THIBODAUX, La. – Senior lefthander Mike Ryan and junior righthander Chris Acker combined to pitch 4.2 innings of shutout relief as Towson University (4-0) came from behind to hand Nicholls State (3-2) a 3-1 loss at Didier Field on Friday afternoon. With the win, the Tigers matched their best start since 2002.
The Tigers’ best start came in the 1999 season when they opened the season by winning their first five games.
For six innings on Friday, the Tigers were shut out by senior righthander Mike Suk. Suk allowed only three hits through six innings and was nursing a 1-0 lead.
Junior leftfielder Kurt Wertz opened the seventh inning with a single through the right side. With one out, senior first baseman Kurtis Voytell grounded into a force play as Wertz was retired at second base. After Voytell stole second base, sophomore second baseman Pat Fitzgerald drew a walk, giving the Tigers two runners on base with two outs.
With two runners on base, junior shortstop Hunter Bennett came through with a clutch single to right. It was only Bennett’s second hit of the season in 17 at bats. Voytell came in to score the tying run as Fitzgerald reached third base and Bennett advanced to second on the throw to the plate. At that point, Suk was relieved by junior righthander Marc Picciola.
Junior centerfielder Brandon Gonnella greeted Picciola with a single to centerfield, driving in Fitzgerald and Bennett to give the Tigers a 3-1 lead. Zach Thiac relieved Picciola and retired third baseman Zach Fisher on a ground ball to second base.
In his third inning of relief, Ryan retired the Colonels in order in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Tigers threatened to add to their lead in the eighth inning. They had runners on second and third with one out but couldn’t cash in on the opportunity.
After retiring the first two hitters in the bottom of the eighth, Ryan gave up a triple to Leo Vargas. He was relieved by junior righthander Chris Acker. With the tying run at the plate, Acker struck out third baseman Zachary LeBeouf to end the threat.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Acker (right) allowed a one-out single to leftfielder David Zorn. But, Acker came back to retire pinch hitter Chad Tillotson on a fly ball. He nailed down the victory by getting pinch hitter Adam Seal on a ground ball to second base.
Nicholls State took a 1-0 lead in the first inning of the series opener against senior righthander Mike Volpe. Centerfielder Matt Richard reached base when he was hit by a pitch. After he stole second base, Mike Barber grounded out to first base, enabling Richard to reach third. With two outs, he scored the first run of the game when designated hitter Keith Cormier reached base on an infield single.
Volpe pitched 4.1 innings for the Tigers. He allowed one run on five hits while walking two and striking out. He was relieved by Ryan in the fifth inning when the Colonels were threatening to break the game open. Ryan, who earned his second win of the season, pitched 3.1 innings of shutout relief, allowing only two hits.
Acker earned his first save of the season by pitching 1.1 innings of scoreless relief.
Zorn helped the Colonels outhit Towson by an 8-7 margin. He led the Colonels with two hits.
For Towson, junior Dominic Fratantuono continued his torrid hitting with two hits, including a double.
Towson and Nicholls State will play the second game of their three-game weekend series on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. (CST).