By DOUG HENNES
WHITEWATER, Wis. -– More struggles at the plate and an opportunistic opponent led to a 7-3 loss to Case Western Reserve on Friday and the end of St. Thomas’ baseball season.
The Tommies, ranked No. 2 in the country coming into the NCAA Division III Midwest Regional, finished with a 34-7 record. They suffered all seven losses when held to three or less runs, and were 31-0 when they scored four or more runs.
They joined No. 5-ranked UW-Whitewater with a 1-2 regional finish and Friday exit. the Warhawks lost a 10-inning game for the second day in a row and lost 3-2 to St. Scholastica.
St. Thomas trailed throughout the game and didn’t put together back-to-back hits until the ninth inning, leaving six runners on base, including five in scoring position. They also had only one two-out hit, compared to 12 in Thursday’s 10-1 win over Benedictine. Three UST piitchers walked five and hit a batter in the first seven innings.
“We hit some balls hard but didn’t get much for it,” Coach Chris Olean said. “We weren’t able to stop them (the Spartans), and every time we scored a run, they got one back. That’s how it goes sometimes.”
Olean told his players after the game not to hang their heads but to be proud of another championship season. The Tommies again dominated the MIAC, winning the regular-season title by a record eight games en route to their 11th straight crown, and eight players were named to the all-conference team. Olean repeated as coach of the year.
He praised the four seniors -– All-American pitcher and designated hitter Dylan Thomas, shortstop Jon Kinsel, and relievers Mark Dominik and Josh Kubitschek – and said a strong returning team bodes well for the 2014 season.
The Tommies struggled at the plate against Case Western starter Kevin Johnstone, who came in with a 3-3 record but scattered six hits over eight innings.
The Spartans put three runs on the board in the second inning courtesy of an error and two groundout RBIs. With runners at first and second, shortstop Jon Kinsel relayed a grounder to second baseman Sam Miller but the ball went off his glove and a run scored. After a bunt single loaded the bases, two grounders to second bumped the lead to 3-0.
The Tommies filled the bases in the third with nobody out on two infield errors but scored only one run, on Kinsel’s double-play ground ball. The Spartans got the run back in the fourth to go up 4-1 and St. Thomas responded with a single run in the sixth when Thomas’ sacrifice fly drove in Ben Podobinski.
Case Western built its largest lead, 6-2, on two runs in its half of the sixth on a two-out, bases-loaded walk and single. The Tommies picked up one in the seventh when Podobinski doubled home Kelvin Stroik, but a Spartan home run in the bottom half restored the four-run lead.
Singles by J.D. Dorgan and Jack Hogan in the top of the ninth chased Johnstone. Reliever Daniel Sondag, who entered with a 5.11 ERA, induced a double-play grounder from pinch-hitter Christian Wabers. Stroik grounded out to end the game and the Tommies’ season.
Click here for box score: