2017 CWRU Baseball Season Recap

2017 CWRU Baseball Season Recap

The Case Western Reserve University baseball team placed second in the University Athletic Association during the first season of round robin competition, and recorded its eighth-consecutive year with at least 24 victories during the 2017 campaign.

The Spartans finished the year with a 24-16 overall record, overcoming a slow start to the campaign to win 23 of their final 31 contests, and received votes in both the D3baseball.com and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper polls at various points during the year.  Case Western Reserve went 11-5 in UAA play, including a home sweep of Brandeis University, a road-series win at New York University, and splits of series against Emory University (ranked no. 3 at the time of the game) and Washington University (ranked no. 16 at the time of the game).  The Spartans picked up the most conference wins in the UAA during the season, and finished second in the UAA standings based on winning percentage in conference games.

Four CWRU players were selected to the All-UAA team, led by senior pitcher and first team honoree Jake Shields.  Earning spots on the All-UAA second team were senior outfielders Aaron Cain and Tony Damiano and sophomore catcher/ designated hitter Tyler Wypiszenski.  Shields was also named to the American Baseball Coaches All-Mideast Region Third Team for the third-straight year, as the right-handed pitcher finished the year 6-3 with a 3.15 earned run average, and finished his career with 24 victories, matching the program record originally set by Jamie Hora (2010-13).  Shields also tied the CWRU record for most career starts and finished second in school history in shutouts (2) and strikeouts (187).

Cain set a program record for career triples during the year, notching the 11th of his career on April 26th against John Carroll University.  He completed his career ranked fourth in CWRU history in runs scored (131) and sixth in hits (192), while Damiano stole 18 bases on as many attempts during the year (the most in school history without a caught stealing and seventh-most in a single season overall by a CWRU player), and ended his career with the fifth-most stolen bases in program history (44).

As a team, Case Western Reserve hit .273 during the season, while scoring 6.7 runs per game.  The team was led at the plate by Wypiszenski, who paced the squad in average (.336), doubles (14), home runs (3) and RBIs (30), while also slugging a team-leading .551 and reaching base at a .405 clip.  Cain hit .325 and tied with Damiano for the team lead with 37 runs scored, while junior outfielder Dan Watson hit .291 with 23 RBIs, and sophomore third baseman Jacob Kucia hit .290 with three home runs.  Freshman outfielder Chris Shorter (.328, two home runs) and freshman first baseman Casey McConihe (.319, 14 RBIs) each saw increased playing time as the season went on, playing a key role in the Spartans' offense by the end of the campaign.  CWRU led all UAA teams in doubles, triples and home runs during the season, and was second in the conference in runs scored per game and stolen bases.

The team's two top starters on the mound were Shields and sophomore Mark Gross (4-4, 2.93 ERA), while junior Ben Murphy (4-1, 2.51 ERA) and McConihe (3-0, 7.93 ERA), the lone southpaw starter, added depth to the rotation.   The Spartans' bullpen was anchored by three left-handed pitchers – junior Liam Killingstad (3.34 ERA, four saves and a .189 opponents' batting average in 17 appearances), sophomore Corey Brown (3-1, 3.63 ERA in 17 appearances) and freshman Scott Kutschke (1.29 ERA, a team-leading five saves and a .208 opponents' average).

For the second-straight season, Case Western Reserve faced the most difficult schedule in Division III, with its opponents' combining for a .647 winning percentage.  No other Division III team had an opponents' winning percentage over .617, and CWRU was one of just eight teams in the country with an opponents' winning percentage over .600.  13 of the team's 40 games were against squads that were featured in the D3baseball.com poll at the time of the game, and 16 of the Spartans' contests came against teams that would eventually participate in the NCAA Tournament.

On Sunday, April 2nd, with a sweep of a doubleheader at home against Brandeis, CWRU Head Coach Matt Englander claimed the 246th victory of his career, becoming the winningest coach in program history.  He passed former Spartan head coach Jerry Seimon, reaching the mark 10 seasons faster than his predecessor.  Englander ended the season with a career record of 258-203-2, and his .559 career winning percentage ranks as the best in the program's history.

Shields pitched a complete-game shutout during the Brandeis series, which began a stretch of 36.1 consecutive innings by the senior without an earned run allowed.  During the streak, spanning six different starts, Shields pitched three complete games, while allowing just 20 hits and striking out 29 batters, including a career-high 12 strikeout effort in the win over Brandeis.

Shields' streak also coincided with the Spartans' best stretch of play during the season, with the team going 15-3 over an 18-game period from March 25 through April 23.  The season was capped off with a double-header sweep at Baldwin Wallace on May 7, including an 8-5 win in 10 innings in game two on a three-run home run in extra innings by senior catcher Eric Eldred.

In addition to their success on the field, 13 members of the Case Western Reserve baseball team received UAA Spring All-Academic recognition – Cain, Damiano, Eldred, junior pitcher Nate Glasser, Killingstad, sophomore shortstop Rocco Maue, Murphy, sophomore infielder Mike Najmowicz, senior pitcher Andrew Rossman, Shields, senior pitcher Preston Williams and Wypiszenski.

The Spartans received the following honors during the 2017 season:

 

ABCA All-Mideast Region

Jake Shields

Hamilton, Ohio

Pitcher

Third Team

 

All-University Athletic Association

Jake Shields

Hamilton, Ohio / Ross Senior

Pitcher

First Team

Aaron Cain

Hartville, Ohio / Archbishop Hoban

Outfielder

Second Team

Tony Damiano

Naples, Fla. / Gulf Coast

Outfielder

Second Team

Tyler Wypiszenski

Lemont, Ill. / Neuqua Valley

Catcher/ Designated Hitter

Second Team

 

D3Baseball.com Team of the Week

Liam Killingstad

Annapolis, Md. / Key School

Relief Pitcher

Apr. 11

Scott Kutschke

Morton Grove, Ill. / Notre Dame Prep

Relief Pitcher

May 9

 

UAA Athlete of the Week

Mark Gross

Butler, Pa. / Butler Area Senior

Pitcher

Mar. 6, May 8

Jake Shields

Hamilton, Ohio / Ross Senior

Pitcher

Apr. 3, May 1

Eric Eldred

Tecumseh, Mich. / Tecumseh

Hitter

Apr. 3

Jacob Kucia

Strongville, Ohio / St. Ignatius

Hitter

May 1

Tyler Wypiszenski

Lemont, Ill. / Neuqua Valley

Hitter

Mar. 27

 

The following were the Spartans' team leaders during the 2017 season:

 

Batting Average

Tyler Wypiszenski

.336

Runs

Aaron Cain, Tony Damiano

37

Hits

Aaron Cain

52

Doubles

Tyler Wypiszenski

14

Triples

Josh Neal

5

Home Runs

Tyler Wypiszenski, Jacob Kucia

3

RBIs

Tyler Wypiszenski

30

Slugging %

Tyler Wypiszenski

.551

On Base %

Jacob Kucia

.411

Stolen Bases

Tony Damiano

18

 

Wins

Jake Shields

6

ERA (min 1.0 IP/ team game)

Mark Gross

2.93

Saves

Scott Kutschke

5

Strikeouts

Jake Shields

59

Opponents' Average

Liam Killingstad

.189