HARRISONBURG, Va. – Sophomore leftfielder Peter Bowles had three hits and drove in four runs in the opener as the Tigers (23-26, 12-11) improved their Colonial Athletic Association Tournament hopes with an 11-7 victory over James Madison University (21-16, 9-13) in the opening game of their doubleheader at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Dukes won the nightcap, 16-3.
In the opener, the Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Third baseman Zach Fisher led off the game with a single to centerfield. Junior second baseman Pat Fitzgerald was hit by a pitch, putting two runners on base with no outs. After junior designated hitter Kurt Wertz was retired on a fly ball to leftfield, sophomore leftfielder Peter Bowles singled to left, scoring Fisher with the first run of the game. With runners on first and third, junior centerfielder Brandon Gonnella bunted back to the mound. Sophomore righthander Michael Howerton of JMU made a nice play and threw home to retired Fitzgerald trying to score. However, when Howerton threw a wild pitch, Bowles scored to up the lead to 2-0. Junior rightfielder Dominic Fratantuono was retired on a line drive to second base, ending the threat.
Centerfielder Johnny Bladel led off the bottom of the first when he singled to centerfield. After Bladel stole second base, senior righthander Mike Volpe struck out third baseman Ty McFarland. However, rightfielder Colby Roberts doubled to left, driving in a run. But, the Dukes couldn’t score any more runs as Volpe struck out leftfielder Chad Carroll and retired Matt Tenaglia on a ground ball to second base.
Both pitchers settled down after the first inning. Volpe had retired seven batters in a row until walking Tenaglia and second baseman Connor Brown with one out in the fourth inning. When shortstop Casey Goss singled to left center, Tenaglia scored the tying run and the Dukes had runners on first and second base. Volpe struck out designated hitter Cole McIntruff for the second out before senior catcher Andrew Parker picked off Goss at first base.
With the score tied at 2-2 in the fifth inning, the Tigers scored five times to take a 7-2 lead. Sophomore Brendan Butler led off with a walk and Fisher sacrificed him to second base. Fitzgerald also drew a walk before Wertz singled to left, loading the bases. Bowles gave Towson a 4-2 lead with a two-run single to centerfield. When Gonnella reached on a single, the bases were loaded again.
A sacrifice fly by Dominic Fratantuono upped the lead to 5-2 before a throwing error by catcher Bobby San Martin enabled two more runs to score.
The Dukes came back and scored a run in the bottom of the fifth. San Martin led off with an infield single before Bladel singled to right center. A sacrifice fly by McClelland cut the deficit to 7-3. But Volpe struck out the next two hitters to escape the threat.
Trailing by 7-3 in the bottom of the seventh, the Dukes rallied to get back in the game. Brad Shaban led off the inning with a pinch-hit home run, making it a 7-4 game. After a walk to Bladel, Volpe was relieved by junior Nik Nowottnick. After walking McFarland, he retired Roberts on a fly ball to centerfield. Carroll drove in two runs with a double to leftfield but Bowles threw him out at third base trying to stretch his hit into a triple.
With their lead to cut to 7-6, the Tigers rallied to up their lead to 9-6 in the eighth. Fratantuono led off with a walk before he was forced out on a ground ball by shortstop Hunter Bennett. After a single by Parker, Butler grounded into a force play. Then, Fisher came through by belting a triple to centerfield, giving the Tigers a 9-6 lead.
In the ninth inning, the Tigers added another run. Wertz led off with a walk and pinch runner Richie Blosser scored on Bowles’ third hit, a double to right center. Bowles reached third base on a sacrifice bunt by Gonnella before Fratantuono’s sacrifice fly gave Towson an 11-6 lead.
Bladel led off the bottom of the ninth with a single and went to second base when McFarland grounded out. After Roberts was retired on a fly ball to left, Carroll singled him home to cut the lead to 11-7. But, Nowottnick struck out Tenaglia to end the game.
In the opener, Bowles led the Tigers with three hits and four RBI’s while Fisher had two hits and drove in two runs. Wertz added two hits.
Volpe earned his sixth win of the season by pitching six innings and allowing five runs on seven hits with four walks and six strikeouts. Nowottnick earned a save by pitching three innings and allowing two runs on four hits.
In the nightcap, Bladel and Mark Gunst combined on a six-hitter as the Dukes beat the Tigers, 16-3. JMU pounded out 17 hits off 10 Tiger pitchers en route to the win.
Bladel pitched six innings and allowed three runs on six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. Gunst earned the save by throwing three scoreless innings.
The Dukes took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Brown led off with a solo home run. Back-to-back doubles by McInturff and Shaban also drove in a run. In the third inning, a home run by McFarland and an RBI double by Carroll gave the Dukes a 4-0 lead.
The Tigers got on the scoreboard in the fifth inning when Parker led off with a solo home run.
JMU added three runs in the bottom of the fifth as McFarland singled and Carroll drove him home with a double. Brown’s second home run of the game, a two-run shot, gave the Dukes a 7-1 advantage.
A two-run homer by Fratantuono pulled the Tigers to within 7-3. But, JMU added three more runs in the sixth inning for a 10-3 lead. The Dukes put the game out of reach with a six-run rally in the eighth.
Carroll led the Dukes with four hits and five RBI’s while Brown had three hits and drove in three runs.
The Tigers and the Dukes will play the series finale on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.