Middlebury baseball’s strong season continued into the playoffs this past weekend as the Panthers beat Tufts in a best-two-out-of-three NESCAC quaterfinal series on home soil. The top-seeded Panthers knocked off the Jumbos in Sunday’s decisive third game after a split doubleheader the day before.
“The guys are super excited about beating a team of Tufts’ caliber,” Alec Ritch ’23 said. “They’re an awesome squad and it was really special to take the series at home. It was a great environment this weekend at Forbes Field.”
The first game of Saturday’s doubleheader set the tone for a dominant performance by the Panthers. First baseman Jack Stolper ’23 opened up the scoring with a two-run blast to center field in the second inning for his fifth homer of the season. The two sides traded home runs for the next four innings, with left-fielder Sammy Smith ’24 answering a Tufts solo shot in the bottom of the fourth. Tufts tied it with another home run and an RBI double in the sixth inning. However, Middlebury’s pitching kept the Jumbo’s offense at bay to secure a 4–3 victory. George Goldstein ’22 earned the win, pitching three scoreless innings to close out the game.
But the definitive moment came in the bottom of the ninth for the Panthers when Zip Malley ’23 strolled up to the plate.
“It was a battle all game and [Zip] came up after an intentional walk and laced a single off their best pitcher,” Ritch said. “That moment was huge because it put us in the driver seat and for Zip, it was a great moment with all the hard work he’s put in. He deserved it and earned it.”
After the low-scoring first game, Tufts erupted in the second contest, outscoring the Panthers, 22–9. Middlebury fell behind quickly in a nine-run first inning for Tufts, and despite an attempt to rally from behind, the Jumbos prevailed.
After a split doubleheader on Saturday, Middlebury and Tufts faced off in a winner-take-all game on Sunday. And when the pressure was the highest, the Panthers rose to the occasion, winning 13–1.
The charge was led by strong pitching from the Panthers. In six innings, Ritch only allowed one run, including five strikeouts. George Goldstein ’22 sealed the win again at the mound.
At the plate, Stolper went yard for the third time in three games to help the scoring effort. John Collins ’23 also homered and had an RBI single in the sixth, while Chris Borter ’23 went four for four at the plate with a double and two singles.
Next up, the Panthers face Amherst in the NESCAC semifinals on Friday. The game is slated for 6:00 p.m. in Hartford, Conn.
“There’s more baseball to be played and a championship to chase,” Ritch said.