MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – After narrowly missing out on a NESCAC playoff berth during the 2017 season, the 2018 Wesleyan University baseball team used its experience and depth to secure a spot in the double-elimination conference tournament this spring on May 11-13 in Hartford, Conn.
The second-seeded Cardinals (21-14, 8-4 West Division) will battle against top-seeded Tufts (18-15, 8-4 East Division) in the opening game on Friday at 3 p.m. from the Murren Family Field at DiBenedetto Stadium on the campus of Trinity College.
Wesleyan hit the ground running during its conference schedule with a three-game sweep of Middlebury on April 7-8 at Dresser Diamond, as juniors Mike McCaffrey and Pat Clare combined for a no-hitter during a 1-0 Game 1 victory. The no-hitter was the first for Wesleyan since April 11, 1981, when Ed Keohan '83 accomplished the feat during a 7-0 triumph over Clark.
The Cardinals took one out of three from Hamilton and Amherst, respectively, and then clinched a playoff berth with a three-game sweep of Little Three-foe Williams on April 28-29.
Wesleyan has compiled a great deal of success in the conference playoffs under 17th-year head coach Mark Woodworth, as the 2014 and 2015 units hoisted the conference title, defeating Tufts and Amherst, respectively, in the championship games.
The Jumbos' journey to the postseason was not smooth, as they dropped two out of their first three divisional games to Trinity, but pulled even at .500 by taking two of three at Bowdoin on April 13-14. Tufts then swept Colby, and won a three-game series with Bates, 2-1, on April 27-28, en route to earning the top seed in the East Division.
Tufts won the 2002, 2010, 2011, 2016 and 2017 NESCAC titles under head coach John Casey, as the Jumbos rank first in the NESCAC with five titles and five runner-up finishes.
AT A GLANCE: NO. 2-SEEDED WESLEYAN
- One of the greatest qualities of the 2018 Cardinals' baseball team is its well-rounded depth, and there was no place that this was displayed better than in the batting order. Five key members of Wesleyan's lineup are batting .319 or higher, headlined by Danny Rose '19 (.373), Alex Cappitelli '20 (.359), Matt Jeye '18 (.347), Andrew Kauf '20 (.338) and Tanner Fulkerson '20 (.319).
- Rose ranks second in the NESCAC in doubles (14), sixth in batting average and slugging percentage (.545), and tied for 10th in hits (41), while Cappitelli checks in at second in runs (40), third in on-base percentage (.491), fourth in hits (46), fifth in doubles (11), sixth in RBIs (31), and 10th in batting average and walks (20).
- Jeye has compiled the third-most RBIs (36) and walks (26) in the conference, to go along with the ninth-most triples (two), and Fulkerson ranks fifth in RBIs (32) and ninth in triples (two). Chase Pratt '20 has tallied a .462 on-base percentage and 21 walks, both of which rank ninth in the NESCAC, while Jake Alonzo '20 also checks in at No. 9 with two triples.
- The Cardinals have received four weekly conference awards from the NESCAC, as Fulkerson (May 7) and Jeye (March 26) were tabbed as Player of the Week, and Mike McCaffrey '19 (April 9) and Ryan Earle '19 (March 19) garnered Pitcher of the Week laurels.
- Starting pitchers Kelvin Sosa '21 (4-2), McCaffrey (2-3) and Alec Olmstead '20 (4-3) have led the way for Wesleyan on the mound. Sosa has maintained the fifth-best ERA (2.54) in the NESCAC, while McCaffrey is tied for first in the conference with 52 strikeouts, and Sosa and Olmstead rank third and fifth in the category with 49 and 44, respectively. Earle (3-1) has been strong in relief, earning five saves, to go along with a 1.99 ERA in 22 2/3 innings, while Pat Clare '19 (3-2) has thrown 32 innings, giving up only 10 earned runs for a 2.81 ERA.
AT A GLANCE: TOP-SEEDED TUFTS:
- Malcolm Nachmanoff '18 has been the complete package in the Jumbos' lineup, as the Boston, Mass. native leads the NESCAC in batting average (.432), slugging percentage (.775), home runs (seven) and doubles (15).
- Tommy O'Hara '18 has been a huge factor behind the Jumbos' success, leading the conference with 44 runs and 39 RBIs, while John Moschella '19 has been a steady contributor, going 34-for-97 at the plate (.351), along with 34 hits, 27 RBIs, 18 runs and seven doubles.
- On the mound, the Jumbos have been led by Spencer Langdon '20 (1.66 ERA), Brent Greeley '20 (2.31) and R.J. Hall '19 (2.81), as all three pitchers have maintained a sub-3.00 ERA, and rank first, third, and eighth, respectively, in the conference in the category. Overall, the three standout pitchers have combined for an outstanding 14-4 record on the hill.
- As an entire team, Tufts has put up some highly-impressive offensive numbers, leading the conference in runs (307), hits (343), doubles (70), home runs (26), RBIs (275), walks (177), on-base percentage (.423) and slugging percentage (.442).
- Tufts leads the all-time series with a 32-24 record, including a 4-3 edge in the NESCAC playoffs.
- The teams last met on May 14, 2016, during the playoffs in Nashua, N.H., as the Jumbos prevailed by a score of 6-1.
- Wesleyan took two out of three tournament games from Tufts during the 2014 season en route to winning the school's first-ever NESCAC title.
- The rivalry dates all the way back to the 1893 season, and the Cardinals won seven of the first eight meetings, while the Jumbos have been victorious in five of the last seven.