Date: Thursday, May 10, 2001


MEDFORD – The Tufts University baseball team will play in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship tournament this weekend in Western Massachusetts. At stake are the league title and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

Tufts, which won the NESCAC East Division with a 10-2 record, will play Amherst College in the first round of the tournament on Friday at Waconah Park in Pittsfield. First pitch is at 3 p.m. It will be the first meeting between the teams this season. The Lord Jeffs, who finished second in the NESCAC West with an 8-4 mark, bring a 19-12 record in the game. Williams College, the top seed in the West, and Trinity College, which finished second in the East, are the other teams in the tournament. Play in the double-elimination event continues through Sunday.

Of the four teams in the tournament, Tufts has only faced Trinity this season. The Jumbos destroyed the Bantams in a three-game weekend series back on April 13-14. Tufts won all three games by 22-0, 5-0 and 19-2 scores (46-2 combined). They don't expect that kind of situation against any of their opponents this weekend, but they certainly enter the field with confidence.

The Jumbos are led by a solid pitching staff that has a 3.42 earned run average in 31 games. Sophomore #1 Jon Lee (Manhasset Hills, NY) is 6-1 with a 1.86 era, and pitched a one-hitter at Babson in his last start. Junior Steve Lapham (Newburyport, MA), sophomore Dave Martin (Arlington, MA) and freshman Randy Newsom (Cincinnati, OH) all posted sub-4.00 eras in more than 40 innings of work. Sophomore SS/P Brian Shapiro (Swampscott, MA) emerged as the team's closer and allowed earned runs in just three of his 10 appearances.

The bats are led by junior RF Dan Callahan (Medfield, MA), a two-time NESCAC Player of the Week this season. He leads the Jumbos with a .438 batting average, five home runs, 38 runs batted in, 12 doubles, and has struck out just four times in 127 at bats. He enters the weekend one RBI and six hits shy of touching the team's single-season records.

Sophomore CF Evan Zupancic (Lake Oswego, OR) is hitting .309 with 33 runs and 13 stolen bases out of the lead-off spot. Junior 1B Tim Ayres (Irvine, CA) has put together a solid season at .355 with 27 RBI in 29 games. Sophomore 2B Jon Herbert (Davidsonville, MD) is at .339 with 31 runs and 20 RBI in his first season as a full-timer. Senior Joe Surprenant (Tewksbury, MA) is an 2000 conference all-star behind the plate.

The Jumbos, who have stolen 58 bases this season, are playing for their second NCAA Tournament berth. They were selected previously in 1995. Head Coach John Casey's team is 13-4 in the last month of play, and are ranked seventh in this week's New England Division III poll. The Jumbos are tied with Trinity at #7, while Williams is #3 and Amherst is ninth.