The Case Western Reserve University baseball opened its 2017 home season with a doubleheader sweep on Saturday afternoon, topping Brandeis University 8-7 in 10 innings in the first game, and 10-0 in seven innings in the second contest at Nobby's Ballpark in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Spartans have now won four-straight games, improving to 10-11 overall and to 4-2 in University Athletic Association play. Brandeis dropped to 1-7 on the year, including a 0-2 mark in conference play.
Senior catcher Eric Eldred went four-for-seven over the two games, driving in five runs, including a pair on his first career home run during the second game of the day. Sophomore third baseman Jacob Kucia added a three-for-seven day at the plate with two triples and four RBIs, including the walk-off bases loaded walk in extra inning during the first contest of the day.
Game 1: CWRU 8, Brandeis 7 (10 innings)
The Spartans overcame a one-run deficit heading into the bottom of the 10th inning, scoring two runs to come from behind and top Brandeis 8-7 in the opening game of the day.
After the Judges struck for a run in the top half of the tenth, breaking a 6-6 tie, the Spartans immediately went to work in the bottom of the inning. A walk drawn by senior Aaron Cain and a bunt single by freshman Noah Mehrle, combined with an error, put the tying and go-ahead runs into scoring position with nobody out. A strike out and a walk to junior Dan Watson loaded the bases with one away. Junior Tyler Wypiszenski came up, grounding a ball to shortstop for a potentially game-ending double play, but the Judges threw the ball away, allowing the tying run to score and kept the bases loaded. Kucia followed, drawing a walk on a 3-2 pitch, forcing home the game-winning run.
The game started as a pitcher's duel, with neither team picking up a hit until the bottom of the third, when sophomore Rocco Maue tripled to start the inning. He scored on a single by Eldred a batter later, and a sacrifice fly by Cain later in the inning scored Eldred to extend the score to 2-0. The Spartans added on two more in the fourth on an RBI single by Kucia, and a rundown that allowed Maue to score later in the frame.
Sophomore started Mark Gross held the Judges scoreless into the sixth inning, when Brandeis erupted for six runs, three earned, in the inning, taking a 6-4 lead. The Spartans would respond in the bottom of the frame, with Watson scoring on a wild pitch after tripling to start the inning, and Eldred knotting the score with a two-out RBI single.
The score remained tied at 6-6 until extra innings, in large part due to CWRU sophomore reliever Corey Brown, who pitched 3.2 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and striking out four in a no-decision. Brown gave way to freshman Paul Slota, who allowed the run in the 10th inning, but limited the damage and picked up the win in the game to improve to 3-0 for the season. Brandeis' Liam Coughlin took the loss to fall to 0-2, after allowing both runs in the tenth inning during his third-of-an-inning of work.
Eldred was two-for-four with two RBI in the first game, while Mehrle and Maue each added two of the Spartans' nine hits during the opening game.
Game 2: CWRU 10, Brandeis 0 (7 innings)
The Spartans offense scored eight runs in the first three innings, and junior Ben Murphy delivered six shutout innings to lead the team to a 10-0 win over Brandeis in seven innings in the second contest.
The Spartans jumped on Brandeis' freshman starter Brandon Musto with a four-run first inning, including RBIs from Watson, Mehrle, Kucia and Eldred. After adding a run in the second on a double by senior Josh Neal that scored Cain, Eldred extended the lead in the third with a two-run home run deep over the wall in leftfield, the first of his career. Later in the inning, an RBI groundout by junior Alex Capetillo made the score 8-0 after three.
Kucia's second RBI triple of the game and a sacrifice fly from Maue in the fifth pushed the Spartans' lead to 10-0. After Murphy left the game after six innings, giving way to freshman Scott Kutschke, who pitched a scoreless seventh to secure the win for CWRU by virtue of the 10-run rule, in effect for UAA games this season.
With the win, Murphy improved to 4-0 on the season and lowered his ERA to a team-leading 1.44, including a 0.78 ERA in his four starts this season. He needed just 89 pitches to navigate the Judges' lineup for six innings, allowing a pair of hits and striking out three without walking a batter.
Kucia went two-for-four with two triples and two RBIs in the second game, while Eldred went two-for-three with three RBIs, including the two-run home run.
Overall as a team, the Spartans hit .409 (nine-for-22) with runners in scoring position during Saturday's games.
The Spartans and the Judges will wrap-up their series on Sunday, April 2nd at Nobby's Ballpark with their second doubleheader in as many days. Two nine-inning games are scheduled for Sunday, with the first pitch of the first game slated for 9:00 a.m.