TOWSON, Md. - Senior first baseman Austin Harclerode led off the bottom of the 11th inning with a home run over the leftfield fence to lift the Tigers (22-21-1) to a 3-2 victory over the University of Maryland (20-29) at John B. Schuerholz Park on Wednesday afternoon.
With the win, the Tigers swept the two-game home-and-home series from the Terrapins. Towson had pulled out a 10-6 victory at Maryland on Tuesday evening.
The Tigers, who had scored 90 runs in their six previous games, were held to seven hits in 11 innings by five Maryland pitchers. They also drew 12 walks and had two batters hit by a pitch.
Before Harclerode's game-winning homer, the Tigers had stranded 15 runners on base.
"'Harc' is our best low-ball hitter," said Coach Mike Gottlieb, whose Tigers have now won 16 of their last 21 games. Their pitcher was doing a great job keeping the ball down so that was a good spot for him."
Junior lefthander Korey Wacker, the Terps' relief ace, had pitched out of jams in the eighth, ninth and tenth innings. Up until the game-winning homer, he had given up only two hits in 2.1 innings of work.
For Harclerode, it marked the fifth time in his career he had won a game in "walk-off" fashion. As a sophomore, he hit "walk-off" homers against James Madison and Northeastern. Last season, he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the tenth inning for a win over Georgia State. Earlier this season, his "walk-off" single in the ninth inning dealt UMBC a 10-9 loss.
"I'm not sure why but he seems to rise to the occasion," added Coach Gottlieb. "It was great to see him hit the home run in that spot because we had been struggling to get hits with men on base the entire game."
The Tigers and the Terrapins battled through a scoreless game during the first three innings. The Tigers squandered two scoring chances in the early innings. In the bottom of the first inning, freshman second baseman Pat Fitzgerald drew a one-out walk. When Harclerode lined a single to centerfield, Fitzgerald advanced to second base.
While junior righthander David Carroll was pitching to senior third baseman Chris Wychock, Fitzgerald and Harclerode pulled off a double steal. Moments later, junior catcher Aaron Etchison made an alert play as he picked Fitzgerald off third base. Carroll then retired Wychock on a fly ball to centerfield.
In the third inning, junior catcher Brian Wyman (below) drew a leadoff walk against relief pitcher Chuck Ghysels. Wyman reached second base when freshman leftfielder Dominic Fratantuono laid down a sacrifice bunt. Senior shortstop Nick Natoli followed the bunt with a bad-hop single to leftfield as Wyman took third base. With Fitzgerald at the plate, Natoli and Wyman tried to pull off a double steal. However, Etchison threw to junior second baseman Ryan Holland, who fired the ball back to the plate. The Terrapins trapped Wyman in a rundown and tagged him out as Natoli took third base. Then, Fitzgerald struck out to end the threat.
After shutting out the Terps on two hits through the first three innings, sophomore righthander Mike Volpe lost his command with one out in the fourth. His problems began when he walked freshman rightfielder Austin Kilbourne on a 3-1 pitch. Then, he walked freshman designated hitter Alex Ramsey on four straight pitches. When Etchison also walked on a 3-2 pitch, Maryland had the bases loaded.
After pitching coach Scott Roane made a visit to the mound, freshman leftfielder Kyle Convissar lined a single to leftfield, driving in two runs. When Volpe feel behind by 3-0 to senior first baseman Curtis Lazar, he was relieved by freshman righthander Brandon Gonnella, who had been the Tigers' designated hitter. Gonnella came back and retired Lazar on a ground ball to first base as both runners moved into scoring position. When Gonnella hit junior third baseman Tomo Delp with a pitch, the Terps had the bases loaded again.
But, Gonnella struck out Wacker, who was the Terps' centerfielder, to end the threat as Maryland left the bases loaded.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Tigers made a bid to take the lead. Harclerode led off the inning by drawing a walk. After he reached second base on a wild pitch, Wychock struck out. But, senior rightfielder Steve Rice singled to centerfield, scoring Harclerode to make it a 2-1 game. When junior centerfielder Ben Winter was hit by a pitch, the Tigers had two runners on base. A walk to Gonnella loaded the bases with one out.
However, Ghysels pitched out of the jam without allowing any more runs. He retired Wyman on pop-up to third base. Then, he slipped a called third strike past Fratantuono to end the inning.
In the fifth inning, the Tigers staged another rally. Natoli led off with a single to left field against freshman righthander Jake Stinnett. When Stinnett hit Fitzgerald with a pitch, the Tigers had two runners on base with no outs. After Harclerode was retired on a fly ball to left, Natoli and Fitzgerald pulled off a double steal and the Tigers had two runners in scoring position.
But, Stinnett struck out Wychock for the second out. Then, sophomore shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez made a great defensive play. Rice hit a ball up the middle that looked like it was going to centerfield for a base hit. Rodriguez ranged far to his left and made a diving stop. Then, he hustled to get back on his feet to throw out Rice at first base, retiring the side.
The Terps threatened to add to their lead in the sixth inning when Convissar and Lazar hit back-to-back singles with two outs. But, Gonnella retired Delp on a fly ball to right for the final out.
In the seventh, the Terps had two on with two outs but Ramsay grounded into a force play to end the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Fratantuono led off by drawing a four-pitch walk from sophomore righthander Charlie Haslup. But, he was erased from the base paths when Natoli grounded into a double play.
With one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Tigers finally scored the tying run. The rally started when Wychock reached base on a throwing error by Delp, the third baseman. After Rice was retired on a fly ball to right field, Haslup issued back-to-back walks to Winter and Gonnella, loading bases.
Wacker came in from centerfield to pitch to Wyman. Wyman hit a tapper between the pitcher's mound and third base. Wacker came up with the ball and sensed that his only play was at third base. But his throw was too late to retire Winter, who slid in safely while Wychock scored the tying run.
However, Winter injured his ankle and was forced to leave the game.
Wacker pitched out of the inning when he struck out Fratantuono.
The Tigers squandered a great chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. With one out, Fitzgerald drew a walk. With two outs, Wychock walked, putting runners on first and second base. Rice banged a singled through the left side. Convissar, who was playing very shallow, picked the ball up and fired to home plate where Fitzgerald was trying to score. However, Fitzgerald was out by 15 feet and the game went into the tenth inning.
In the bottom of the tenth, pinch hitter Hunter Bennett drew a leadoff walk. A sacrifice bunt by Gonnella moved him into scoring position. After an intentional walk to Wyman, pinch hitter Cody Reeves hit a ground ball back to the mound. Wacker's only play was to first base and he retired Reeves.
With two outs and two runners in scoring position, Wacker issued an intentional walk to Natoli. That loaded the bases for Fitzgerald. Wacker left the bases loaded by striking out Fitzgerald.
It marked the third time in the game that the Tigers left the bases loaded.
Coach Gottlieb received outstanding relief pitching from his staff. The Tigers' three relief pitchers combined to pitch 7.2 innings of scoreless relief. They allowed six hits and didn't walk anyone. They struck out six batters.
Gonnella pitched 3.2 innings of scoreless relief as he scattered four hits and struck out four batters. Freshman lefthander Kyle Paul threw three shutout innings as he allowed two hits and struck out two.
Senior righthander Zach Umberger, who earned his second win of the season, retired the Terps in order in the11th inning.
The Tigers, who went 3-2 against Atlantic Coast Conference teams this season, were outhit by Maryland, 9-7.
Rodriguez and Convissar each had two hits for the Terps while Convissar drove in both runs for Maryland.
Natoli, Harclerode and Rice led the Tigers with two hits each. Natoli, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games, went two-for-five with a walk. He also stole a base. Harclerode was also two-for-five with a walk. He scored two runs and had one RBI. Rice also went two-for-five with one run batted in.
The Tigers, who have a winning record for the first time since February, return to action this weekend when they host Colonial Athletic Association rival Virginia Commonwealth in a three-game series at Schuerholz Park.