The Case Western Reserve University baseball team, ranked 10th in Division III, clinched at least a share of the 2018 University Athletic Association Championship with a 4-0 win over Washington University on Sunday afternoon in Saint Louis, Missouri.
Sophomore southpaws Casey McConihe and Scott Kutschke combined on an eight-hit shutout, the third by CWRU this season, and sophomore outfielder Samuel Neal scored the first two runs of the game, finishing the contest one-for-four with a double, a walk and a stolen base.
With the win, the Spartans wrapped-up their conference schedule with a 12-4 UAA record, and can secure the league title outright with just one loss by Emory in their series at New York University next weekend. This is the third UAA Championship in the program's history, after the team split the title in both 2013 (with Washington) and 2014 (with Emory).
Case Western Reserve improved to 25-6 overall, following the split of the series with the Bears. Washington dropped to 17-14 overall with a 6-6 mark in the UAA with Sunday's loss.
The Spartans took a 1-0 lead just two batters into the game, after Neal worked a walk to lead off the game, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored after a ground ball hit by junior second baseman Rocco Maue got through the legs of the Bears' third baseman. Neal would help the Spartans add a second run in the third inning, opening the inning with a double, and then stealing third and scoring on a throwing error by the catcher to extend the lead to 2-0.
McConihe was able to protect the two-run lead with one of his best outings of the year, holding the Bears scoreless on three hits and striking out five batters, while needing just 61 pitches to navigate his five innings of work. He left a runner stranded at second in four innings, including the fourth, when he struck out back-to-back Washington hitters to end a threat by the Bears.
Kutschke relieved McConihe in the sixth, and would go on to shutout the Bears over the final four innings, including pitching around a runner on third in the eighth. Kutschke extended his scoreless innings streak to 12 with the effort on Sunday.
The Spartans picked up two key insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Senior outfielder Nate Glasser drew a one-out walk, and moved to third on a single by freshman outfielder Benjamin Stawicki. A batter later, freshman designated hitter Jake Ryan plated Glasser on a sacrifice fly, and freshman shortstop Jacob Lott followed with a triple to score Stawicki and extend the lead to 4-0. Kutschke retired the first two batters in the bottom of the inning, and after a two-out single, induced an out on a comebacker to end the game and secure the UAA Title.
McConihe earned the win for the Spartans to improve to 3-1 on the year, while Kutschke claimed his first save of the season. Washington starter Ross Viersen suffered the loss for the Bears to drop to 2-2 on the year.
Stawicki and Ryan each finished the game two-for-three, while Lott and Maue also added hits in the game for the Spartans.
With their 2018 conference slate now completed, the Spartans will turn their attention to the final stretch of their regular season. Case Western Reserve is scheduled to return home to Nobby's Ballpark on Wednesday, April 25th at 4:00 p.m. for a key regional matchup against the second-ranked College of Wooster.