CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Freshman leftfielder Derek Fisher had two doubles, a triple and a grand slam home run as No. 26 Virginia (17-8-1) survived two weather-related delays that totaled two hours and 21 minutes to hand Towson University (12-12) a 19-5 loss in a non-conference game at Davenport Field on Wednesday evening.
Fisher led the Cavaliers’ 19-hit attack with four hits as they swept the two-game series from the Tigers. Virginia also took advantage of nine walks and four wild pitches by Tiger pitching. The 19 runs and 19 hits by the Cavaliers were both season highs.
After a 42-minute weather forecast delay before the start of the game, the Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Sophomore second baseman Pat Fitzgerald led off the game with a single and stole second base. After sophomore Dominic Fratantuono was hit by a pitch, Fitzgerald scored the first run of the game on a single by freshman third baseman Brendan Butler. However, Fratantuono slipped between second and third base and was tagged out. When Butler was thrown out at second base trying to steal, the side was retired.
The Tigers’ first inning run ended a streak of 29 consecutive scoreless innings against the Cavaliers, dating back to the 2010 season.
Virginia wasted no time responding. Junior shortstop Chris Taylor led off the inning with a single to left field. When rightfielder Colin Harrington bunted him to second base, the Cavaliers had the tying run in scoring position. Junior third baseman Stephen Bruno tied the game at 1-1 when he lined a single down the left field line off Tiger lefthander Mike Ryan. When freshman designated hitter Nick Howard and senior first baseman Jared King drew back-to-back walks, Virginia had the bases loaded with one out.
After facing only five batters, Ryan was relieved by junior righthander Sean Bertrand. Fisher greeted Bertrand with a monster of a grand slam homer well over the right field fence, the first grand slam of his career and his fourth home run of the season.
After freshman catcher Nate Irving was retired on a ground ball to third base, sophomore centerfielder Mitchell Shifflett kept the inning alive when he doubled to right. A walk to senior catcher Keith Werman gave Virginia two runners on base with two outs. Batting for the second time in the inning, Taylor hit a ground rule double down the right field line, driving in the sixth run of the inning. With runners on second and third, Harrington lined a two-run single to right center, upping the lead to 8-1. Bertrand finally ended the inning by retiring Bruno on a ground ball to second base.
When the inning ended, the Cavaliers had scored eight runs on six hits with three walks as 12 batters came to the plate. It was the first time this season that the Tigers had allowed more than four runs in an inning this season.
Trailing by 8-1 in the top of the second, the Tigers started chipping away at their deficit.
With one out in the second, junior first baseman Kurtis Voytell singled to center. Senior centerfielder Ben Winter followed with a double down the left field line, putting runners on second and third base. Junior catcher Zach Fisher plated a run when he grounded out to second base as Voytell scored. Sophomore shortstop Hunter Bennett drove in the Tigers’ second run of the inning when he doubled to left center, making it an 8-3 deficit.
With freshman righthander Barrett O’Neill pitching to Fitzgerald, the umpires stopped the game for the second rain delay at 6:24 p.m.
After a delay of 1:39, the teams resumed the game at a little after 8 p.m. Howard, the Cavaliers’ designated hitter, came in to pitch after the delay. On his first pitch, Howard retired Fitzgerald on a fly ball to left.
In the bottom of the second, King singled with one out and stole second base. After reaching third base on an infield out, he scored when Irving beat out a soft grounder to third base for an infield hit. Bertrand retired the side when Shifflett grounded out to third.
Trailing by 9-3, the Tigers trimmed their deficit to 9-4 in the fourth inning. Voytell led off with a double to left center and came around to score when Winter bunted him to third base and Fisher grounded out to first base.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Cavaliers got that run back. Facing sophomore lefthander Kyle Paul, King led off with a single to center. After he stole second base, he came around to score on a two-out single by Shifflett.
The Tigers made another bid to get back in the game in the fifth inning. With one out, sophomore rightfielder Brandon Gonnella and Fratantuono hit back-to-back singles. Butler followed an RBI single to right, scoring Gonnella to cut the deficit to 10-5. After moving both runners into scoring position on a groundout to first by leftfielder Kurt Wertz, Howard ended the threat by striking out Voytell.
The Cavaliers broke the game wide open in the bottom of the fifth as they scored five runs on only two hits. Taylor led off with a single and was bunted to second base. With two outs, Howard drew a walk. Another walk to King loaded the bases. Fisher drove in a pair of runs when he doubled down the left field line, knocking Paul out of the game.
Junior righthander Mike Bronakoski relieved Paul and promptly walked Irving to load the bases again. On his first pitch to Shifflett, he uncorked a wild pitch, allowing King to score and moving the runners up a base. On his second pitch to Shifflett, he threw another wild pitch which bounced halfway up the third base line. With Fisher trying to score, Bronakoski made a wild throw to the plate. Irving also came in to score on the error, giving Virginia 15-5 advantage.
In the sixth inning, Virginia added another run when Howard was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Fisher led off the seventh inning with his third hit, a triple. He scored on a single by Shifflett.
In the bottom of the eighth, the only remaining drama was whether or not Fisher would become the first Cavalier to hit for the cycle. With one out, Howard doubled to right center. After pinch hitter Keith Towns was retired on a fly ball to right, Fisher came up to bat, needing a single to hit for the cycle. On the second pitch, he lined a shot down the rightfield line that went for a two-base hit as Fisher reached third on an error. He scored Virginia’s final run on an infield single by Chace Mitchell.
Fisher led the Virginia offense with four hits, four runs scored and seven runs batted in. Taylor added three hits and scored three runs while Shifflett had three hits and two RBI’s.
Fratantuono, Butler and Voytell led the Tigers’ ten-hit attack with two hits each. Butler had two RBI’s for the Tigers.
Howard earned the win for Virginia by pitching 4.1 innings of relief. He allowed two runs on five hits with four strikeouts.
Over the last three innings, the Cavaliers’ bullpen threw three shutout innings and did not allow a hit.
The Tigers return to Colonial Athletic Association action this weekend with a three-game series at William and Mary.