LAKE CHARLES, La. – Junior centerfielder Brandon Gonnella opened the season with a leadoff triple in the first inning and that set the tone as Towson University rolled to a season-opening 12-5 victory over McNeese State (0-1) at Cowboy Park on Friday evening.
Gonnella went three-for-four with a single, a double and a triple and he scored three runs while driving in a pair. He also drew a walk.
While the Tigers were pounding the ball, senior righthander Mike Volpe teamed up with junior lefthander Kyle Paul to hold McNeese State to one unearned run on four hits through eight innings. The Cowboys rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning off junior righthander Nik Nowottnick.
Gonnella led off the game with a triple, helping the Tigers grab an early 1-0 lead. After he tripled, third baseman Zach Fisher drew a walk. With one out, junior leftfielder Kurt Wertz hit a sacrifice fly to score Gonnella. The Tigers threatened to add more when Dominic Fratantuono drew a walk but Andrew Parker was retired on a pop fly to end the inning.
In the second inning, Kurtis Voytell led off with a walk and junior second baseman Pat Fitzgerald singled. With one out, Gonnella doubled to right centerfield, driving in a run. When Fisher singled to left center, Fitzgerald and Gonnella scored to give Towson a 4-0 lead. A single by Brendan Butler chased Fisher to third base, setting the stage for another sacrifice fly Wertz to give Towson a 5-0 advantage.
Meanwhile, Volpe shut out the Cowboys for five innings. He allowed only one hit, a second inning single by Chayse Marion. He was erased on a double play moments later.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Tigers broke the game open. With one out, Fitzgerald singled. When shortstop Hunter Bennett and Gonnella followed with back-to-back walks, the Tigers had the bases loaded. A single by Fisher upped the lead to 6-0. Butler’s RBI single gave the Tigers a 7-0 advantage. After Wertz struck out, Fratantuono launched a grand slam homer over the right field fence, putting Towson ahead, 11-0.
The Cowboys scored an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth inning to end the shutout. With one out, Andrew Guillotte reached third base on a three-base error by Butler in rightfield. He scored a run when Skylar Barrentine grounded out.
In one of the most impressive outings of his career, Volpe pitched six innings and allowed one unearned run on two hits. He walked three and struck out two. Volpe earned the third win of his career.
In the seventh inning, Gonnella’s third hit of the game, an RBI single to right, scored Voytell to increase the lead to 12-1.
For the Tigers, it was the most runs they scored in a season opener since a 16-1 win over Iona in 1999.
Gonnella and Butler led the Tigers with three hits each. Gonnella scored three runs and had two RBI’s. Butler drove in one run. Fisher added two hits, scored twice and drove in three runs while Fitzgerald went two-for-two and scored twice. Fratantuono also had a pair of hits and drove in four runs, all on his grand slam homer in the sixth.
Towson and McNeese State will play the second game of their three-game weekend series on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.