Baseball splits four-game weekend series vs. Denison

First-year pitcher Reece Marley didnt allow a single run in seven innings of the first game on Sunday and struck out four batters.

Courtesy of CWRU Athletics

First-year pitcher Reece Marley didn’t allow a single run in seven innings of the first game on Sunday and struck out four batters.

Gaurav Hardikar, Staff Reporter

Last weekend, Case Western Reserve University’s baseball team played four games against Denison University, perhaps their fiercest competition of the season. The two Saturday games were at home and the Spartans traveled to Granville for the two Sunday games. Both teams came away with a win at home and a win away in the back-and-forth series. CWRU finished the weekend with a 14-8 record on the season.

The Spartans were on a revenge mission heading into the weekend. Their last campaign against the Big Red ended in a 1-3 series loss in which Denison took the first three games. Looking to establish a win streak against Denison, CWRU came out and did just that, winning the first game of this series by a score of 6-3.

After the first win, Head Coach Matt Englander said, “We were ready for this challenge. Denison’s good—we’re good.” His message to the team entering the game was to “try to eliminate mistakes, but don’t let them derail us. When you make them, what matters is that you respond and how you respond.”

The team certainly took the coach’s message to heart and they committed no errors in the series opener. Third-year Nick Denove took the mound for the first six innings, striking out 3 and allowing 3 earned runs before fourth-year Tony Smodilla came in to close out the game. Smodilla struck out two and allowed just one baserunner in his three shutout innings.

The Spartans were solid behind the plate as well. Following a slow start that left Denison with a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning, fourth-year catcher Jake Ryan singled to center. Fourth-year Tre Armstrong kept the momentum going with another single that put Ryan on third base before second-year Nick Talarico stepped up. Talarico sent the ball flying for a triple to tie up the game and later scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly from fourth-year Benjamin Stawicki.

Though the Big Red put up another run in the sixth, the Spartans retaliated with three in the seventh. A walk followed by a bad pitch put first-year Zack Carinci on second base before a double from fourth-year Jacob Lott drove him home. Jake Ryan stepped up to the plate again and this time delivered an absolute bomb. The 2-run home run was especially meaningful for Ryan, as this was just his third game of the season and first one back from injury. Englander praised Ryan for his performance just days after Ryan had his jaw unwired, calling it a “really great effort.”

The second half of the Saturday doubleheader wasn’t as successful. The Spartans jumped out early with a hit-fest in the second inning that put them in front 4-0. The team recorded five hits, all singles, between Carinci, Lott, second-years Trey Haley and Jack Anderson and third-year Cole Jarrett in the second. Unfortunately, the Big Red wasted no time fighting back and immediately tied the game in the top of the third after a three-run homer and another run off of a fielder’s choice.

The Spartans were held scoreless the rest of the day and felt a dreadful sense of deja vu in the sixth inning when Big Red fourth-year Brian McAuliffe hit his second three-run jack of the game. Denison would go on to win 7-4, evening up the series at one win apiece before heading home to host CWRU for the Sunday doubleheader.

Sunday’s games told pretty much the same story but with larger win margins. The Spartans bounced back in Game 3 of the series, winning 8-2. First-year pitcher Reece Marley recorded his second win of the year in a seven-inning outing that fanned four batters and retired another 17. Third-year Willem Bouma closed out the game for CWRU, retiring seven of the ten batters he faced. 

Despite a sluggish start for both offenses, the Spartans dominated from behind the plate from the fifth inning onward. In the fifth, Haley reached first on a walk and advanced to second following a savvy sacrifice bunt from second-year Kevin Mackenzie. Jarrett drove in Haley with a double for the 1-0 lead before Denison tied the game up heading into the sixth inning, in which the Spartans tacked on another three runs. Armstrong singled, second-year Flynn Lenahan walked and Lott singled as well. All three scored, with Lott coming in on an RBI double from Mackenzie. 

The Spartans were back in business after a quiet seventh. Lott smacked the ball for a triple in the eighth, scoring first-year Connor Stephenson, before he was driven in on a sacrifice fly from Haley. Ryan and Carinci both reached in the ninth with a hit by pitch and a single before they both scored on a single by Lenahan. Although Denison broke their scoring drought in the ninth, they didn’t get close to closing the deficit. 

Fueled by the loss, the Big Red came out swinging in the final game of the weekend, defeating the Spartans 15-4. The rout left the Spartans bullpen depleted, as they went through six pitchers in their attempt to stop the bleeding.

The game started out hopeful for CWRU. Jarrett walked and scored on subsequent wild pitches and an error by the catcher. However, Denison’s performance at the plate more than compensated.  Four singles, a hit by pitch and a walk all in the first inning put the Big Red in front 4-1.

The Spartans were able to close the gap with two runs in the third after Mackenzie and Jarrett both singled and scored on a double from Ryan. Unfortunately, the game unraveled over the next two innings. McAuliffe continued to haunt the Spartans’ worst nightmares with yet another three-run homer that would only make up half of Denison’s fourth inning runs. CWRU’s nosedive continued in the fifth inning as Denison added another 5 runs. Though the Spartans were able to quiet the storm after that, they couldn’t recover from a 15-3 deficit. With the loss, the weekend series would end split at 2-2.

Despite a bitter end to the weekend for the Spartans, they hold an impressive 14-8 record that should only improve. Following the two seven-inning games against Ohio Wesleyan University, CWRU will get a 9-day break before traveling to Franciscan University, a team that currently has a 4-8 record at home, for two Sunday games.