Middlebury Earns Split at #11 Tufts

Justin Han belted his team-leading fourth home run in the opening game on Sunday.
Justin Han belted his team-leading fourth home run in the opening game on Sunday.

The Middlebury baseball team knocked off 11th-ranked Tufts 4-0 in the opening game of a doubleheader, but the Jumbos came back to earn the split with a 6-1 triumph in the second game Sunday in Massachusetts. The Panthers (20-14), which posted their first 20-win season since 2006, return to action at Colby against Bates in the NESCAC Tournament on Friday.

The opening game was scoreless into the fifth inning when the visitors got on the board. Justin Han belted his team-leading fourth home run to right field for a 1-0 lead.

Middlebury pitcher Colby Morris got out of a jam in the bottom of the inning when the Jumbos put runners at first and second with one out. A pair of fly outs kept the difference at one.

The Panthers added some insurance in the top of the seventh, when Kevin Woodring delivered a base-clearing double. Woodring's two-out hit increased the lead to 4-0.

Conor Himstead closed out the win, tossing a scoreless inning of relief. Morris (5-3) was stellar as he earned his team-leading fifth victory, scattering five hits over six scoreless innings with two strikeouts.

The Panthers were limited to three hits, but two were for extra bases.

Tufts pitcher Speros Varinos (8-1) suffered his first loss of the season, giving up just one run on one hit in five innings. John Moschella had a double for the Jumbos.

In the night cap, the hosts jumped out to an early lead with an unearned run in the bottom of the second. Ryan Day started the inning with a walk and later scored on a Panther throwing error.

Middlebury benefitted from a pair of Jumbo miscues in the third to tie the game at 1-1. Grant Elgarten reached on an error and raced home on a fielding miscue in the outfield following a single by Phil Bernstein.      

Tufts (26-7-1) quickly regained its lead in the bottom of the third via a double down the line in right field by Tommy O'Hara that drove home Elias Varinos. O'Hara increased the lead to 3-1 when he crossed the plate on a base hit by Day.

In the fourth inning, the hosts tacked on three more runs with Will Shackelford driving in the first with a RBI single. The Jumbos extended the lead to 6-1 when Oscar Kutch scored on a wild pitch and Harrison Frickman touched the plate following a Panther error to close out the scoring.

Han and Raj Palekar each finished with two hits for Middlebury, while Colin Waters (2-3) took the loss on the mound. Waters went four innings, allowing six runs (one earned) on four hits with four strikeouts.

Tim Superko (6-0) kept his record perfect for the Jumbos, throwing six innings and giving up only an unearned run.