No. 20 Spartans Fall to No. 7 Salisbury, 6-2, at NCAA Mideast Regional; CWRU Faces Elimination Game Tonight

Kevin Johnstone allowed two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings pitched. (photo by Mitch Casey)
Kevin Johnstone allowed two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings pitched. (photo by Mitch Casey)

MARIETTA, Ohio – No. 20 nationally ranked Case Western Reserve University was unable to break through offensively in a 6-2 loss versus No. 7 Salisbury University (Md.) in the second game for each team at the 2014 NCAA Mideast Regional at Don Schaly Stadium.

The second-seeded Spartans (31-11) now face an elimination game versus fifth-seeded La Roche College (Pa.) tonight at 7:45 p.m. The third-seeded Sea Gulls (35-7) advance in the winner's bracket and will play tomorrow against the other tournament unbeaten, fourth-seeded Widener University (Pa.).

"Would we rather have taken the easy road? I think so." said Head Coach Matt Englander. "But, we didn't come down here to be perfect; we came down here to win a tournament."

The Spartans and Sea Gulls were originally slated to play back on Thursday, but Mother Nature created havoc with the regional schedule over the last two days. CWRU opened the tournament with a 6-2 victory against Thomas More College (Ky.) late on Wednesday before running into postponements the last two days.

Despite racking up 14 hits, the Spartans left 12 runners on base, including six in the final two innings. Junior designated hitter Will Meador (Columbus, Ohio/Worthington Kilbourne) was 3-for-5. Junior third baseman Andrew Gronski (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson) went 2-for-5 to pull within four hits of 2011 graduate Chad Mullins' CWRU single-season record of 83.

Salisbury starter Dan Fein (8-1) kept the Spartan bats off balance with just one earned run allowed on 10 hits in 7 1/3 innings. Quinn Griffith led the Sea Gulls at the plate with a 4-for-5, 3-RBI effort that included a two-run homer.

"Their kid (Fein) pitched really well," Englander said. "There's a reason why he had seven wins this year, and he showed it. He really attacked the strike zone and kept us off balance. We got a lot of hits, but it's not a hits contest, it's a runs contest."

Salisbury opened the scoring in the top of the first as lead-off hitter Kyle Hayman reached on a two-base throwing error then crossed home two batters later on an RBI single from Griffith. The Spartans momentarily tied the score in the bottom of the third as junior second baseman Kerrigan Cain (Hartville, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban) brought home senior shortstop Andrew Frey (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) with the third hit of the inning. Cain's RBI single bounced out of the glove of Hayman, who was forced to crash into the wall while retreating in right field.

In the very next inning, Salisbury went back on top with a two-run homer to left off of the bat of Jordan Gowe. That at-bat was preceded by the second Spartan error of the afternoon. Two scoreless innings ensued before the Sea Gulls seized control with another two-run homer to left – this one courtesy of Griffith.

The Spartans looked to piece together a rally in the top of the eighth when sophomore first baseman Noah Sherman (Kensington, Md./Georgetown Prep.) singled to load the bases with one out. However, Jon Schmedel came out of the Salisbury bullpen and induced an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

The Sea Gulls then tacked on a run in the ninth with an RBI single down the right field line by Austin Barefoot. The Spartans got their final run with an RBI single from Frey in the bottom of the inning. Unfortunately, CWRU left the bases loaded once again with the potential tying run at the plate.

Junior Kevin Johnstone (Placentia, Calif./Valencia) took the loss on the mound with two earned runs allowed in 6 1/3 innings. Johnstone (4-3) allowed five hits and four walks while striking out a pair.

The Spartans need to win tonight to advance to play on Sunday. This week's tournament is the program's third NCAA Regional appearance in four seasons.

"I don't worry about our guys being focused or into it or having to come back," stated Englander. "They're in good shape, they're tough, and we'll be ready to go."