Johnstone, Gronski Lift Spartans to Sweep Versus No. 11 DePauw

(L-R): Kevin Johnstone and Andrew Gronski
(L-R): Kevin Johnstone and Andrew Gronski

GREENCASTLE, Ind. – Freshman third baseman Andrew Gronski (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson) went a combined 5-for-8 at the plate, including a career-high three hits in game two, and freshman righthander Kevin Johnstone tossed a career-best 8.2 innings on the mound in the nightcap leading the Case Western Reserve University baseball team to a doubleheader sweep at No.11-nationally ranked DePauw University (Ind.) on Saturday at Walker Field. The Spartans won the seven-inning opener, 4-3, before completing the sweep via a come-from-behind 8-5 victory in the nine-inning nightcap.

The Spartans improve to 25-12-1 overall with the wins. The Tigers, ranked No. 11 in the latest Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) national poll, dip to 27-7.

In game one, Case got on the board with a pair of runs in the first all with two outs. Junior centerfielder Paul Pakan (Tallmadge, Ohio/Tallmadge) started the rally with a single to right and moved to second base on a walk by senior leftfielder Sam Alexander (Alexandria, Va./T.C. Williams). The next two batters, junior first baseman Brett Ossola (Potomac, Md./Bullis School) and Gronski, each recorded RBI singles off DePauw starting pitcher Elliott Ross.

The Tigers responded in the bottom of the frame with a single tally cutting the Spartan advantage in half (2-1) on a leadoff double down the leftfield line from Zach Starr, who scored later in the inning via a sacrifice fly. 

Case added a single run increasing its lead to 3-1 in the third as junior shortstop Matt Keen (Tallmadge, Ohio/Tallmadge) led off with a line-drive triple over the head of the DePauw centerfielder, then came around to score on an infield single by Ossola.

However, DePauw answered with runs of its own in both the third and fourth innings on an RBI single by Zach Galyean and a balk to tie the game at 3-3.

The Spartans moved back on top with the eventual winning run in the top of the sixth when Gronski laced a single to center, moved to second a sacrifice fly and to third on a groundout. With two outs, sophomore rightfielder Jordan Dague (Barberton, Ohio/Barberton) singled to right on a full count plating Gronski.  

On the mound, junior left-hander Jamie Hora (Twinsburg, Ohio/Twinsburg) moved his record this spring to a perfect 8-0 in the complete-game victory. He allowed three runs on eight hits with five strikeouts and two walks in his first complete game this spring and 10th career.

Ross went the first five innings for the Tigers surrendering three runs on six hits striking out five and walking a pair. Alex Sroka went the final two innings taking the loss (2-2) allowing one run on three hits with a punchout.

In the nightcap, the Spartan offense came out swinging with four runs on five hits in the first highlighted by a two-run triple to center off the bat of Gronski, the second three-base hit of his career.

DePauw answered in the home half of the inning with five runs on five hits, the big blow being a three-run homerun to right centerfield off the bat of Robbie Stein.

The score remained 5-4 in favor of the Tigers until the top of the sixth as senior catcher Peter Zak (Brookline, Mass./Brookline), the reigning University Athletic Association Hitter of the Week, led off with a single to center. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on an infield single off the bat of senior designated hitter Bobby Marko (Lyndhurst, Ohio/Brush) and came home on another errant pitch knotting the game at 5-5.

Looking to continue the Spartan offensive momentum, Pakan took the first pitch he saw in the top of the seventh and deposited it over the left field wall giving Case a 6-5 advantage. The visitors tacked another run on in the eighth when sophomore infielder Andrew Frey (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) led off with a double to left and came home on another Tiger wild pitch.

At the plate, Gronski was 3-for 5 with a run scored and two RBI, while Alexander was also 3-for-5 scoring a pair of runs. As a team, the Spartans pounded out 16 hits collectively with six players having multi-hit performances in the nightcap.

On the hill, Johnstone went a career-high 8.2 innings notching his first collegiate victory. In the win, he didn't allow a run and scattered just six hits striking out a career-best five and walking four. DePauw's Michael Chiaro (3-2) was saddled with the loss giving up six runs on 12 hits in 6.2 innings of work.

Offensively for the Tigers, Starr was 3-for-4 with a run scored, while Jason Cohen went 2-for-5 with an RBI, a run scored and a stolen base.

The Spartans return to Walker Field on Sunday to conclude the weekend four-game series with the Tigers slated for another seven and nine-inning day. First pitch of the twinbill is scheduled for 12:00 p.m.