DOVER, Del. - Freshman righthander Christian Duclos pitched out of a ninth inning jam to earn the first save of his career, leading the Tigers (12-16-1) to their sixth consecutive win, a 4-3 victory over Delaware State University (13-16) at windy Soldier Field on Wednesday afternoon.
With the Tigers clinging to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, second baseman Scott Davis led off with a double down the leftfield line off freshman righthander Chris Acker.
At that point, Tiger Coach Mike Gottlieb went to the bullpen and summoned Duclos.
The first batter he faced, first baseman Ryan Haas bunted back to the mound. Duclos tried to throw out Davis going to third base but he made it safely, giving the Hornets runners on first and third with no outs.
In a pressure-packed situation, Duclos threw a third strike past designated hitter Aaron Nardone for the first out. Then, he struck out Cameron Cecil while pinch runner Justin Allen stole second base.
After issuing an intentional walk to Eddie Sarondo loaded the bases, Duclos faced rightfielder Tony Gatto with the bases loaded.
He nailed down the Tigers' win by getting Gatto to pop up to senior first baseman Austin Harclerode, ending the game.
The victory was the Tigers' fourth-run victory in their six-game winning streak.
"I'm not sure how we did it but we got another close win," said Gottlieb. "Christian Duclos did a great job and he showed tremendous poise. I don't ever recall a stretch of games where we had so many one-run wins."
Although both teams had ten hits in the game, Delaware State left 13 runners on base. Six Tiger pitchers issued six walks in the game.
The Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Senior shortstop Nick Natoli led off the game with a bunt single down the third base line. Freshman second baseman Mike Draper gave the Tigers two runners on base when he singled to left field. After senior third baseman Chris Wychock was retired on a fly ball, Harclerode singled to rightfield, scoring Natoli and sending Draper to third base.
While junior centerfielder Ben Winter was striking out, Harclerode and Draper pulled off a double steal as Draper scored to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. After senior rightfielder Steve Rice drew a walk, freshman leftfielder Dominic Fratantuono flied out to left, ending the inning.
Making his first appearance in nearly a month, sophomore righthander Mike Bronakoski struggled in the first inning. After issuing a leadoff walk to shortstop Keith Hernandez, he gave up a single to Haas. A walk to Nardone loaded the bases with one out. However, Bronakoski worked his way out of the jam by getting Cecil to hit a ground ball back to the mound. Bronakoski threw home to retire Hernandez for the second out. He retired the side when Joey Babuca hit a fly ball to centerfield.
In the bottom of the second inning, Bronakoski walked Gatto to lead off the inning. He was relieved by senior righthander Tyler Bugna. Bugna gave up a single to D.J. Miller to keep the rally alive. With one out, Hernandez lined a two-run double down the left field line, tying the score at 2-2.
But, Bugna got Davis on a pop up before Haas grounded out to end the inning.
After allowing two runs in the first, sophomore righthander Elliott Gardner of DelState settled down and retired the next seven batters in a row.
Winter led off the Tiger fourth with a single to centerfield. With one out, Winter reached second base on a passed ball. He scored the go-ahead run when Fratantuono doubled to left field. With two outs, junior catcher Brian Wyman prolonged the inning when he reached base on an error at third base. Then, Natoli dropped down a bunt single to score Fratantuono, giving the Tigers a 4-2 advantage. Gardner escaped the inning when Draper struck out.
Bugna shut out the Hornets until the fifth inning when he was relieved by junior righthander Tyler Austin. Austin pitched a scoreless fifth inning as he struck out two. Freshman righthander Troy Bennett came on to pitch the sixth inning and was helped by the Tiger defense. With two runners on base, Bennett got Hernandez to ground into a double play.
Gardner left the game after the sixth inning and he was relieved by sophomore righthander Derek Marshallsea.
In six innings of work, Gardner allowed two earned runs on eight hits with one walk and ten strikeouts.
With one out in the seventh, freshman second baseman Pat Fitzgerald reached base on an infield hit. After Fitzgerald stole second base, he advanced to third base on a balk. However, Marshallsea got Harclerode to hit a fly ball to rightfield for the third out.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Hornets rallied to cut into their deficit. Davis led off the inning with a double to leftfield. The Tigers got a break when Haas hit a ground ball to Natoli at shortstop. Natoli alertly threw to third base and trapped Davis in a rundown. He was retired for the first out. After Bennett struck out Nardone, he was relieved by freshman righthander Chris Acker.
Cecil greeted Acker with a single to left, giving the Hornets two runners on base with two outs. Sorondo followed with a single up the middle driving in Haas to cut the Tigers' lead to 4-3. Acker escaped the jam when Gatto grounded out to third base.
Bugna earned his third win of the season with three innings of solid relief. He allowed four one run on four hits with three strikeouts.
Natoli led the Tigers with two hits. He scored one run and had one run batted in. Harclerode and Winter each added two hits.
The Tigers return to action on Friday when they open up a three-game Colonial Athletic Association series at Old Dominion.