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Sluggers open season with sweep over John Carroll, split with Guilford

As spring weather begins to roll into Cleveland, the Case Western Reserve University baseball team kicked off its 2012 season with a four-game series over the weekend. The competition began on Friday, Feb. 24 with a doubleheader against cross-town rival John Carroll. After taking both games, the Spartans headed to Greensboro, N.C. to take on Guilford University on Sunday for their second doubleheader. The Spartans moved to 3-1 on the opening weekend of the season with a doubleheader split at McBane Field against the Quakers. The Spartans won the opener 4-2 behind a strong pitching performance, but were outslugged in game two, losing the 14-4.


Game 1: CWRU 18 – JCU 6

The Spartans began their season with an offensive showing that helped finish the 2011 campaign with a school-record 33 wins and earned them the first NCAA Tournament berth in program history. Case outslugged John Carroll 18-6 in the opener thanks to junior centerfielder Paul Pakan. Pakan, who played two years at Division I George Washington University prior to transferring to Case, led the offensive fireworks in the opener. Batting third, the centerfielder made his debut going 4-for-4 with a walk, three doubles, five runs scored, and a record two RBIs. Not to be outdone by his new teammate, junior first baseman Brett Ossola, who was batting cleanup behind Pakan, went 3-for-5 with a home run and collected three RBIs. Other batting highlights included designated hitter senior Sam Alexander, who went 2-for-3 with two doubles by driving in two runs and recorded a RBI. Senior catcher Peter Zak also went 2-for-3 with a double, collected four RBIs, and scored two runs.

On the mound, junior left-hander Jamie Hora continued his stellar pitching performance from last season. After leading the Spartans in wins, complete games (6), innings pitched (77.1), and strikeouts (46), Hora began the 2012 season with his first win of the year. The lefty threw the first five innings and collected three strikeouts. Despite surrendering four runs early on in the first inning, Hora settled down for the next four innings, allowing only three hits. Freshman Kevin Johnstone made his Spartan debut in relief; he pitched two innings, collected two strikeouts, and allowed two unearned runs. Sophomore Ray Kelly also pitched two innings of relief, giving up zero runs and collecting one strikeout.


Game 2: CWRU 6 – JCU 5

In the nightcap, Pakan continued his stellar performance with a 2-for-3 game. The centerfielder collected two doubles, a pair of walks, and two RBIs. Senior second baseman Bobby Marko collected his first triple of the season in the fourth inning when he led off with the hit. Marko came around to score a run when senior left fielder Jimmy Abed grounded out to shortstop. Ossola, Alexander, and junior shortstop Matt Keen all collected at least one RBI in the game.

Junior lefty Jarrett Gish took the mount for the Spartans for the first time in more than a year. The southpaw logged four innings with three strikeouts in his first game after missing the entire 2011 season due to injuries. Unfortunately, Gish was hit with a no-decision despite a stellar performance in the first three of his four innings pitched. Sophomore Josh Suvak came in for relief and tossed 1.1 innings of scoreless ball with three strikeouts and only two hits. Senior A.J. Boshinski was the following reliever out of the bullpen, pitching 2.2 innings and striking out five hitters. Boshinski also got scored on twice by the Blue Streaks, but was still able to collect his win of the season. Sophomore closer Jose Vega came in to shut the door with a perfect final inning, striking out the side for his fourth career save.


Game 3: CWRU  4 – Guilford 2

The Spartans traveled farther south to Greensboro, N.C. to take on the Guilford Quakers. Case won the opener behind a strong pitching performance by senior Bradley Potter, who pitched one of the finest games of his career. The righty shut down the Quakers over 6.1 innings, allowing just two earned runs on seven hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Jose Vega entered again with two runners on, and allowed only one to score on an error on his way to his second save of the young season.

Case got on the board first in the third inning. Abed singled to left field to start the inning, and on the very next hitter, Keen launched a two-run homer to left field to put the Spartans up two. Alexander provided the other run batted-in with a single to plate sophomore third baseman Andrew Frey. In the fifth inning, Zak added an insurance run with an RBI single to centerfield to plate Alexander. The four runs were more than enough for Potter and Vega to help the Spartans extend their winning streak to three games. Keen, Frey, Ossola, and Alexander all collected two hits on four at-bats. Keen recorded two RBIs while Alexander and Zak collected one RBI each. Ossola also recorded his first stolen base of the season.


Game 4: CWRU 4 – Guilford 14

In the final game of weekend, the Spartans got on the scoreboard first once again thanks to a sacrifice fly from Pakan which helped score Keen. Not to be outdone, Guilford came back in the first inning with a two-run single from Zack Montalbano to put the home team on top. The Quakers continued their fierce offense with five runs in the second and three more in the third. The Quakers were able to tack on those runs largely due to John Macon Smith and Will Byrd, who each provided two-run singles. Case got back into the game momentarily with a three-run third led by a three-run homer from Alexander which scored Alexander, Pakan, and Frey. The 7-4 score was short-lived; Guilford took advantage of five Spartan errors and put the game away with three runs in the third, one in the fifth, and three more in the sixth.

In his first game after over a year off due to injury, senior Cory Smith lasted only a third of an inning on the mound, suffering the loss after surrendering two earned runs and three walks. A host of Spartan relievers suffered much the same fate. There was a silver lining with freshman reliever Edward Abramson, who pitched two innings while giving up one hit and no earned runs.

Pakan continued his strong performance at the plate, going 2-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored. Frey recorded two hits and scored a run, and Alexander had one hit to record his three RBIs thanks to his three-run homer.

After going 3-1 in their first four games of the season, the Spartans will open their weekend against Oberlin College on Saturday, March 3 with a doubleheader starting at noon. After their two-game battle with Oberlin, the Spartans will take on Ohio Wesleyan for another doubleheader set to being on Sunday, March 4, also at noon.

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