TOWSON, Md. – Freshman leftfielder Brendan Butler had three hits and scored three runs as the Tigers (22-27) snapped out of a team batting slump by beating Maryland Eastern Shore (11-35), 14-4, in a rain-delayed non-conference game at a damp John B. Schuerholz Park on Tuesday afternoon.
The Tigers, who matched their season high by scoring 14 runs, banged out 13 hits and took advantage of five UMES errors. In addition, UMES pitchers walked seven Tigers and hit four batters with a pitch.
Freshman righthander Nick Cioffi (below, right) and sophomore righthander Chris Acke r combined to pitch a six-hitter against the Hawks as they teamed up to strike out seven batters. Cioffi, who earned his second win of the season, pitched the first five innings. He allowed three unearned runs on four hits. Cioffi, who is now 2-2 on the season, walked one and struck out two batters. Acker, who pitched the final four innings, allowed one run on two hits. He didn’t issue any walks and he struck out five. Acker earned his third save of the season.
After a 47-minute rain delay at the start, the Tigers and the Hawks finally got the game underway at 4:17 p.m.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Tigers rallied for three runs to take a 3-0 lead. Butler, who had his third three-hit game of the season, led off with a double to left centerfield. When junior first baseman Kurtis Voytell was hit by a pitch, the Tigers had two runners on base with no outs. While pitching to freshman shortstop Ryne Willard, freshman righthander Alex Welch of UMES threw a wild pitch. While Butler advanced to third, freshman catcher Dustin Aigner made a throwing error trying to pick off Voytell, who was trying to get back to first base. The wild throw enabled Butler to score the first run of the game.
Willard drew a walk to put runners on first and second base before senior catcher Sean Adkins was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with no outs. Sophomore third baseman Mike Draper upped the Tigers’ lead to 3-0 when he lined a two-run single to right. However, Welch escaped the jam by striking out freshman centerfielder Richie Blosser and getting sophomore designated hitter Brandon Gonnella to line into a double play.
The Tigers scored a very unusual run in the third inning, upping their lead to 4-0. Sophomores Pat Fitzgerald and Dominic Fratantuono opened the inning with back-to-back walks. While pitching to Butler, Welch tried a pickoff play at first base. However, first baseman Jeff Fleetwood was playing behind the runner and Welch’s throw went down the rightfield line as Fitzgerald scored to give Towson a 4-0 advantage.
After shutting out the Hawks on one hit through three innings, Cioffi ran into trouble in the fourth inning. Sophomore rightfielder Byron Campbell opened the inning by reaching base on an error by Willard, the Tigers’ shortstop. After junior centerfielder Tre-von Johnson grounded out, Fleetwood drew a walk. Cioffi picked up the second out when he struck out senior third baseman James Newsome. However, junior designated hitter Malik Wylie grounded a double down the leftfield line, scoring both runners to cut the deficit to 4-2. When Aigner followed with a double to right, Wylie scored to make it a 4-3 game. Cioffi pitched out of the jam when he retired freshman shortstop Joshua James on a fly ball to right.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Tigers broke the game open by sending 11 batters to the plate while scoring six runs. Adkins led off the inning with an infield single. When Draper was hit by a pitch, the Tigers had two runners on base. Blosser followed with a bunt single down the third base line. The Hawks’ third baseman, Newsome, tried to throw out Adkins but his throw was wild and Adkins scored to give Towson a 5-3 lead. With runners on second and third, Gonnella doubled to left field, scoring two runs to put the Tigers ahead, 7-3.
After the double by Gonnella, freshman righthander Michael Epps relieved Welch. He hit Fitzgerald with a pitch, giving Towson runners on first and second base. After Fitzgerald and Gonnella pulled off a double steal, Fratantuono was retired on a ground ball to second base. Butler came through with a two-run single, upping the lead to 9-3. A single by Voytell moved Butler to second. Willard drove in Butler with a single to left, giving Towson a 10-3 advantage. Freshman righthander Chipper Smith came in from the bullpen and pitched out of the jam as he struck out Adkins and Draper.
In the sixth inning, the Tigers added an unearned run in a very unusual manner. Butler led off with a single to right. He reached second base when Voytell grounded out. After a walk to Willard, Adkins blasted a long drive to right center, the deepest part of Schuerholz Park. Johnson, the Hawks’ centerfielder, made a terrific catch on the run and banged into the fence. Butler alertly tagged up and scored all the way from second base to give Towson an 11-3 lead.
The Tigers added three more runs in the seventh inning to take a 14-3 lead. A single by Gonnella, a walk to Fitzgerald and a single by Fratantuono loaded the bases with no outs. After Butler popped up, sophomore righthander Sean Woods uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Gonnella while the others moved into scoring position. With two outs, Willard delivered a two-run single to right centerfield, giving Towson a 14-3 lead.
After shutting out the Hawks for three innings, Acker gave up a run in the ninth inning. Johnson lined a solo home run over the left centerfield fence, his first homer of the season. However, Acker retired the Hawks without any further damage to nail down the victory.
The Tigers, who came into the game with eight losses in their last nine games, improved their record at Schuerholz Park to 13-6.
While Butler led the Tigers with three hits, Gonnella went three-for-six with two runs scored and two RBI’s. It was his first three-hit game of the season. Willard had two hits and three RBI’s while Draper drove in two runs. Despite going hitless, Fitzgerald reached base four times and scored three runs.
The Tigers return to action on Wednesday night when they visit UMBC for a non-conference game at 6:00 p.m.