The 2019 season came to a close for the Case Western Reserve University baseball team on Sunday afternoon, after suffering a pair of losses to the College of Wooster in the final games of the NCAA Division III Regional Championships at Art Murray Field in Wooster, Ohio. Needing just one win on Sunday to secure a berth into the super regionals, the Spartans were unable to deliver, getting edged 8-7 in the opening game before suffering a 9-3 loss in the second game.
With the two losses, the Spartans end their 2019 season with an overall record of 24-15. Wooster, which improved to 30-13 after the two wins, will advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals next weekend against Heidelberg University.
Game 1: Wooster 8, CWRU 7
A late comeback for the Spartans was thwarted in the opening game on Sunday, as Case Western Reserve fell a run short in an 8-7 loss to Wooster, setting up a deciding game for the regional championship later in the day.
The Spartans trailed by as many as seven runs in the game, before their bats came alive late in the contest to threaten Wooster's lead, scoring all seven of their runs in the final three innings of the game. CWRU outhit the Scots 11-10 in the game, including a three-for-four game with a double, a run scored and two RBIs for senior third baseman Jacob Kucia.
Wooster, the visiting team for the first game, got on the board with a pair of unearned runs in the top of the first, despite not picking up a hit against CWRU senior starting pitcher Mark Gross, and then added two more against Gross in the top of the fourth, taking a 4-0 lead and chasing the Spartans' starter from the game.
Freshman Willem Bouma entered the game in relief of Gross and pitched well, keeping the Spartans in the game and holding the Scots without a run until the top of the seventh, when Dan Harwood extended Wooster's lead to 5-0 with an RBI double, and Harry Witwer-Dukes followed with a two-run home run to put his team ahead 7-0.
The Spartans finally broke through in the bottom of the seventh inning with junior outfielders Noah Mehrle and Samuel Neal opening the inning with a walk and a single to chase Wooster starter Evan Faxon from the game. Sophomore shortstop Jacob Lott followed with a single through the left side of the infield against reliever Wyatt Linde, scoring Mehrle and cutting the Scots' advantage to 7-1. A two-out double on a chopper over the head of the third baseman by Kucia plated both Neal and Lott to pull the Spartans back within four runs, 7-3. A throwing error on a ball hit to short by senior catcher Tyler Wypiszenski led to the fourth run of the frame, as Kucia crossed the plate on the play and capped off the Spartans' scoring for the inning.
However, Wooster's Dan Gail homered on the first pitch of the eighth inning to push the Scots' lead back to 8-4. CWRU answered right back, as sophomore outfielder Benjamin Stawicki singled to start the inning, and Mehrle followed with a two-run home run, his second of the year, bringing CWRU back within two runs, 8-6.
The Spartans made one final comeback attempt in the ninth. Sophomore designated hitter Jake Ryan led the inning off with a home run against Andrew Hill, his team-leading ninth of the season, to cut the Wooster lead to 8-7. The next batter, Kucia, was robbed of a hit up the middle by shortstop Jake Stuursma, but Wypiszenski singled to put the tying run on the base paths. After a pop-out for the second out of the inning, Stawicki drew a walk and a wild pitch put runners on second and third, but a strikeout by Hill ended the game.
Making his second start in as many days, Faxson earned the win for Wooster to improve to 7-1, while Hill claimed his second save of the year. Gross took the loss for the Spartans, dropping to 0-2 on the year.
Game 2: Wooster 9, CWRU 3
CWRU struggled to string hits together in the final game of the regional, falling 9-3 to Wooster, as the Scots clinched the berth in the NCAA Super Regionals next weekend.
Sophomore starting pitcher Tony Smodilla retired the first six batters he faced in order, but the Scots broke through with a two-run home run in the bottom of the third by Stuursma, and a run-scoring double play in the bottom of the fourth, taking a 3-0 lead. The Spartans cut into the lead in the top of the fifth, as Maue crushed a two-out two-run home run over the wall in left field, his sixth of the season and second of the postseason, cutting the Wooster lead to 3-2.
Wooster starting pitcher Chandler Dippmann got a run back in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the frame with a solo home run to put the Scots ahead 4-2. Wooster added on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth and three in the bottom of the seventh against sophomore reliever Scott Kutschke, taking a seven run lead over the Spartans, 9-2.
CWRU pulled closer in the bottom of the eighth, following a two-out double for junior first baseman Casey McConihe, who came around to score on a base hit up the middle by Stawicki, but the Spartans would not get any closer in the loss.
Smodilla took the loss for the Spartans, falling to 0-1 on the year, while Dippman pitched the complete game to improve to 9-3.
The loss ends another overall successful season for the Spartans, who recorded their 10th-straight winning season in 2019. It also marked the final career games for six CWRU senior players – pitcher Corey Brown, Gross, Kucia, Maue, outfielder Jacob Pestel – whose careers came to a close after four years on the team.