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Miller Stymies Eastern Connecticut, 3-0

MANSFIELD, Conn. – Playing in the first meeting of 1-0 teams during the NCAA Division III regional here today, Tufts University got a combined eight-hit shutout performance from junior starter Derek Miller (Whitman, Mass.) and ace reliever sophomore Chris DeGoti (Miami, Fla.) as the top-seeded Jumbos knocked off fourth-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University, 3-0, to improve to 2-0 in the tournament. Tufts will face the winner of the Western New England College vs. University of Massachusetts Boston game in the winner’s bracket Friday at 4:30 p.m. Eastern now plays Wheaton College in an elimination game Friday at 10 a.m.

When Tufts and Eastern met April 27 in Medford, Mass., Eastern jumped out to an 8-0 lead before Tufts came to bat in the bottom of the 2nd en route to a 19-5 conquest. Today, Tufts got off to an appreciably improved start as the Jumbos drew first blood in the bottom of the 3rd, plating three runs off Eastern starter senior Matt Fontaine (Cranston, R.I.). Using three timely hits and a walk, Tufts took advantage of a senior first baseman Nate Bankoff (Lynnfield, Mass.) single to center field to drive in freshman second baseman Frank Petroskey (Dallas, Texas), who had a one-out infield single and stole second. Sophomore third baseman Sam Sager (Cranston, R.I.) sent a fly ball deep enough into left field to allow junior shortstop David LaResche to tag up and score from third base. LeResche had walked, moved to second on the Bankoff hit and found third base after a wild pitch. Bankoff then scored the third run on a single up the middle by junior right fielder Chase Rose (Scottsdale, Ariz.).

In the top of the 4th, the Warriors got a leadoff double from junior first baseman Andrew Dewing (Swampscott, Mass.) and a wild pitch advanced him to third with no outs Miller came up with a gem of a fielding play, snagging a hard, low liner off the bat of senior third baseman Melvin Castillo (Danbury, Conn.) for the first out, then induced a pop up before getting the last out on a strikeout to strand Dewing at third.

Fontaine picked up a key strikeout in the 5th with Tufts runners at second and third, getting Rose on a swinging strike three to end the threat and keep it a three-run deficit. While Tufts held the edge on the scoreboard, both starting pitchers were in relative control through five frames as Miller allowed only three hits while fanning six and Fontaine was touched for just four hits with four strikeouts.

Eastern’s greatest scoring opportunity came in the 6th when the Warriors loaded the bases with two outs but again a swinging strikeout came to the rescue for Miller as he got junior Robert Perry (Manchester, Conn.) with a curveball to keep Eastern off the board.

Tufts ace reliever sophomore Chris DeGoti (Miami, Fla.) entered the game in the top of the 8th after Miller issued an opening walk. DeGoti retired the first three batters he faced on a strikeout, a fielder’s choice grounder and an inning-ending groundout to third base.

DeGoti had a bit more difficulty in the top of the 9th as Eastern got its leadoff batter, Perry, aboard on a walk. He was removed in favor of pinch-runner junior Joe Cousineau (Newington, Conn.). When pinch-hitter junior Tyler Turgeon (Norwich, Conn.) laced a single into right field, Cousineau went a bit too far past second base and was tagged out 10 feet off the bag after LeResche received the throw from Rose, making it one out with a runner at first. The Warriors still got the tying run to the plate when junior center fielder Shane Kingsley (Bacon Falls, Conn.) was hit by a pitch. But DeGoti went on to record his 12th save of the season as senior second baseman John Parke hit a grounder to Sager at third base for a forceout and DeGoti took care of the final out, fielding a soft grounder to the mound off the bat of senior shortstop Travis Bass (West Hartford, Conn.) and flipping the ball to first to end the contest.

Playing in its 128th game in its 31st NCAA regional appearance, Eastern suffered just its second-ever shutout in regional tournament play.

While Tufts was led by its pitching duo, the Jumbos did get two hits from Bankoff, who scored a run and drove in another. The Warriors, who out-hit the Jumbo, 8-6, got two safeties from Dewing to lead them at the plate. Miller upped his record for the year to 5-0 while Fontaine fell to 6-3.