Fortunato’s Effort Spoiled by Errors, No. 20 Spartans Drop Heart-Breaker to No. 7 Salisbury in NCAA Mideast Regional Championship

John Fortunato (far left) allowed just one earned run in eight innings. (photo by Mitch Casey)
John Fortunato (far left) allowed just one earned run in eight innings. (photo by Mitch Casey)

MARIETTA, Ohio – Senior John Fortunato (Toledo, Ohio/St. Francis de Sales) threw eight outstanding innings, but five errors led to a heart-breaking, 3-2 loss for No. 20 nationally ranked Case Western Reserve University against No. 7 Salisbury University in the NCAA Mideast Regional Championship at Don Schaly Stadium.  

The Spartans (34-12), who set the school single-season record for wins yesterday, finish runner-up at an NCAA Regional for the second year in a row.

"We told our guys that we didn't want the last couple of innings to define who we were," said Head Coach Matt Englander. "It was unfortunate that we weren't able to make enough plays to win, but I don't think it diminishes what these guys are about or what they were able to accomplish."

The Sea Gulls (37-7) went 4-0 for the regional and advance to the NCAA Division III World Series in Appleton, Wisconsin from May 23-27. Salisbury now has four championship appearances in its history.

Fortunato (8-3) allowed just one earned run on four hits in his eight innings. A combined four errors in the final two innings led to Salisbury's second and third runs of the game. The Spartans, who would have had to defeat the Eagles twice, led 2-0 until the bottom of the sixth.

"John was great, and that was what we expected out of him," Englander said. "He did what he has been doing for all us year."

Brett Collacchi (12-1) picked up the win for the Sea Gulls with 10 hits surrendered in eight innings. Kyle Hamby came out of the bullpen and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to record the save.

Salisbury placed two in scoring position with one out in the first thanks to a lead-off single and an error, but Fortunato induced a pair of fly outs to keep the game scoreless. Collacchi then pitched his way out of a similar jam in the top of the second as hits from junior second baseman Kerrigan Cain (Hartville, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban) and sophomore first baseman Noah Sherman (Kensington, Md./Georgetown Preparatory) were wasted by a pair of pop outs. The Spartans collected two hits again in the third, but Salisbury's ace was once again able to work out of trouble.

Then after a quiet fourth, the Spartans broke through for two runs on three hits in the top of the fifth. Cain hit a sacrifice fly to left, plating junior designated hitter Will Meador (Columbus, Ohio/Worthington Kilbourne), while junior catcher Jordan Swisher (Pittsford, N.Y./Pittsford Sutherland) punched a two-out RBI single to left to bring home senior shortstop Andrew Frey (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor).

Two scoreless at-bats ensued before the Sea Gulls finally got on the board in the sixth courtesy of a "suicide squeeze" from Johnny Schiotis. Fortunato's defense then let him down in the seventh as two errors allowed the tying run to score with two outs. The Spartans stranded a runner in scoring position in the eighth, and two more errors in the bottom half allowed Salisbury's Kyle Hayman to score the go-ahead run.

The Spartans outhit the Sea Gulls 10-4 as freshman centerfielder Aaron Cain (Hartville, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban), Meador and junior third baseman Andrew Gronski (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson) all finished with two hits.

Hayman ignited the Salisbury offense with a 3-for-4 effort.

CWRU placed five of its players on the all-tournament team: Meador, Gronski, both Cain brothers and senior rightfielder Jordan Dague (Barberton, Ohio/Barberton).

Dague, Fortunato, Frey and fellow senior Ray Kelly (Rochester, N.Y./Aquinas Institute) leave the program as the winningest class in school history (122-57-1) with two University Athletic Association Championships and three NCAA Regional appearances in four seasons.

 "It was really special to be around these guys this year," stated Englander. "Game in and game out, with so many things thrown our way, guys really responded and decided to be tough. Taking the hard way sometimes, staying together as a team, and just trusting in that they were prepared and work hard enough. I couldn't be more proud…it's a fantastic group of guys."