Courtesy of Middlebury Sports Information
WATERVILLE, Maine - Middlebury advanced to the NESCAC Championship series for the second time since 2017 and needed to defeat Tufts twice in the double-elimination tournament. Middlebury earned a 12-8 victory in Game 6, to force a seventh and deciding game of the 2019 NESCAC Baseball Championship at Colby.
Middlebury grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first against the Jumbos when Andrew Hennings doubled to left center and later scored when Sam Graf reached on a base hit to center.
The Panthers added a run in the second inning when Justin Han walked with the bases loaded.
Tufts cut the lead in half in the bottom of the frame when Kyle Cortese hit a solo home run to center.
Middlebury quickly responded with a four-run third inning. Graf walked and scored when Henry Strmecki hit his team-leading sixth homer of the year. Hayden Smith and Andrew Gough reached on singles, with Gough crossing the plate on a sacrifice fly to right by Brooks Carroll. Gough later scored on a single through the right side by Hennings, making it a 6-1 game.
Tufts got a run back in the third before the Panthers struck for a pair in the top of the fourth. Goolsby singled through the left side and stole second with one out. Smith followed with a single to right to drive in Gray Goolsby. After stealing second, Smith scored when Gough singled to left, increasing the advantage to 8-2.
The Jumbos chipped away in the sixth with a pair of runs when Cortese hit a two-run shot to right.
Middlebury added two runs in the ninth with RBI singles from Graf and Strmecki, extending its lead to 12-4.
Tufts made some noise in the ninth with four runs, including a three-run homer for Cortese, for a 12-8 final.
Jackson Atwood (1-0) picked up his first career win, allowing four runs on six hits over 5.1 innings of work. George Goldstein pitched the final 3.2 innings out of the bullpen to earn his fourth save of the season.
The Panthers pounded out 18 hits in the game, led by a 3-for-6 effort by Strmecki, who homered and drove in four runs. Graf was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, two runs scored and a pair of walks, while Hennings was 3-5 with a double. Goolsby had a 3-for-5 game with a double, while Smith was 2-4 with three runs scored.
Lucas Gustavson (2-4) was one of four Tufts pitchers used in the game, suffering the loss by allowing two runs on three hits over 1.2 innings of work. Cortese went 3-5 with three home runs, six RBI and three runs scored to pace the Jumbo offense.