HARRISONBURG, Va. – Junior righthander Michael Trionfo earned his school-record 11th victory of the season as the sixth-seeded Tigers (27-30) erupted for a seasonal high 16 runs en route to a 16-8 victory over fourth-seeded George Mason University (33-24) in an elimination game at the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament at Veterans' Memorial Park on Thursday morning.
Only ten hours after the Tigers left the field with an 8-7, 12-inning loss to Delaware, they faced the Patriots in a 10 a.m. elimination game.
“I’m very proud of the way we responded,” said Tiger Coach Mike Gottlieb. “We were all very tired and we were here until well past midnight. But, we didn’t dwell on it and we played a good game against a talented George Mason team.”
Although the Patriots outhit Towson by an 18-13 margin, the Tigers helped their cause by turning four double plays. In addition to their 13 hits, the Tigers took advantage of 11 walks issued by five George Mason pitchers.
“We did a much better job with situational hitting than we did against Delaware,” added Gottlieb. “Our ability to turn double plays was obviously a key to our victory. I know that they stopped at least four rallies. That was very important because we knew they weren’t going to stop hitting.”
is scheduled to play its next game against Virginia Commonwealth on
Thursday evening at around 9 p.m. VCU dropped an 8-5 decision to top-seeded UNC Wilmington on Thursday afternoon.
Trionfo, who won his fifth consecutive decision, used his defense to his advantage in the top of the first inning. Junior centerfielder Nick Allen opened the game with a single to right. Allen took a wide turn at first base and junior catcher Andrew Parker snuck in behind him. When sophomore rightfielder Dominic Fratantuono threw to Parker, Allen was out at first base. Back-to-back singles by senior shortstop Brig Tison and senior rightfielder Dan Schafferman gave the Patriots two runners on base with one out. But, Trionfo got sophomore third baseman Blaise Fernandez to hit into an inning-ending double play.
With two outs in the bottom of the first, the Tigers’ offense came to life. Senior righthander Dan Pfaeffle issued a two-out walk to sophomore leftfielder Kurt Wertz. Freshman first baseman Brendan Butler followed with a single to left. A walk to Fratantuono loaded the bases. On a 2-2 pitch, Parker lined a three-run double inside the left field line to clear the b ases. Sophomore second baseman Pat Fitzgerald (left) finally grounded out to end the threat.
“Most of us got only four or five hours of sleep last night,” admitted junior third baseman Zach Fisher, who had three hits in the win. “It was hard getting out of bed this morning and we were really tired. But once we got three runs in the first inning, we didn’t feel nearly as tired.”
With one out in the second inning, senior first baseman Zack Helgeson blasted a solo home run to centerfield, cutting the Patriots’ deficit to 3-1. In the bottom of the third inning, the Tigers padded their lead. With one out, Butler singled up the middle. After he stole second base, Fratantuono was retired on a pop up. Parker followed by drawing a walk. Fitzgerald came through with a two-run double to right centerfield, giving Towson a 5-1 lead.
In the fourth inning, the Tigers struck for two more runs. With one out, sophomore designated hitter Brandon Gonnella reached base when he was hit by a pitch. After he stole second base, he was caught in a rundown after Pfaeffle picked him off. A throwing error by Fernandez enabled him to reach third base. When Fisher singled to left, Gonnella scored to give the Tigers a 6-1 advantage. After Fisher’s single, senior righthander A.J. Johnson came in to relieve Pfaeffle. After Wertz was retired on a fly ball to right, Fisher reached second base on a wild pitch. When Butler walked, the Tigers had two runners on base. An RBI single by Fratantuono scored Fisher to up the Tigers’ advantage to 7-1. Johnson finally pitched out of the inning when Parker grounded out.
Senior catcher Jake Leonardo opened the fifth inning with a double down the left field line for the Patriots. However, Trionfo bounced back and retired the next three hitters to preserve Towson’s 7-1 lead.
With one out in the sixth inning, Trionfo started to show signs of fatigue. In the Tigers’ three-game sweep over James Madison last weekend, he pitched 10.1 innings in two games. As he started the sixth inning, he was pitching his 17th inning in a week. With one out, Trionfo issued his first walk of the game as Fernandez drew a free pass. After he retired junior designated hitter Duncan Satherlie on a fly ball to centerfield, Trionfo walked Helgeson to put two runners on base. Sophomore leftfielder Josh Leemhuis singled to right, driving in Fernandez to cut the deficit to 7-2. When Leonardo doubled down the left field line, another run scored and the Patriots trailed, 7-3.
With two outs and two runners in scoring position, Trionfo was relieved by junior righthander Mike Volpe. Volpe ended the threat when he struck out junior second baseman Chris Cook.
With their lead cut to 7-3, the Tigers exploded for five runs in the last of the sixth inning. Gonnella opened the inning by drawing a walk. Fisher drove him home when he tripled to left center field, his second triple of the season. When Wertz singled to right, Fisher scored to give Towson a 9-3 advantage. Butler kept the rally going with a single to left. A sacrifice bunt by Fratantuono moved both runners into scoring position. After an intentional walk to Parker, the Tigers had the bases loaded with one out. When Fitzgerald drew a bases-loaded walk from Johnson, Wertz scored to give Towson a 10-3 lead. After the walk to Fitzgerald, sophomore lefthander Sean Cabrera came in from the bullpen to pitch.
A sacrifice fly by senior centerfielder Ben Winter allowed Butler to score, increasing the lead to 11-3. With runners at the corners and two outs, Fitzgerald and Parker tried to pull off a double steal. While Fitzgerald was caught in a rundown, Parker scored to give Towson a 12-3 advantage after six innings.
Trailing by 12-3 in the top of the seventh, the Patriots made a bid to get back in the game. Allen and Tison opened the inning with back-to-back singles. But, the Tiger infield came up with another huge play when Schafferman hit into a double play that was started by Fitzgerald. With two outs, Fernandez singled to drive in another run. Satherlie followed with a single to left center, putting two runners on base. Then, Helgeson blasted his second home run of the game, a three-run shot over the left centerfield fence that pulled George Mason to within 12-7. Volpe retired the side when he got Leemhuis on a fly ball to right.
In the top of the eighth inning, Leonardo led off with a single and the Tiger infield came up with another big play. Cook hit a ground ball to sophomore shortstop Hunter Bennett, who turned it into a double play. But, Allen drew a walk and Tison doubled. Volpe escaped the jam when Schafferman grounded out to shortstop.
In the last of the eighth inning, Butler and Fratantuono opened the inning with back-to-back walks off junior relief ace Chris O’Grady. After both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch with one out, Fitzgerald was walked intentionally to load the bases. With the bases loaded, Winter lined a single to left field, a hit that got past Leemhuis, the leftfielder. All three runners scored to increase the Tigers’ lead to 15-7. Gonnella capped off the rally with an RBI single to give the Tigers a 16-7 advantage.
The Patriots opened the ninth inning with back-to-back singles by Fernandez and Satherlie. Freshman righthander Nick Cioffi came out of the bullpen to relieve Volpe. Once again, the Tiger infield came up with a big play as Helgeson hit a ground ball to the third baseman, Fisher. Fisher turned it into a double play. Leemhuis kept the Patriots’ hopes alive when he doubled to right, scoring Hernandez. Cioffi nailed down the victory when he retired Leonardo on a pop fly to second base.
Making his 14th start of the season, Trionfo pitched 5.2 innings and allowed three runs on eight hits. He walked two and struck out three. By upping his record to 11-3 on the season, he became one of only four pitchers in NCAA Division I with 11 victories. John Martin of Samford leads the nation with a 12-1 record while Chris Rowley of Patriot League champion Army has an 11-0 record. Quintavious Davis of Jackson State has an 11-5 mark.
Fisher and Butler led the Tigers in the win over George Mason. Fisher had three hits, including a double and a triple. He scored two runs and had two RBI’s. A second team All-CAA selection, Butler reached base five times. He was three-for-three with two walks. He also scored four runs.
Parker scored two runs and had three RBI’s while Fitzgerald reached base three times and drove in three runs. Winter also had three RBI’s.
Tison, Satherlie and Leonardo each had three hits for the Patriots while Helgeson homered twice and drove in four runs.
For the Tigers, it was their fourth win over George Mason this season. Towson swept a three-game series against the Patriots in mid-March.