TOWSON, Md. - Sophomore righthander Michael Trionfo and senior righthander Spencer Patton combined to pitch an eight-hitter as Towson University (25-21-1, 14-10) completed a three-game sweep with a 10-4 Colonial Athletic Association victory over Virginia Commonwealth (18-28, 9-15) at John B. Schuerholz Park on Sunday afternoon.
The Tigers, who have now won 19 of their last 24 games, have won seven of their last eight CAA games. With their three-game sweep over VCU, the Tigers moved into fourth place in the CAA standings with six CAA games remaining.
Old Dominion leads the CAA with a 16-8 record while James Madison (15-9) is tied for second place with UNC Wilmington (15-9). The Tigers are fourth with a 14-10 mark, just two games out of first place. Delaware, which dropped three games to ODU, is fifth with a 15-12 record while Georgia State (13-11) and William & Mary are tied for sixth.
The Tigers also improved to 10-1 in Sunday games this season.
Trionfo earned his third victory of the season as he allowed three runs on four hits in 5.2 innings. He walked three and had one strikeout. Patton allowed one run on four hits while picking up the save. In 3.1 innings of relief, he didn't walk anyone and struck out one batter.
In the three-game sweep, Tiger pitchers compiled a 2.67 E.R.A. while holding VCU to 25 hits in 27 innings. VCU managed only four extra base hits in the three game series.
The Tigers, who had lost 17 of their previous 20 games to VCU, outscored the Rams by 22-10 over the weekend.
"We did a lot of things well today," said Coach Mike Gottlieb. "We had some big clutch hits and we got good starting pitching. Our outfielders also made some excellent defensive plays."
Seeking their second CAA series sweep of the season, the Tigers took an early lead against the Rams.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Tigers took advantage of senior righthander David Benson's control problems to take a 2-0 lead. Senior shortstop Nick Natoli led off by drawing a walk on five pitches. Benson committed a throwing error while trying to pick Natoli off first base and committed a throwing error as Natoli reached third.
Then, Benson walked freshman second baseman Pat Fitzgerald on four pitches. When senior first baseman Austin Harclerode drew a five-pitch walk, the Tigers had the bases loaded with no outs. Sophomore catcher Andrew Parker gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead when he singled to left field, scoring Natoli.
However, Benson came back to minimize the damage by getting senior rightfielder Steve Rice (right) to ground into a double play as Fitzgerald scored for a 2-0 advantage. With a run on third and two outs, Benson pitched out of the inning by retiring senior third baseman Chris Wychock on a fly ball to centerfield.
In the top of the second inning, the Rams threatened against sophomore righthander Michael Trionfo. Sophomore designated hitter Nick Kime led off the inning with a single to centerfield. After junior first baseman Taylor Perkins lined out to centerfield, senior rightfielder Michael Cheatham kept the rally going when he singled to left field. Then, the Rams got a break when junior catcher Kyle Sutherland hit a potential double play ball to Natoli at shortstop. He made an error and the bases were loaded.
Freshman shortstop Landon Prentiss followed with a fly ball to Rice in rightfield. Rice made the catch and his throw to home plate retired Kime as Parker made a sweeping tag.
Trailing by 2-0 in the third inning, the Rams got on the scoreboard in the third inning. Freshman centerfielder Bill Cullen led off with a double down the left field line. Junior second baseman Paul Nice bunted him over to third base. Moments later, Cullen scored the Rams' first run of the game on a sacrifice fly by senior leftfielder John Lenherr.
With their lead cut to 2-1, the Tigers staged a rally in the bottom of the third inning, knocking Benson out of the game.
Natoli led off the inning by lining a home run down the leftfield line. It was his third home run of the season and his first base hit of the three-game series. Fitzgerald followed with a single to right before Harclerode drew a walk. Parker popped up to shortstop for the first out. But, Rice laced a double down the leftfield line to drive in Fitzgerald as Harclerode advanced to third base.
After Wychock struck out, freshman centerfielder Brandon Gonnella lined a single to centerfield, driving in two runs to give the Tigers a 6-1 advantage. After Gonnella stole second base, senior designated hitter Brian Wyman drew a walk. On ball four to Wyman, Gonnella stole third base. With runners on first and third and two outs, junior lefthander Michael Graham came in to relieve Benson.
On his first pitch, the Tigers tried to pull off a double steal. But, the Rams expected it and threw Gonnella out at home plate.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Tigers extended their lead to 7-1. Freshman leftfielder Domonic Fratantuono led off with a single to centerfield. After he stole second base, he advanced to third base when Natoli was retired on a fly ball to rightfield. Fratantuono came in to score when Fitzgerald executed a safety squeeze bunt, giving the Tigers a 7-1 advantage.
In the fifth inning, Trionfo gave up a two-out walk to Nice and Lenherr singled. However, he retired freshman third baseman Joey Cujas on a fly ball to centerfield, ending the inning.
In the sixth inning, the Rams cut into their 7-1 deficit. With one out, Trionfo walked Perkins. After Cheatham was retired on a line drive to centerfield, he walked Sutherland. After the walk to Sutherland, Trionfo was relieved by senior righthander Spencer Patton.
Prentiss, the first batter he faced, lined a single to leftfield to score Perkins. When Fratantuono made an error, Prentiss made it to second base while Sutherland made it to third base.
Cullen then hit a triple to deep right centerfield, driving in two runs to cut the Tigers' lead to 7-4. Patton pitched out of the jam by retiring Nice on a ground ball to second base.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Tigers extended their lead to 8-4. With one out, Fratantuono reached base when he was hit by a pitch. Natoli followed with a double to left centerfield as Fratantuono reached third base. Fitzgerald grounded out to shortstop to drive in a run before Harclerode struck out.
After Patton retired VCU in order in the top of the seventh inning, the Tigers rallied again in the seventh. With one out, Rice reached base on an infield single. Then, Wychock reached on an error by Nice, the second baseman. After Rice stole third base and Wychock stole second, Gonnella was retired on a fly ball to left field.
With two outs, Wyman lined a single to centerfield, driving in two runs to give Towson a 10-4 lead. Fratantuono popped up to end the rally.
In the eighth inning, Rice helped Patton get out of a jam by recording his second outfield assist of the game. With one out in the eighth, Cheatham reached on an infield hit. Sutherland followed with a single down the rightfield line. Rice fielded the ball and fired a strike to second base, retiring Sutherland as he tried to extend his hit into a double. Patton pitched out of the inning by striking out Prentiss on a called third strike.
Patton nailed down the sweep by retiring the Rams in order in the ninth.
The Tigers outhit the Rams by a 10-8 margin in the series finale.
Cullen led VCU with two hits and two RBI's. Cheatham also had two hits.
The Tigers, who won the series finale despite committing a seasonal high four errors, were led by Natoli and Rice, who had two hits each. Natoli was two-for-four with two runs scored and drove in one run. Rice was two-for-five with two runs scored and a stolen base in addition to a pair of outfield assists.
Fitzgerald had one hit and drew a walk. He scored two runs, drove in a pair of runs and stole a base.
Harclerode, who batted .636 in the series with six RBI's, had one hit and drew three walks. Gonnella had one hit, stole two bases and had two RBI's.
The Tigers, who are now 14-4-1 at home, return to action on Tuesday, May 10 with a night game at UMBC.