TOWSON, Md.– Junior designated hitter Kurt Wertz had two base hits and drove in three runs as Towson University (20-21, 10-7) rallied for seven runs in the seventh inning en route to a 9-5 Colonial Athletic Association victory over No. 21 North Carolina Wilmington (32-12, 13-3) in the second game of their three-game weekend series at John B. Schuerholz Park on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the Tigers evened the series at one victory each. They also ended the Seahawks’ six-game winning streak while snapping their own four-game losing streak.
Trailing by 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers sent 11 batters to the plate as they scored seven runs on six hits and one error. Wertz highlighted the rally with a two-run triple that increased the Tigers’ advantage to 6-2.
The Tigers took advantage of a UNC Wilmington error to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. With two outs, sophomore leftfielder Peter Bowles reached base when freshman centerfielder Steven Linkous dropped his fly ball. Moments later, Wertz doubled to right center to give Towson a 1-0 advantage. Junior centerfielder Brandon Gonnella grounded out to end the inning.
Sophomore righthander Paul Beers ran into a jam in the second inning when designated hitter Ryan Keeler doubled with one out. But Beers retired the next two hitters to preserve the lead.
Sophomore first baseman Corey Dick led off the fourth inning with a double to right centerfield. But, Beers came back to retire the next three hitters, escaping the jam.
With one out in the top of the sixth inning, the Seahawks finally got on the scoreboard. Sophomore leftfielder Luke Dunlap hit his fourth home run of the season over the centerfield fence to tie the game at 1-1. Moments later, Dick put the Seahawks ahead when he blasted a solo home run over the rightfield fence. It was his sixth home run of the season and his second homer of the series. After the back-to-back home runs, Beers settled down and retired the next two hitters.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Tigers erupted for seven runs to grab an 8-2 lead. With one out, senior catcher Andrew Parker doubled down the left field line. With the tying run on second base, senior righthander Jack Lane came in from the bullpen to pitch. Junior shortstop Hunter Bennett greeted Lane with a single to right field, driving in the tying run. Bennett advanced to second base when senior second baseman Michael Bass made an error. After Bennett advanced to third base on a wild pitch, sophomore first baseman Brendan Butler drew a walk.
With runners at the corners, junior lefthander Kelly Secrest relieved Lane. The first batter he faced, third baseman Zach Fisher tried to execute a suicide squeeze bunt. His bunt dropped in front of Secrest and Fisher reached with a bunt single while Bennett scored the go-ahead run. When junior second baseman Pat Fitzgerald drew a walk, the Tigers had the bases loaded. Bowles upped the Tigers’ lead to 4-2 when he hit a sacrifice fly to rightfield. With two runners on base and two outs, Wertz drilled a triple to right centerfield, plating two runs to give Towson a 6-2 advantage.
After the triple by Wertz, freshman righthander Nick Monroe relieved Secrest. Gonnella lined a single to centerfield, scoring Wertz to give the Tigers a 7-2 lead. Junior rightfielder Dominic Fratantuono followed with a triple to right center, scoring Gonnella to give Towson an 8-2 advantage.
Junior lefthander Kyle Paul came in from the bullpen to relieve Beers in the top of the eighth. With one out, senior rightfielder Tyler Molinaro doubled down the right field line. The Seahawks cut their deficit to 8-4 when Dunlap hit his second home run of the game, a fly ball down the left field line. After Dick was retired on a line drive to left, junior third baseman Ryan LaGrange doubled to right centerfield. After the double by LaGrange, Gonnella came in from centerfield to pitch. He ended the rally by getting pinch hitter Luis Renville to pop out to first base.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Tigers got one of those runs back. Bennett led off by reaching base on an infield error. After Butler grounded into a force play, he stole second base and reached third on a wild pitch. Fisher drew a walk and went to second base on a wild pitch. When Fitzgerald was hit by a pitch, the Tigers had the bases loaded. A sacrifice fly by Bowles drove in Butler, upping the lead to 9-4.
In the ninth inning, Farber led off with a single and went to second base on an infield ground out. Freshman shortstop Terence Connelly came through with an RBI single to centerfield, cutting the deficit to 9-5. However, Gonnella got Molinaro to ground into a game-ending double play.
Beers earned his first win of the season as he upped his record to 1-4. He pitched seven strong innings and gave up two runs on seven hits. He had two strikeouts and did not walk any batters.
Wertz and Fratantuono led the Tigers with two hits each. Wertz had a double and a triple and drove in three runs. Fratantuono was two-for-four with one RBI. Fisher had one hit and drew three walks. Aklthough Bowles was hitless, he had two RBI’s.
Dunlap led UNCW with three hits and three RBI’s. In the first two games of the series, he is seven-for-eight (.875) with three runs scored, two home runs and seven RBI’s. Molinaro and Dick each had two hits for the Seahawks.
The victory was Towson’s first win over a nationally-ranked team since the Tigers beat No. 25 George Mason by 9-4 on April 12, 2009.
Towson and UNC Wilmington close out their three-game weekend series with a single game on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. It will be the rubber game of the series because UNCW won the opener on Friday, 10-5.