WHITEWATER, Wis. – Sophomore pitcher Kevin Johnstone (Placentia, Calif./Valencia) allowed just two earned runs in eight innings, and senior first baseman Brett Ossola (Potomac, Md./Bullis School) went 3-for-4 with a homer to lead the Case Western Reserve University baseball team in a 7-3 upset of No. 2 nationally-ranked University of St. Thomas (Minn.) on Friday afternoon in NCAA Midwest Regional action at James B. Miller Stadium.
The fourth-seeded Spartans (29-13) advance as one of only three teams remaining in the region and will play the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in any scenario on Saturday afternoon at 12:00 p.m. (CDT). Stevens Point, the region's only remaining unbeaten team at 2-0, plays The College of St. Scholastica this evening.
St. Scholastica could advance to the title game with a win, while Stevens-Point could put the Spartans in position where they need to beat the same team twice.
The Spartans defeated St. Scholastica yesterday, and either way will have to win twice tomorrow to claim the regional crown.
Seeded No. 1 in the region, the Tommies (34-7) are eliminated from the tournament.
Making his postseason debut, Johnstone (4-3) allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts. For the regional, four Spartans pitchers have combined to throw 27 innings with only five earned runs allowed.
Ossola's 3-for-4 effort featured the first homer since the regional's first game and three runs scored.
The Spartans played "small-ball" early and got on the board in the bottom of the second with three runs on three hits and an error. Senior second baseman Paul Pakan (Tallmadge, Ohio/Tallmadge) and Ossola led off with back-to-back singles, and an error on a grounder hit by junior designated hitter Andrew Frey (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) allowed Pakan to score and Ossola to reach second. Sophomore catcher Robert Winemiller (Twinsburg, Ohio/University School) followed with a bunt single to set up back-to-back RBI groundouts by sophomore leftfielder Kerrigan Cain (Hartville, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban) and junior rightfielder Jordan Dague (Barberton, Ohio/Barberton).
In the top of the next inning, Johnstone's defense briefly let him down with back-to-back errors that followed a lead-off single and loaded the bases with no outs. Settled by a mound visit from Pitching Coach Nick Callahan, the second-year hurler induced a groundball double play that scored a run and a grounder to the hole which was gobbled up and gunned across the infield for the third out by senior shortstop Matt Keen (Tallmadge, Ohio/Tallmadge).
The Spartans looked to get the run back in the bottom of the third as Keen was hit a by a pitch and moved to third with "heads-up" base-running on a groundout. However, after Pakan was walked, a grounder by Ossola that looked to be a fielder's choice at second resulted in a double play due to runner interference.
After Johnstone retired the Tommies in order in the fourth, the Spartans picked up another run in the bottom of the frame as Frey led off with a walk that was followed by a Winemiller walk, a Cain sacrifice bunt, and Dague's second RBI groundout.
A scoreless fifth followed before St. Thomas picked up one in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Dylan Thomas. Two more runners reached scoring position with two outs, but Johnstone was able to dance out of trouble with a swinging strikeout.
In the bottom of the inning, the Spartans answered with a patient approach at the plate that yielded a pair of runs. Ossola, Frey and Dague all singled to load the bases before sophomore centerfielder William Meador (Columbus, Ohio/Thomas Worthington) drew a two-out walk to force home a run. A batter later, Keen drilled an RBI single up the middle to plate Frey and make the score 6-2.
St. Thomas came back with a single run once more in the seventh on an RBI double by Ben Podobinski, but Ossola countered in the bottom of the frame with a solo homer to left.
The first two Tommie runners reached in the ninth, but sophomore closer Daniel Sondag (Cary, N.C./Green Hope) came out of the bullpen and induced a double play and a groundout to preserve the win for his fifth save of the season.
Zach Franz (3-1) was the losing pitcher for the Tommies with three runs (one earned) allowed in 2.1 innings.