The Case Western Reserve University baseball team dropped a pair of close games on the opening day of University Athletic Association play, falling to 25th-ranked Washington University 7-5 in the first game, and dropping a 2-1 contest in the late affair at Nobby's Ballpark in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday.
The two losses ended a six-game winning streak for the Spartans and dropped the team to 12-8 overall, including a 0-2 mark in the UAA. Washington improved to 15-3-1 overall with the two wins, and took an early lead in the conference standings with a 2-0 league mark.
Game 1: Washington 7, CWRU 5
A late rally by the Spartans' bats was not enough to overcome a slow start, as CWRU fell 7-5 to the Bears in the first game of the day.
CWRU managed to outhit the Bears in the game by an 11-9 margin, including nine hits of Washington starter John Howard, who had been holding opponents to a .206 average entering the game.
The Spartans could not translate their hits into runs early and Washington scored four runs in the third off CWRU sophomore starter Matt Levine, and added a fifth run in the fourth inning, taking a 5-0 lead. The Spartans cut the lead back to three runs, as senior catcher Tyler Wypiszenski scored on a passed ball in the fourth, and senior third baseman Jacob Kucia drove in senior second baseman Rocco Maue with a single in the fifth. The Bears increased their lead back to five with single runs in each of the sixth and seventh innings.
The Spartans rallied for three runs in the seventh, sending nine batters to the plate in the frame. Senior left fielder Jacob Pestel plated a run with a single to start the scoring, and CWRU added runs later in the inning on an RBI groundout by freshman designated hitter Nathan Shapiro, and a catcher's interference that allowed Pestel to cross the plate. However, despite loading the bases with one out in the inning, the Spartans were unable to add on any more runs, and Bears' reliever Matt Lopes held the Spartans scoreless the rest of the way to earn his third save of the year.
Sophomore Tony Smodilla pitched well in relief for CWRU, allowing just one run on two hits and a walk over the final three innings of the game. Levine took the loss to fall to 2-2 on the year.
Maue, Kucia and freshman shortstop Jacob Lott each had a pair of his in the game for CWRU.
Howard earned the win in the game for Washington, improving to 5-0 on the season.
Game 2: Washington 2, CWRU 1
Freshman Nick Denove threw his second-straight complete game, but the Bears were able to score the go-ahead run with two outs in the top of the ninth, as the Spartans fell 2-1 in the late game.
Denove, who came out on the short side of the pitchers' duel, took the loss to fall to 3-2 on the season despite allowing just two runs on six hits and three walks, while striking out four batters. He finished one pitch shy of the century mark in the game, and lowered his ERA to 2.79 with the effort.
Denove battled with Washington starter Ryan Loutos, as each held their opponents scoreless through the first five innings of the game. The Bears broke through first, scoring a run on a two-out RBI hit by John Ostrander, taking a 1-0 lead. The Spartans answered back in the bottom of the frame, starting the inning with three-straight singles by Maue, sophomore catcher Jake Ryan and Kucia. Sophomore right fielder Benjamin Stawicki evened the score with a sacrifice fly, but the Spartans stranded the other two runners, leaving the game tied at 1-1 after six.
The score remained tied into the ninth, when the Bears scored the eventual game-winning run on a two-out single by Collin Kahal that plated Thomas Gardner. CWRU was unable to reach base in the bottom of the frame, as John Brinkman came out of the bullpen for the Bears to notch his second save of the year.
Mitchell Black earned the win in relief for the Bears, raising his season record to 2-1.
The Spartans and the Bears are scheduled to continue their four game series with a doubleheader on Saturday at 12:00 p.m., but with rain in the forecast, changes to the schedule for the remaining two games this weekend are likely. Check back at athletics.case.edu for any schedule updates as they are made available.