TOWSON, Md. -- One of eight seniors playing in his final college baseball game, senior second baseman Hunter Bennett had two hits, drew two walks and tied a school record by scoring five runs to lead the Towson baseball team to a season-ending 16-8 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) victory over Delaware at John B. Schuerholz Park on Sunday afternoon.
The victory earned the Tigers (22-25, 4-13 CAA) a win in the three-game series, which wraps up Towson's season. Despite the loss, the Blue Hens (22-24, 8-9) clinched a berth in the six-team CAA Championship, which begins on May 15. Delaware won the series opener, 14-10, on Friday. The Tigers came back and won the second game of the series, 7-0, on Saturday behind a complete-game shutout from pitcher Kyle Paul.
After the Tigers honored their eight seniors in a pre-game ceremony, Delaware got the scoring started in the first inning. Second baseman Zach Lopes drove a ball up the middle that went off pitcher David Sapp’s mitt for a single that drove in Joe Giacchino. UD added another run to go up 2-0 in the second when Giacchino singled up the middle to drive in Cameron Travalini.
With one out in the bottom of the second inning, junior Peter Bowles doubled to left centerfield. After a walk to junior Brendan Butler, freshman third baseman Brady Policelli ripped an RBI single to right, cutting Towson's deficit to 2-1.
In the bottom of the third inning, the Tigers took advantage of Chad Martin’s control problems. With two outs, Bennett was hit by a pitch and senior rightfielder Dominic Fratantuono drew the first of four Towson walks in the inning. The Tigers scored a pair of runs to take a 3-2 lead despite not recording a hit in the frame.
After chasing Delaware's starting pitcher by taking a 4-2 lead and loading the bases in the fourth inning, Towson continued its offensive fireworks. Bowles greeted new Blue Hen pitcher Luke Alicknavitch with a single to right centerfield, driving in two more runs to give the home team a 6-2 advantage.
Delaware briefly got to within three runs at 6-3, but Zach Fisher belted his second home run of the season over the rightfield fence and Towson took a 7-3 lead into the sixth inning. The Blue Hens once again had an answer as EJ Stolzfus cut the Blue Hens’ deficit to 7-6 when he launched a three-run homer over the right field fence in the top of the sixth.
The Tigers would put their rivals away for good in the bottom of the sixth. Bennett and Fratantuono led off the inning with consecutive walks to ignite the Towson rally. The next three Tigers that came to the plate all registered RBI's as a Kurt Wertz single, Bowles groundout and Butler double all drove in runs to make it 10-6. A Fitzgerald sacrifice fly that brought in Butler capped the four-run inning and gave Towson an 11-6 lead.
Delaware scored runs in the seventh and the eighth, but the Tiger bats remained hot by tallying two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth to give the home crowd a 16-8 senior day victory. The 16 runs scored were a season-high for Towson.
Bennett capped off the game and his college career with a two-run homer over the left field fence in the eighth that made it 16-8. It was the first home run of the season for Bennett and only the third of his career.
In the top of the ninth inning, Tiger Head Coach Mike Gottlieb relieved eventual winning pitcher Bruce Zimmermann with two outs in the frame. That enabled senior righthander Greg Baruka to come in and pitch in his final college game. He recorded the final out as the Tigers ended the season by winning their final two games.
Zimmermann earned his fifth win of the season by pitching 2.2 innings of solid relief. He allowed one run on two hits while only walking one batter.
The Tigers, who belted 14 hits, took advantage of 12 walks and three hit batters by Delaware pitchers.
In his final game, Fisher had three hits and scored three runs. Policelli also had three hits for the Tigers. Bowles went two-for-four with four RBI’s while Fratantuono had one hit and drew three walks.
Wertz had one hit and one RBI and drew three walks. He finished the season with 11 home runs and 44 runs batted in, both team high's.