TOWSON, Md. – Junior catcher Andrew Parker broke out of a slump by smashing two home runs and driving in four runs as the Tigers (14-15, 8-5) erupted for a season high 17 hits en route to a 14-5 Colonial Athletic Association victory over Old Dominion University (10-20, 2-8) in the opening game of their three-game weekend series at John B. Schuerholz Park on Friday afternoon.
The Tigers, who had scored only 16 runs in their previous eight games, broke out of their slump by scoring 13 runs in the first four innings.
Junior righthander Michael Trionfo earned the win for the Tigers as he picked up his CAA-leading sixth victory. Trionfo, who had a no-hitter with one out in the sixth inning, pitched six-plus innings and allowed four runs on four hits. He walked five and had three strikeouts. He is now 6-1 on the season with a 2.72 E.R.A.
Trionfo left the game with a 13-2 lead. Old Dominion rallied for eight runs in the final three innings to make the game close.
The Tigers rallied for two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Senior centerfielder Ben Winter (below) led off with a double to left centerfield to start the inning. After he moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt by freshman first baseman Brendan Butler, Winter scored on a triple down the left field line by sophomore designated hitter Dominic Fratantuono. Sophomore leftfielder Kurt Wertz gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead when he lined a sacrifice fly to centerfield.
It marked the first time in 43 innings that the Tigers scored more than one run in an inning, dating back to March 28 at Virginia.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Tigers added three more runs. Junior third baseman Zach Fisher led off with a single to left centerfield. Then, Parker lined his first home run of the season over the left centerfield fence, a two-run shot that gave the Tigers a 4-0 advantage. With two outs, Winter singled to centerfield. After reaching second base on a wild pitch, he scored on Butler’s single to centerfield, giving the Tigers a 5-0 lead.
In the bottom of the third inning, the Tigers extended their lead to 9-0 by scoring four more runs as they took advantage of senior righthander Phil McCarthy’s control problems. Wertz led off the inning by drawing a four-pitch walk. Sophomore rightfielder Brandon Gonnella reached base when he was hit by a pitch. After both runners moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Fisher, Parker struck out. When sophomore second baseman Pat Fitzgerald was also hit by a pitch, the Tigers had the bases loaded.
Sophomore shortstop Hunter Bennett (below) drove in two runs with a single to rightfield. When Winter singled, Fitzgerald scored to give the Tigers an 8-0 edge. With runners at first and third, McCarthy threw a wild pitch as Bennett came around to score. McCarthy pitched out of the inning by retiring Butler on a popup.
In the fourth inning, freshman lefthander D.J. Engler replaced McCarthy on the mound for ODU. He walked Fratantuono to open the inning. A single by Wertz gave the Tigers a pair of base runners with no outs. Gonnella followed with a bloop double to right, scoring Fratantuono. A sacrifice fly by Fisher enabled Wertz to score, giving the Tigers an 11-0 advantage. Then, Parker hit a long home run over the left field fence, upping the lead to 13-0.
Despite some problems with his control, Trionfo held the Monarchs without a hit through the first five innings. He did issue four walks in the first five innings and had to pitch out of trouble. With one out in the sixth inning, freshman leftfielder Josh Eldridge broke up the no-hitter with a double to centerfield. When senior first baseman Chris Baker doubled down the left field line, the Monarchs were on the scoreboard, trailing 13-1. It was the first run allowed by Trionfo in 18 innings. After Baker reached third base on a wild pitch, he scored on an infield grounder by senior catcher Josh Tutwiler, cutting the lead to 13-2. Trionfo ended the rally by striking out sophomore rightfielder Ben Verlander, the younger brother of Justin Verlander, the American League Cy Young Award winner in 2011.
In the seventh inning, Trionfo walked the leadoff hitter,
senior second baseman Brandon Shelton. When sophomore centerfielder Drew Coker
followed with a single, Trionfo was relieved by freshman righthander Nick Cioffi.
Senior shortstop Josh Wright, the 2012 CAA Pre-Season Player of the Year, greeted Cioffi with a three-run homer over the left field fence and ODU trailed by 13-5. But, Cioffi settled down after giving up the homer and the Tigers took a 13-5 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning.
After sophomore lefthander Kyle Paul retired the Monarchs in order in the eighth, the Tigers rallied against Verlander in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Fisher singled to right. Parker followed with his third hit, a single to left. However, Tutwiler alertly picked Fisher off second base for the second out. A double by Fitzgerald enabled Parker to score, upping the lead to 14-5. After Bennett reached on an infield single, Verlander retired Winter on a foul pop-up to the catcher.
Leading by 14-5 in the ninth inning, Coach Mike Gottlieb turned to junior righthander Sean Bertrand to close out the game. However, Bertrand struggled with his control. He walked Shelton and Coker on eight pitches to start the inning. When Wright walked on a 3-2 pitch, ODU had the bases loaded with no outs.
Junior righthander Mike Bronakoski was summoned to relieve Bertrand. He walked senior third baseman Brent Frazier, the first batter he faced, on four pitches to force in a run. Then, he walked Eldridge on four pitches to force in another run, cutting the lead to 14-7.
At that point, senior righthander Tyler Austin came in from the bullpen. When he hit Baker with a pitch, another run came in and the Monarchs trailed, 14-8. ODU had scored three runs without a hit and had the bases loaded. A sacrifice fly by Tutwiler drove in a run to make it a 14-9 game. Then, Austin struck out sophomore first baseman Tom Yesensky for the second out. But, Verlander kept the inning alive with an RBI single, cutting the lead to 14-10. But, Austin finally ended the rally by retiring Shelton on a ground ball to shortstop, nailing down the 14-10 victory.
In the ninth inning, the Monarchs rallied for five runs on one hit. They drew five consecutive walks and had one batter hit by a pitch.
Trionfo earned his fourth straight win for the Tigers. In his last four starts, he is 4-0 with a 1.75 E.R.A.
The Tigers, who came into the game with a .252 team batting average, outhit Old Dominion by a 17-6 margin.
Winter, Parker and Bennett led the Tigers with three hits each. Winter went three-for-five with a walk and two runs scored while Parker also went three-for-five with three runs scored, two home runs and four RBI’s. His three-hit effort raised his batting average by 25 points. Bennett was three-for-four with two RBI’s, the first three-hit game of his career.
Fratantuono and Fisher contributed two hits each as everyone in the Tiger lineup had at least one hit.
Wright led the Monarchs with one hit, two walks, two runs scored and three RBI’s. Although ODU was limited to six hits, the Monarchs took advantage of ten walks and one hit batter.
The Tigers and the Monarchs return to action on Saturday when they play the second game of their series at 2:00 p.m.