HADLEY, Mass. - The 2017 NESCAC Baseball Championship gets underway on Friday, May 12 at Colby’s Coombs Field. Tufts, the top seed in the East, looks to defend its title this weekend. Bates is the second seed from the division, while Middlebury and Amherst are the top two seeds from the West. The three-day, double-elimination championship starts at 3 p.m. with a pair of games on Friday and concludes on Sunday, May 14. All games will be webcasted by the Northeast Sports Network (NSN) at nsnsports.net/conferences/NESCAC.
Middlebury (20-14, 8-4 NESCAC West) meets Bates (15-15, 7-5 NESCAC East) in the opening game of the championship. The Panthers are making their first tournament appearance since 2011 and Friday marks the first meeting against the Bobcats in the postseason. After a 2-4 start to the conference schedule, the Panthers won eight of the next nine and earned the top seed in the West by winning two out of three games against Amherst. Senior Jason Lock (Foster City, Calif.) has started 32 games for the Panthers and is batting .389, while slugging .549. He has 44 hits, including 12 doubles, and 30 RBIs. Sophomore Sam Graf (Loma, Colo.) ranks second on the team in hitting with a .318 average and has rapped out 35 hits, including three home runs. He has also scored 23 runs, while recording 24 RBIs. Sophomore Colby Morris (Ross, Calif.) and first-year Spencer Shores (Roslyn Heights, N.Y.) lead the pitching staff for the Panthers. Morris has five wins in 55.1 innings on the mound and has fanned 34 hitters this season. Shores is 4-0 on the hill and has 39 strikeouts over 42.1 innings of work.
Bates is chasing its first NESCAC title. The Bobcats are making their third appearance in the conference tournament in four years. Bates got off to a 6-0 start in the division with sweeps of Colby and Bowdoin. Rookie Will Sylvia (Newton, Mass.) owns a .318 batting average and has played in 25 games. He ranks fifth on the team with 21 hits, while scoring 14 runs. First-year Jack Arend (Newfields, N.H.) has driven in a team-best 15 RBIs. Junior Connor Speed (San Diego, Calif.) and senior Anthony Telesca (Holtsville, N.Y.) lead Bates on the mound. Speed has tallied a team-high 40 strikeouts and owns a 2.17 ERA in nine starts and 49.2 innings of action. Telesca has struck out 29 hitters in his seven starts and earned three wins this year.
Tufts (26-7-1, 9-3 NESCAC East) will face Amherst (19-14, 8-4 NESCAC West) on the opening day of the championship for the fourth straight year. The teams are 5-5 versus each other in the postseason. Last season, the Jumbos earned a 5-4 win over the Mammoths in their drive to the 2016 title. Tufts is making its ninth appearance as the tournament’s top seed in the East Division, and its conference-best 14th overall appearance. Tufts heads to Colby having won six of its last seven NESCAC divisional games, with the lone setback coming in a 3-2 decision versus Bowdoin on April 23. The Jumbos’ pitching staff has a combined 3.24 ERA. Seniors Speros Varinos (Middleton, Mass.) and Tim Superko (Wellesley, Mass.) are the aces of the Tufts staff. Varinos leads the NESCAC in both ERA (1.60) and wins with an 8-1 record. He has also registered a league-best 68 strikeouts in 62 innings of work. Superko is 6-0 in nine appearances and has fanned 48 batters in 48.2 innings. Sophomore Will Shackelford (Orleans, Mass.) and junior Nick Falkson (Dedham, Mass.) pace the Jumbo offense. Shackelford ranks second in the NESCAC with a .405 batting average and is slugging .557 in 28 games, while Falkson has started all 33 contests and is batting .394 with 50 hits, 29 runs scored and 34 RBIs, which is third in the league.
Amherst, which won NESCAC titles in 2004, 2005 and 2013, is making its seventh consecutive trip to the conference championship and 13th overall. The Mammoths have won nine of their last 12 games and are hitting .320 and slugging .438 as a team to lead the NESCAC. Senior Yanni Thanopoulos (Highland, Calif.) paces the Mammoths’ offense. He leads the league with a .429 batting average, 57 hits and RBIs (37). Junior Harry Roberson (Arlington, Mass.) is hitting .363 and slugging .548. He has 49 hits and has scored a team-high 38 runs. Junior Sam Schneider (Coronado, Calif.) owns a 3.23 ERA in eight appearances and has racked up 23 strikeouts in 30.2 innings. First-year Zach Horwitz (Chestnut Hill, Mass.) has made 11 appearances and earned three starts on the mound. He has recorded a pair of wins and 20 strikeouts over 32 innings.
The top two teams in the East and West divisions qualify for the NESCAC Baseball Championship. After Friday’s games, the first elimination game will be played between the losers of Games 1 and 2, on Saturday morning, followed by the first day winners. Saturday’s late game will feature an elimination game between the Game 3 winner and loser of Game 4. The championship on Sunday will include that last team standing on Saturday and the lone undefeated team in the tournament. If necessary, a second game will be played in the result of the undefeated team dropping Sunday’s opener.
All statistics and records through 5/9/17