Tigers Sweep CAA-Leading Delaware, 3-0, 4-2
Courtesy: Athletics Media Relations  
Release: 04/17/2011
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Charlie Cononie pitched a two-hit shutout on Sunday.
Courtesy:Scott Thornton

TOWSON, Md. - Senior righthander Charlie Cononie pitched a two-hit shutout in the opener and righthanders Michael Trionfo and Zach Umberger combined on a seven-hitter in the nightcap as the Tigers (15-19-1, 9-9) swept a Colonial Athletic Association doubleheader from the University of Delaware (19-16, 11-7) at John B. Schuerholz Park on Sunday afternoon.

After Cononie shut out the Blue Hens by 3-0, the Tigers completed the sweep with a 4-2 victory in the second game.

The doubleheader was necessitated when Saturday's game was rained out.

By sweeping the doubleheader, the Tigers won the three-game weekend series two games to one. Delaware, which came into the doubleheader with 11 wins in their last 15 games, won the series opener on Friday, 16-7.

The Blue Hens, who scored 16 runs on 16 hits in Friday's win, were held to two runs on nine hits in the doubleheader.

In the bottom of the first inning of the first game, the Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Senior shortstop Nick Natoli led off with an infield single to third base. Freshman second baseman Pat Fitzgerald sacrificed him to second base. When senior third baseman Chris Wychock hit a fly ball double to rightfield, Natoli reached third base.

Sophomore catcher Andrew Parker gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead when he launched an opposite field home run over the right field fence. It was Parker's second home run of the season and his first since March 13 at Georgia State.

With two outs, senior rightfielder Steve Rice reached base on a pop fly double. However, freshman righthander Danny Gatto pitched out of the jam by retiring senior centerfielder Ben Winter on a fly ball to centerfield.

Cononie shut out the Blue Hens on one hit through the first three innings as he retired nine of the first ten hitters he faced. Delaware's only hit was a two-out single in the first inning by senior first baseman Steve Ulaky.

Cononie faced his first jam in the fourth inning. Senior leftfielder Pat Dameron drew a leadoff walk on a 3-2 pitch. The Blue Hens had two runners on base with no outs when Ulaky's ground ball went through the legs of senior first baseman Austin Harclerode for an error. Sophomore centerfielder Nick Ferdinand enabled Delaware to load the bases with no outs when he hit a bloop single to right.

With the bases loaded and no outs, Cononie regrouped. He struck out sophomore rightfielder Nick Yates for the first out. Then, he got freshman designated hitter Dylan Shupe to hit a ground ball to Fitzgerald, who turned it into a double play.

From the fourth inning on, Cononie allowed only two more base runners.

While pitching his second two-hit shutout of the season, he threw only 96 pitches. He walked two batters and struck out five.  The seven-inning game was played in one hour and 28 minutes.

Cononie, who won his fourth straight decision, raised his record to 5-2 on the season. He also lowered his E.R.A. to 2.98.

"Charlie did a great job for us again today," said Towson Coach Mike Gottlieb. "He kept them off-balance the entire game and really shut them down. When Delaware had the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth inning and didn't score, you could see that it really deflated them."

In the nightcap, the Blue Hens threatened to take an early lead. Trionfo had to pitch out of a first-inning jam. Sophomore second baseman D.J. Long led off the game with a single and Dameron drew a walk. But, Trionfo retired the next three hitters to escape the inning.

For the second straight game, the Tigers grabbed a first inning lead. Natoli led off by drawing a four-pitch walk. Fitzgerald tried to bunt Natoli over. But, a throwing error by junior third baseman Logan Gallagher enabled Fitzgerald to reach second base while Natoli advanced to third.

Wychock's long sacrifice fly to centerfield drove in Natoli with the first run of the game as Fitzgerald reached third base. After Parker was hit by a pitch, the Tigers had runners on first and third. A squeeze play bunt by Harclerode drove in Fitzgerald to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. Freshman righthander Chad Kuhl of Delaware pitched out of the jam by striking out Rice. The Tigers had taken a 2-0 lead without the benefit of a base hit.

The Tigers extended their lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the second inning. With one out, junior catcher Brian Wyman reached base when he was hit by a pitch. He advanced to second base on a wild pitch. When Natoli reached on a two-out infield single, Wyman moved to third base. He scored when Fitzgerald singled to rightfield. Kuhl struck out Wychock to end the inning.

After being shut out for the first nine innings of the doubleheader, the Blue Hens broke through in the top of the third. Senior shortstop Dave Anderson, who homered three times in the series opener, led off the inning with a single to right. After Trionfo retired the next two batters, Ulaky smashed a long home run over the right field fence that landed at the base of the scoreboard. His ninth homer of the season cut the Blue Hens' deficit to 3-2.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Tigers extended their lead to 4-2. Wyman led off with a single to rightfield. After reaching second base on a wild pitch, he moved to third base on an infield ground ball. With the infield playing in to cut off a run at home plate, Natoli hit a sharp ground ball to Long at second base. He knocked it down but saw he had no play at home as Wyman scored.

After giving up the two-run homer, Trionfo settled down and retired the next seven Blue Hens in order. When he walked Dameron to lead off the sixth inning, he was relieved by Umberger.

Ulaky greeted Umberger with a single to right, giving the Blue Hens two runners on base and no outs. But, Umberger got Ferdinand to hit a ground ball to Natoli at shortstop, who turned it into a double play. Umberger pitched out of the jam when freshman designated hitter Dylan Shupe hit a fly ball to rightfield.

In the eighth inning, the Blue Hens made another bid to tie the game. With one out, Long reached base on an error by Wychock. After Dameron was retired on a pop-up, Ulaky looped a double down the leftfield line, giving Delaware two runners in scoring position. But, Ferdinand hit a ground ball to Natoli at shortstop. Natoli backhanded the ball and made a strong throw to first base, retiring the side.

In the ninth inning, Gallagher kept the Blue Hen hopes alive with a double to rightfield. But, Umberger nailed down the save by striking out pinch hitter Alex Mottle and retiring pinch hitter Jimmy Yezzo on a line drive to Natoli at shortstop.

Trionfo earned the win by pitching five innings and allowing two runs on four hits. He walked two and struck out one as he improved his record to 2-5 on the season. Umberger earned his second save of the season. He pitched four innings of scoreless relief and allowed three hits. He didn't walk any batters and struck out one.

Kuhl pitched well in the loss. He allowed three earned runs on three hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

In the nightcap, the Blue Hens outhit the Tigers, 7-5. Ulaky, who batted .455 in the weekend series, went 3-for-4 with two RBI's. He went 4-for-6 in the doubleheader. Gallagher also had two hits.

Fitzgerald, who batted .500 in the weekend series, had two hits for the Tigers. He scored a run and had one RBI.

"This doubleheader sweep was huge for us," said Coach Gottlieb. "If we want to make the CAA Playoffs, we can't keep falling behind. After sweeping Delaware today, I know we will make up some ground in the CAA race. We're 9-9 now and we're only two games behind Delaware.

"We made some big defensive plays today," he added. "It seemed like every time they had something going, Nick (Natoli) would start a double play or he'd catch a line drive. His play on Ferdinand's ground ball in the eighth inning of the second game was huge. He backhanded that ball and made it look easy."

In the doubleheader, Natoli had four putouts and 11 assists without an error. He also took part in three double plays. Offensively, he was 2-for-5 with a walk. He scored two runs and had one RBI.

"We also took advantage of some breaks," Gottlieb added. "In the second game, they made an error and we scored two runs off that. Our pitching was effective today because we threw strikes."

For the Tigers, who have won 9 of their last 12 games, it was their first doubleheader sweep since March 14, 2009 when they won a twinbill against Holy Cross.

By winning both games, the Tigers improved their record on Sundays to 8-1 this season.

The Tigers, who have won 7 of 9 CAA games at Schuerholz Park, return to action on Tuesday with a non-conference game at Mount St. Mary's.

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