum from these games into their conference matchup against Trinity College at home this weekend. This series will be vital in determining the rankings of the Eastern Division of the NESCAC.

“We’re real excited,” McFall said. “We’re hoping to go out and play [the] best baseball like we’re capable of playing, and if we do that, I like our chances against anyone.”