No. 20 Spartans Burn the Midnight Oil, Open NCAA Mideast Regional with 6-2 Win versus Thomas More

John Fortunato (right) tied the school single-season record for wins with his fifth complete game. (photo by Mitch Casey)
John Fortunato (right) tied the school single-season record for wins with his fifth complete game. (photo by Mitch Casey)

MARIETTA, Ohio – Behind a complete game from senior pitcher John Fortunato (Toledo, Ohio/St. Francis de Sales), second-seeded Case Western Reserve University posted a 6-2 win versus seven seed Thomas More College (Ky.) to conclude day one of the 2014 NCAA Mideast Regional at Don Schaly Stadium. The game was delayed for two hours and 27 minutes due to weather, and did not end until 12:50 a.m. on Thursday.

"I don't think it's that big of a deal," said Head Coach Matt Englander when asked about the lengthy delay and late start. "They're 20, 21-year old kids with a ton of energy, no classes to worry about, that get to play meaningful baseball games in May. I wasn't too worried about the rain delay. The guys are mature and know what to do to get themselves ready to play."

The No. 20 nationally ranked Spartans (31-10) move into the winner's bracket and pull closer to the school record of 33 wins (2011), while the Saints (23-18) will face an elimination game tomorrow afternoon.

In nine innings, Fortunato (8-2) allowed two earned runs on eight hits while striking out five. The ace's victory ties the school single-season record for wins.

"He (John Fortunato) obviously had to be pretty good to get those guys out," Englander said. "Thomas More is a good club. They really swing the bat, and they play the right way. It helps when you get to throw a senior out there who is experienced and has won big games for us in the past. He battled through and did a really nice job."

Offensively, junior catcher Jordan Swisher (Pittsford, N.Y./Pittsford Sutherland) went 2-for-4 with a two-run home run and a double. Swisher now owns the team lead with seven homers this season.  

The Spartans got on the board in the bottom of the second when freshman outfielder Antonio Damiano (Naples, Fla./Gulf Coast) ripped an RBI double into the left field corner. Senior outfielder Jordan Dague (Barberton, Ohio/Barberton) scored all the way from first on the play after reaching via a single. A Thomas More fielding error in the next at-bat advanced Damiano to third and set up a sacrifice fly courtesy of senior shortstop Andrew Frey (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor).

In the top of the third, the Saints got one run back with a three-hit inning highlighted by an RBI single from Craig Hyson. Undaunted, the Spartans answered with three in the bottom of the frame thanks to a two-run homer to left by Swisher and a two-out RBI single by junior designated hitter Will Meador (Columbus, Ohio/Worthington Kilbourne).

The final five and a half innings saw only two more runners cross home. Frey hit a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the eighth. His two RBI for the day gives Frey 56 this season – the second-highest total in school history behind Chad Mullins (71 in 2011). Thomas More picked up one more tally in the top of the ninth with an RBI single by Brad Popham.

Along with Swisher, Dague and junior second baseman Kerrigan Cain (Hartville, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban) each finished 2-for-4 with a run.

Logan Miller (7-3) took the loss for Thomas More in eight innings pitched. Popham and Tyler Graber were both 2-for-4 at the plate.

The Spartans will play another day one winner, third-seeded Salisbury University (Md.), tomorrow evening at 8:00 p.m. The Sea Gulls held on to beat CWRU's local rival, John Carroll University, 9-8, in the tournament's third game.