Tufts baseball traveled to Hartford, Conn. for the team’s first away NESCAC East Division series of the season on the back of a seven game winning streak dating back to April 8, when it won the second game of a doubleheader against Amherst. Two comeback wins followed by a comfortable series finale victory over Trinity meant that the Jumbos improved to 9–0 in NESCAC East play and extended their winning streak to 10 games while Trinity finished their 2023 NESCAC East regular season campaign with a record of 6–6. This weekend’s results also mean that the Jumbos will host a best-of-three series in the quarterfinals of the 2023 NESCAC Baseball Championship tournament.
In the top of the third inning of their first game on Friday, the Jumbos demonstrated their masterful ability to turn savvy baserunning into runs on the scoreboard, just as they have all season long. With one out, junior shortstop Ozzie Fleischer singled and stole second base to put himself in scoring position. He then scored on an RBI-single by first-year second baseman Jesse McCullough to give the Jumbos a 1–0 lead.
After pitching five scoreless frames to begin the ballgame, senior Connor Kinney suddenly faced a jam with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Kinney, right-handed starting pitcher, did brilliantly to strike out the next two batters, but gave up a two-out 2-RBI single to give the Bantams a 2–1 lead. In the bottom of the seventh inning, senior right-handed pitcher Aidan Tucker came on in relief of Kinney, who finished with a final line of 6.0 innings pitched, seven hits, three walks, two earned runs and four strikeouts.
Sophomore center fielder Henry Fleckner began the Jumbos’ rally with one out in the top of the eighth inning, as he drew a walk and stole second. A single by McCullough moved Fleckner to third base and marked the first multi-hit game of McCullough’s young collegiate career at a crucial time. McCollough, in fact, would go on to record multiple hits in each game for the remainder of the series.
“I knew sort of what I was capable of at the plate and just sort of not really changing my approach, just staying consistent with what I do, and I knew that eventually those would start to fall and I was making good contact,” McCollough said.
In the next at-bat, senior right fielder Jimmy Evans drove in the tying run with an RBI single to right field and advanced to second base on an error by the Bantams’ right fielder. Evans and McCullough scored on a 2-RBI single by sophomore left fielder Ben Leonard to put the Jumbos in front 4–2.
After allowing two singles but no runs in his first inning of relief in the bottom of the seventh inning, Tucker was lights-out, retiring all six batters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings to seal the Jumbos’ victory in the series opener.
In the first two innings of the second game of the series on Saturday the Jumbos fell into a quick 5–0 deficit. After a quiet first four frames, the Jumbos’ bats came alive in the fifth inning. Singles in three consecutive bats by junior third baseman Patrick Solomon, Fleischer, and Fleckner put the Jumbos’ first run on the board. Leonard led off the sixth inning with a walk, which was followed by senior designated hitter Connor Davidson and a walk by senior catcher Connor Bowman to load the bases with no outs. Still with no outs, Solomon walked to score a run and Flesicher reached on a catcher’s interference call to score another run, which made the score 5–3. The first outs of the inning were recorded when Fleckner grounded into a double play which drove in the runner from third base. In the following at-bat, McCullough drove in the tying run with a single to left field.
“Again, I just really don’t change my approach at the plate. Just staying within myself, staying calm, cool and relaxed, loose,” McCullough said. “But yeah, I got late in the count, he hung a curveball, and I took advantage of it. That’s sort of been the story of our team this year ― different guys stepping up at different times and I think that’s what makes us such a good team.”
In the top of the seventh inning, a double by senior first baseman Connor Flavin to left field, a walk by Davidson, and junior pinch hitter Connor Brala getting hit by a pitch gave the Jumbos’ offense an opportunity with the bases loaded and one out. Solomon drove in what would prove to be the winning run with a sacrifice fly to left field and another run scored on an error during the play to make the score 7–5 in favor of the Jumbos.
In the third game, Fleckner opened the game’s scoring in the third inning with a solo home run to left field. The Jumbos rallied in the fifth inning, which began with a double to left field by Solomon. Fleischer reached on a catcher’s interference call and Fleckner advanced the two baserunners to second and third base with a sacrifice bunt. McCullough walked with one out to load the bases before Evans hit a bases-clearing double down the left field line to drive in three runs and stretch the Jumbos’ lead to 4–0. Davidson rounded out the Jumbos’ scoring by hitting the Jumbos’ second solo home run of the game in the sixth inning to make the score 5–0. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Connor Podeszwa had a terrific outing as he finished with a line of 6.0 innings pitched, four hits, three walks, no runs and six strikeouts.
Tufts extended its winning streak to 12 with wins over Eastern Nazarene College on Tuesday and Brandeis University on Wednesday. They travel to Waterville, Maine this weekend for a three-game series with Colby. Colby can only clinch the NESCAC East Division’s top seed by winning all three games in the series over Tufts. Tufts will clinch the top seed if it wins at least one game in the series.