NESCAC title goes to Tufts

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MEDFORD – After Middlebury College forced a decisive Game 7 of the NESCAC Championship earlier in the day, the Tufts University baseball team earned an 8-3 victory over the Panthers to secure their sixth conference title on Sunday afternoon at Colby College.

Junior Spencer Langdon pitched six solid innings and a two-run home run by junior RF Ryan Day powered a four-run second inning for the Jumbos as head coach John Casey's team won its third conference crown in the last four years. Tufts (29-9) receives NESCAC's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Middlebury (26-13), who won Game 6 of the tournament earlier on Sunday 12-8, will await a potential at-large NCAA berth.

Jumbo freshman 1B Peter DeMaria got the second inning started with a double to right-center and then Day followed with his first home run of the season, a two-run bomb to right for a 2-0 lead. After a walk to senior catcher Eric Schnepf, senior SS Will Shackelford doubled down the left-field line making it 3-0. Shackelford then scored the fourth and final run of the frame on a fielder's choice by senior LF Casey Santos-Ocampo.

Langdon threw a double-play ball (4-6-3) in the first and worked out of a jam in the second. Panther senior RF Sam Graf led off the second with a walk and stole second. Junior catcher Gray Goolsby singled him to third, but Langdon got a pop-up out on a nice play by junior Elias Varinos and a ground ball to end the threat.

Middlebury would cut the lead in half (4-2) with a pair in the bottom of the third. Junior SS Brooks Carroll singled to center and then junior DH Andrew Hennings reached by error. After a junior LF Justin Han single loaded the bases, a fielder's choice from junior 1B Alan Guild scored Carroll and then Hennings scored on another Jumbo error while Guild stole second.

The Jumbos were able to restore their two-run lead (6-2) in the top of the fourth. Shackelford (3 for 5, two runs) doubled to left-center leading off and scored on a single to center by junior CF Justin Mills. Red-hot sophomore DH Kyle Cortese then hit a two-out triple to right-center scoring Mills.

Middlebury put two on after two were out in the bottom of the fourth with a catcher's interference and a walk. However, Langdon rolled a fielder's choice to stymie the the threat.

In the top of the sixth, the Jumbos added another run as Cortese walked and DeMaria hit a ball into the left-center gap for a two-out rbi double putting the Tufts margin at 7-2. Langdon finished his outing with a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth. He allowed five hits and one earned run.

Freshman reliever Steven Landry entered the game in the seventh and was greeted by a double from Carroll. Hennings followed with an infield single sending Carroll to third and then a sac fly by Han scored the run. Landry got a ground out and a fly ball to limit the damage and Tufts went to the eighth leading 7-3.

A lead-off double by Varinos, a sacrifice from Mills and an rbi single by Santos-Ocampo gave Tufts more insurance in the top of the eighth as they took an 8-3 advantage.

Jumbo freshman reliever Michael Volgende came on in the eighth and retired the side in order on three groundballs. In the Middlebury ninth, a double by Hennings and a single by Han put two runners on, but Volgende clinched the championship with a strikeout.

Varinos, Mills and DeMaria each had two hits as Tufts out-hit the Panthers 12-9 in the final. Han was 3 for 4 for Middlebury while Hennings and Carroll both had two hits. Carroll scored twice.

Middlebury used five pitchers in the game with starter Bobby Sullivan (1.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R) taking the loss.

In the earlier game, Middlebury scored in each of the first four innings to build an 8-2 lead. Sophomore CF Henry Strmecki hit a two-run home run during a four-run third inning by the Panthers.

Tufts closed to 8-4 with a pair in the bottom of the sixth. Cortese, who hit four home runs against Middlebury over the weekend, hit a two-run shot also scoring Santos-Ocampo who had singled.

The Panthers padded their margin with two runs in both the eighth and ninth innings. Strmecki had two more rbis with singles in both frames.

Cortese, who had homered twice against Middlebury in Friday's 5-0 opening round win, did it again with a three-run shot in the bottom of the ninth. That pulled Tufts within 12-8, but that's as close as they would get as the Panthers forced a decisive game seven.

Strmecki finished Game 6 at 3 for 6 with four rbis while Graf was 3 for 4 with two runs and two rbis for Middlebury. Hennings and Goolsby had three hits as Middlebury finished with 18 overall. Freshman Jackson Atwood (5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R) earned the pitching win and sophomore reliever George Goldstein had his fourth save going the final 3.2 innings.

Cortese was 3 for 5 with six rbis and three runs scored for the Jumbos in Game 6. Santos-Ocampo finished 2 for 4 with two runs and an rbi while senior catcher Harrison Frickman went 2 for 3 with a run.

The NCAA Division III Championship announcement is scheduled for Monday at noon. The berth will be the eighth overall for the Jumbos.

The NESCAC title won by baseball today is the third of the spring sports season for Tufts. Softball and men's lacrosse also won conference crowns last Sunday (May 12).