Thursday, May 8, 2003


MEDFORD – It was starting to take on the aura of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. The Tufts University Baseball program's record for career victories by a pitcher was set by Seymour "Bud" Niles with 28 from 1947-50. That's an average of seven wins per year during a four-year college career, no easy feat.

Several Tufts pitchers came close. Jeff Taglienti, a Boston Red Sox draft choice in 1997, won 27 games during four years. Until then, no one else's name was even listed under Niles in the record book. The record reached a half-century old in the 2000 season, the same year that pitcher Jon Lee (Manhasset Hills, NY/Herricks) was a freshman on Head Coach John Casey's Jumbos.

Three years later, Lee is the new king of victories at Tufts after recording his 29th at Babson on Sunday (May 4). It was the second longest-standing mark in the Tufts Baseball records. The longest is Niles' single-season record of 10 wins during the 1949 season (54 years). At 9-2 this spring, Lee will get a crack at tying that record when he pitches at the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament this weekend.

"He's the best pitcher we've had here in terms of consistency and success," Casey said. "The best since Bud Niles at least. A lot of other guys have had some great years, but in terms of doing it all four years Jon's been the best."

In the record-setting win, Lee went six innings in a 9-0 combined shutout of Babson in the second game of a double-header sweep by the Jumbos. He allowed just two hits, two walks and hit a batter while striking out six with his 80 pitches. He faced three more than the minimum batters for six innings, as the defense turned two double plays.

Lee leads NESCAC in victories (9) and strikeouts (52) this spring, and is 2.01 earned run average is second. He was a two-time NESCAC Player of the Week this season and received the honor six times in his career. He pitched his second no-hitter against Bates on March 29, then started and earned the victory in both ends of a double-header at Bowdoin on April 12.

As a freshman Lee went 6-2 with a 2.89 earned run average and no-hit Bowdoin late in the season. In 2001 as a sophomore he was the NESCAC Pitcher of the Year with a 7-1 record and 2.09 earned run average. Last season he overcame an early ankle injury to finish 7-1 with a 3.26 era. He pitched a complete game for an 8-2 win over Brandeis in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last May.

This is the fourth Tufts pitching record for Lee. His 29-6 overall record at Tufts is an 82.9 winning percentage that tops Niles' 80 percent (28-7).  He also owns the record for career shutouts (6) and is tied with Steve Lapham for the single-season shutout record of three that both set in 2000. The 216 strike outs he has rung up in 254 career innings is second behind Taglienti's 258 from 1994-97. Lee has a 2.52 era and has allowed just 226 hits and 7 1walks in 45 career appearances (34 starts).

The prestigious record is one of many honors Lee should accumulate during his senior season this spring. In addition to his success on the field, his outstanding academic work as a chemical engineering major was recently recognized. Lee was named to the Verizon Academic All-District 1 Baseball team. The team is comprised of 11 Division II and III players from the Northeast who maintain grade point averages over 3.2 and are leading members of their teams.

Previously, Lee was First Team All-NESCAC, ECAC New England Honorable Mention and All-New England First Team in 2001. As a freshman he was All-New England Third Team. After a slow start, but strong finish last year he was curiously ignored on all-star ballots.

For certain the individual awards are secondary to Lee. This weekend he will attempt to help pitch the team to its second straight NESCAC title. He will be joined in that pursuit by classmate Dave Martin (Arlington, MA/Arlington), an outstanding pitcher for four years as well. The Jumbos enter the tournament 21-8 overall and ranked third in New England.