FAIRFAX, Va.– Junior righthander Brandon Gonnella and junior lefthander Kyle Paul teamed up to pitch a six-hit shutout, leading the Tigers (19-17, 9-6) to an 8-0 Colonial Athletic Association victory over George Mason University (13-24, 5-13) in the third and deciding game of their three-game series at Spuhler Field on Sunday afternoon.
With the win, the Tigers captured the series, two games to one. Towson won the series opener on Friday, 10-6. On Saturday, the Patriots pulled out a 4-2 victory.
The victory enabled Towson to improve its hold on fourth place in the CAA standings. It was Towson’s fifth win in its last six games.
Gonnella shook off an illness to beat the Patriots, upping his record to 4-2. In seven innings of work, he allowed only four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. Paul nailed down the win with two shutout innings.
“Brandon pitched a great game,” said Coach Mike Gottlieb. “He was sick all night and we weren’t sure he could pitch today. I asked him if he wanted to pitch in relief and he said no. He wanted to pitch. It was the best game he pitched all year and it was a gutsy performance.
“When we got the big lead, we decided that seven innings was enough and we brought in Kyle Paul,” added Gottlieb.
The Tigers didn’t break the game open until they scored five runs in the eighth inning.
In the second inning, the Tigers grabbed a 1-0 lead by scoring an unearned run. Junior Kurt Wertz led off with a single to rightfield. He reached second base when junior shortstop Hunter Bennett laid down a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, sophomore centerfielder Richie Blosser reached on an error as Wertz scored the go-ahead run.
Gonnella protected the 1-0 lead into the sixth inning, holding the Patriots to three hits. With one out in the sixth, Wertz blasted his fifth home run of the season, giving Towson a 2-0 advantage. It was Wertz’s fourth homer in the last four games.
In the seventh inning, third baseman Zach Fisher led off with a double to rightfield. Junior second baseman Pat Fitzgerald reached base when he was hit by a pitch. After senior catcher Andrew Parker sacrificed the runners into scoring position, junior rightfielder Dominic Fratantuono was intentionally walked to load the bases. Sophomore leftfielder Peter Bowles drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to give Towson a 3-0 lead.
The Tigers broke the game open with a five-run eighth inning. With one out, sophomore first baseman Brendan Butler singled to shortstop. Blosser drew a walk to put runners on first and second base. After Butler reached third base on a wild pitch, Blosser stole second. Fisher came through with a two-run single to right, upping the lead to 5-0. Fitzgerald drove in Fisher with a triple to right field to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead. When Fitzgerald scored on a wild pitch, the lead was increased to 7-0. Parker drew a walk to keep the rally going. After he stole second base, Fratantuono was retired on a fly ball to left. With two outs, Bowles singled to centerfield, scoring Parker to make the lead 8-0.
Paul preserved the shutout by pitching two scoreless innings of relief. He stranded runners on second and third in the eighth inning and gave up a one-out double to catcher Patrick Esposito in the ninth inning. But, Paul retired Jordan Hill on a fly ball to right for the second out before wrapping up the shutout by getting Brandon Gumm to hit another fly ball to right.
The Tigers outhit the Patriots by an 11-6 margin. Fisher led the Tigers with two hits, two runs scored and two runs batted in. Fitzgerald also had a pair of hits with one run scored and one RBI. Bowles added two hits and drove in a pair of runs. Wertz had two hits and scored twice while Butler also had two hits.
The Tigers return to action on Tuesday, April 16 with a non-conference game at Bucknell University.