Baseball wins weekend home-and-home series

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Last weekend, No. 13 Case Western Reserve University baseball team played a home-and-home series against Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU). The team won the series, splitting a doubleheader at home on Saturday, March 24, while sweeping OWU at Littick Field in Delaware, Ohio the next day.

In their first game on Saturday, the Spartans dominated the Battling Bishops, shutting them out 8-0. The game started off fairly slowly, with neither team scoring in the first and second innings. Then, in the top of the third, third-year pitcher Mark Gross gave up a leadoff walk followed by a hit batter to put himself in a jam. With two runners on and nobody out, Gross worked himself out of trouble, and came out of the inning without any runs allowed.

“The key was that there was never any panic by the defense or myself in those situations,” Gross said. “We just stuck to the game plan we had laid out and I trusted that the defense would be able to make plays.”

Exiting the top of the inning unscathed, the Spartans’ bats came alive in the bottom of the third. With a runner on base, first-year shortstop Jacob Lott laid a perfect bunt down the third base line for a hit, and then second-year center fielder Samuel Neal drove him in with a base hit. The rally continued, and the Spartans ended up with four runs in the inning.

After a scoreless fourth by both teams, Gross went back onto the mound for CWRU and had a five-pitch fifth inning.

“It felt good because those fast innings are really what you aim for as a pitcher,” Gross said. “My goal is to always attack hitters early to keep defensive halves of innings quick. It’s a great way to keep momentum in your favor and keep your pitch count down.”

And Gross’ plan to boost momentum worked. The Spartans tacked on another run in the bottom of the fifth following the short defensive stint. Following a quiet sixth, the team scored their final three runs of the game in the seventh inning.

By the end of the game, Gross had pitched eight scoreless innings and allowed only three hits.

“By getting them to swing at pitches early in counts that were advantageous to me, I could rely on weak contact and the defense making plays for me,” he said.

Head coach Matt Englander was very happy with Gross’ performance and the team’s hitting.

“[Gross] was great today. He has been pitching well all year,” he said. “Our at bats were good, they kept battling all game long.”

The Spartans went on to lose 8-3 that afternoon. But they got back at Ohio Wesleyan University the next day, winning 11-1 and then 5-3 to sweep the doubleheader. The Spartans play next at home against Emory University on Friday, March 30. Going forward, Coach Englander is optimistic.

He said, “We’re just trying to be as aggressive as we can and be smart.”