2016 CWRU Baseball Season Recap

2016 CWRU Baseball Season Recap

The Case Western Reserve University baseball team made a return to the NCAA Division III Championship field in 2016, finishing the year with a 26-15 record and qualifying for the NCAA West Regional in Spokane, Washington.

Despite playing a schedule that ranked as the toughest in Division III by the NCAA's strength of schedule measurement, the Spartans turned in their seventh-consecutive season with at least 24 wins, and earned a berth to the NCAA Division III Championships for the fourth time in the program's history and third time in the last four years.  Case Western Reserve was sent to the West Regional, hosted by Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, entering the draw as the third-seeded team in the regional.  However, the Spartans would be unable to get any momentum going at the NCAA Championships, falling in the first game 8-5 to host Whitworth, and dropping a 10-0 decision to Trinity University (Tex.), the eventual NCAA Champions, in the second contest of the double-elimination tournament.  Sophomore second baseman Alex Capetillo, who hit .667 (four-for-six) with a double and two RBIs during the tournament, was named to the All-West Regional Team.

Case Western Reserve finished its regular season with a 26-13 record, and ended the season on a strong note, with 18 wins in its final 22 games.  Included in that stretch was a season-long nine-game winning from April 14 – 22, and a 6-1 win over John Carroll University in the team's annual game at Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians.  In the Progressive Field game, junior pitcher Jake Shields threw a complete-game six hitter, which proved to be the first complete game thrown by a pitcher at any level at Progressive Field during the 2016 season.

Earlier in the year, the Spartans went 5-3 at the 2016 University Athletic Association Championships, finishing tied for second at the conference tournament, one game behind Washington University (Mo.) for the UAA Title.  Case Western Reserve opened tournament play with three-straight wins, defeating Brandeis University 6-3, third-ranked Emory University 4-3, and the University of Rochester 8-1.  After suffering back-to-back losses to New York University and Washington, CWRU bounced back with a 7-1 win over Brandeis, before ending the tournament with a 3-2 loss to Emory and a 7-2 win over Rochester.  Four Spartans – junior outfielder Aaron Cain, junior outfielder Tony Damiano, senior pitcher Connor Tagg and junior pitcher Preston Williams – were named to the UAA All-Tournament Team for their performances during the conference championships.

Throughout the season, the Spartans were able to secure games late, going 21-1 when leading after six innings and 25-1 when leading after eight innings.  This was a result of a strong bullpen, which notched a 9-2 record with seven saves and a .239 opponents' batting average, while tallying a 4.05 earned run average.  Tagg would lead the corps of Spartan relievers with a school-record setting 0.67 earned run average in 27 innings of work out of the bullpen, while sophomores Liam Killingstad (1-0 with two saves and a 1.63 ERA in 14 relief appearances) and Nate Glasser (1-0 with a 2.95 ERA and two saves in 16 games) provided further strength on the mound for the Spartans late in games.

Shields would lead the CWRU starters in 2016 with an 8-3 record, matching the program record for wins in a season, en route to earning All-Mideast Region Third Team and All-UAA Second Team honors.  Freshman Mark Gross immediately became one of the Spartans' stronger starters with a 3.53 ERA and a .273 opponents' average, and Williams ended the season with a 5-1 record, a 4.10 ERA, and a .260 opponents' average, the best mark among Spartan starters.

Meanwhile, the CWRU offense was carried by a mix of veterans and young players.  Designated hitter Daniel Watson paced the squad with a breakout sophomore campaign, earning D3baseball.com All-Mideast Region Third Team and All-UAA First Team honors, after leading the team with a .359 batting average, four home runs, 26 RBIs and 23 stolen bases.  In addition, Watson also paced all Spartans with a .542 slugging percentage and a .478 on base percentage.  Cain added an All-UAA Second Team honor after batting .326 with a team-high 43 runs, and Damiano ended the year with a .287 batting average, three home runs and 26 RBIs.

Freshman shortstop Rocco Maue also had an immediate impact on the team, batting .308 with a home run, 21 RBIs, and 31 runs scored, while another freshman infielder, Mike Najmowicz, tied for the team lead with four home runs and drove in 24 runs during the year.  Freshman catcher Tyler Wypiszenski added a .315 batting average with a home run and 21 RBIs during his inaugural collegiate campaign.

In addition to their success on the field, the Spartans continued to excel in the classroom as well.  Tagg was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America Second Team, becoming the fifth member in the history of the Case Western Reserve baseball team to be named an Academic All-American, and the fourth in the last three years.  In addition, 14 members of the CWRU baseball team received UAA All-Academic recognition.

The Spartans earned the following individual awards during the 2016 season:

 

ABCA All-Mideast Region

Jake Shields

Hamilton, Ohio / Ross Senior

Third Team

Pitcher

 

D3baseball.com All-Mideast Region

Daniel Watson

St. Louis, Mo. / St. Louis Priory School

Third Team

Designated Hitter

 

NCAA All-West Regional Tournament Team

Alex Capetillo

Cincinnati, Ohio / Turpin

Second Base

 

All-UAA

Daniel Watson

St. Louis, Mo. / St. Louis Priory School

First Team

Infield/ Designate Hitter

Aaron Cain

Hartville, Ohio / Archbishop Hoban

Second Team

Outfield

Jake Shields

Hamilton, Ohio / Ross Senior

Second Team

Pitcher

 

UAA All-Tournament Team

Aaron Cain

Hartville, Ohio / Archbishop Hoban

Outfield

Tony Damiano

Naples, Fla. / Gulf Coast

Outfield

Connor Tagg

Springfield, Va. / West Springfield

Pitcher

Preston Williams

Houston, Texas / Second Baptist

Pitcher 

 

CoSIDA Academic All-America

Connor Tagg

Springfield, Va. / West Springfield

Second Team

Pitcher

 

CoSIDA Academic All-District

Connor Tagg

Springfield, Va. / West Springfield

Pitcher

 

NCBWA Player of the Week

Daniel Watson

St. Louis, Mo. / St. Louis Priory School

Honorable Mention

Hitter

 

D3baseball.com Team of the week

Daniel Watson

St. Louis, Mo. / St. Louis Priory School

First Base 

 

UAA Athlete of the Week

Daniel Watson

St. Louis, Mo. / St. Louis Priory School

Hitter

Feb. 28, Apr. 4

Aaron Cain

Hartville, Ohio / Archbishop Hoban

Hitter

Apr. 18

 

The following were the Spartans' team leaders during the 2016 season:

 

Batting Average

Daniel Watson

.359

Runs

Aaron Cain

43

Hits

Aaron Cain

56

Doubles

Aaron Cain

11

Triples

Aaron Cain, Eric Eldred

4

Home Runs

Mike Najmowicz, Daniel Watson

4

RBIs

Tony Damiano, Daniel Watson

26

Slugging %

Daniel Watson

.542

On Base %

Daniel Watson

.478

Stolen Bases

Daniel Watson

23

 

Wins

Jake Shields

8

ERA

Connor Tagg

0.67

Saves

Liam Killingstad, Nate Glasser

2

Strikeouts

Jake Shields

45

Opponents' Average

Connor Tagg

.172