NEWARK, Del. – Sophomore righthander Chris Acker earned his first save of the season as he pitched 3.1 innings of scoreless relief to lead Towson University (12-10, 6-3) to a 3-2 Colonial Athletic Association victory over the University of Delaware (10-14, 4-5) in the third and deciding game of their three-game weekend series at Bob Hannah Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers, who have won six of their last seven games, compiled a 1.04 E.R.A. in the series against Delaware. The teams split a doubleheader on Friday with the Tigers winning the opener, 6-1. Delaware won the second game, 2-1.
The Tigers, who overcame an early 2-0 deficit to win the series finale, took their 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. First baseman Nick Ferdinand gave the Blue Hens hope when he led off the bottom of the ninth with a double to left field. Freshman Joe Giacchino was called upon to pinch hit. When he grounded out to first base, Ferdinand advanced to third base.
With the tying run just 90 feet away, Acker had to face back-to-back pinch hitters. He struck out sophomore Alex Mottle for the second out, brining senior Eric Young to the plate. He ended the game by striking out Young to secure the victory and the series win.
Acker earned the save by pitching 3.1 scoreless innings. He allowed only three hits and struck out four batters.
Sophomore righthander Brandon Gonnella earned his second win of the season. In 5.2 innings of work, he allowed one earned run on four hits with two walks and one strikeout.
After a 96-minute rain delay, the Blue Hens took an early 1-0 lead when junior second baseman D.J. Long blasted his second home run of the season over the left field fence with one out in the bottom of the first inning.
The Blue Hens extended their lead to 2-0 in the second inning when Ferdinand reached base on an infield single with one out and advanced to second base on a throwing error by Gonnella. After third baseman Ryan Hartley was retired on a fly ball to centerfield, shortstop Brock Niggeburge singled to rightfield, scoring Ferdinand. Gonnella retired the side when catcher Ty Warrington popped up to shortstop.
The Tigers came back with a run in the third inning when junior third baseman Zach Fisher doubled to right, leading off the inning. Sophomore shortstop Hunter Bennett followed with a single to right as Fisher reached third base. When sophomore second baseman Pat Fitzgerald grounded into a force play, Fisher scored to cut the lead to 2-1. The Tigers missed a chance to tie the game when senior centerfielder Ben Winter struck out while Fitzgerald was trying to steal second base. Warrington threw him out to end the rally.
In the fourth inning, sophomore designated hitter Dominic Fratantuono and freshman first baseman Brendan Butler reached base when sophomore righthander Chad Kuhl hit each of them with a pitch. After sophomore leftfielder Kurt Wertz struck out, freshman rightfielder Peter Bowles singled to right, loading the bases. A sacrifice fly by junior catcher Andrew Parker drove in Fratantuono with the tying run. Then, Fisher gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead with his RBI single to right. Kuhl ended the rally by striking out Bennett.
Gonnella settled down after allowing two runs in the first two innings. From the third through the fifth innings, he retired nine of ten hitters and he took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. In the sixth, he walked Long, the leadoff hitter. With two outs, he also walked pinch hitter Chris Branigan. With two runners on base and two outs, Coach Mike Gottlieb went to his bullpen and brought in Acker. Acker ended the rally by retiring Ferdinand on a line drive to second base.
Still clinging to their 3-2 lead in the eighth inning, the Tigers staged a two-out rally against senior lefthander Devon Pearson. With two outs, Wertz singled and Bowles doubled to left, putting two runners in scoring position. The Blue Hens elected to walk Parker intentionally to load the bases for Fisher. But, the Blue Hens escaped when Fisher popped up to shortstop.
The Tigers, who outhit Delaware by a 10-7 margin, were led by Winter, Bowles, Fisher and Bennett, who had two hits each.
Towson returns to action this week when the Tigers travel to Virginia for a two-game series. They will face the 30th-ranked Cavaliers on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 5:00 p.m.