TOWSON, Md. - Senior righthander Charlie Cononie earned his eighth victory of the season as he pitched eight innings of seven-hit ball to lead the Tigers (26-26-1, 15-13) to a 5-4 Colonial Athletic Association victory over William & Mary (24-29, 14-14) in the opening game of their three-game weekend series at John B. Schuerholz Park on Friday afternoon.
With the win, the Tigers remained alive for a berth in the four-team CAA Tournament next weekend at UNC Wilmington. The Tigers, who are currently fifth in the CAA, need to win the final two games of their series with William & Mary while UNCW loses twice to Virginia Commonwealth.
Cononie, who upped his record to 8-3 on the season, came through in a "must-win" situation for the Tigers. While winning for the eighth time in nine decisions, he allowed four runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out four.
He also got some help from the Tiger defense, especially in the seventh inning.
Leading off the seventh inning, Cononie hit sophomore centerfielder Ryan Brown with a pitch. When senior shortstop Derrick Osteen tried to bunt him over to second base but Cononie fielded his bunt cleanly and threw Brown out at second base. When junior first baseman Tadd Bower grounded out to first base, Osteen moved up to second base. Senior second baseman Jonathan Slattery, who had three hits in the game, lined a single through the left side. Osteen tried to score from second base but freshman leftfielder Dominic Fratantuono made a strong throw to home plate where sophomore catcher Andrew Parker tagged him out to preserve the Tigers' one-run lead.
It was Fratantuono's second outfield assist of the game.
Cononie, who finished the season with an 8-1 record in CAA games, retired the Tribe in order in the eighth inning.
Senior righthander Zach Umberger came out of the bullpen to pitch a perfect ninth inning as he nailed down the win.
The Tigers scored all five of their runs in the first two innings as they took a 5-2 lead.
In the first inning, William & Mary took advantage of Cononie's control problems. Brown started the game by drawing a leadoff walk. Osteen followed with a double to leftfield on a 3-2 pitch. Brown, who was running on the pitch, tried to score all the way from first base. However, Fratantuono threw to senior third baseman Chris Wychock whose relay throw to Parker was in time to retire Brown.
After Cononie retired Bower on a ground ball to second base, Slattery lined a single to centerfield, scoring Osteen with the first run of the game. When junior designated hitter Stephen Arcure was hit with a pitch, the Tribe had two runners on base with two outs.
An infield single on a half-swing by sophomore leftfielder Ryan Williams loaded the bases. The Tribe took a 2-0 lead when freshman third baseman Ryan Lindemuth was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, forcing in a run. Cononie struck out junior catcher Chris Forsten to pitch out of the inning.
In the bottom of the first inning, junior righthander Jay McCarthy retired the first two hitters with very little trouble. But senior first baseman Austin Harclerode started a rally when he singled to right field. A walk to Parker gave the Tigers two runners on base. When senior rightfielder Steve Rice drew a walk on a nine-pitch at bat, the Tigers had the bases loaded.
Wychock battled McCarthy through a ten-pitch at bat before he smashed a double to deep right centerfield, clearing the bases and giving the Tigers a 3-2 lead. Junior designated hitter Ben Winter kept the rally going when he lined an RBI single to right, upping the lead to 4-2. McCarthy, who needed 50 pitches to get through the first inning, finally retired the side when freshman centerfielder Brandon Gonnella grounded out to shortstop.
In the bottom of the second inning, Fratantuono and senior shortstop Nick Natoli led off with back-to-back singles. A bunt single by freshman second baseman Pat Fitzgerald loaded the bases with no outs. When Harclerode hit a sacrifice fly to rightfield, Fratantuono scored to increase the Tigers' lead to 5-2.
After the sacrifice fly by Harclerode, the Tribe went to the bullpen and sophomore righthander Brett Goodloe relieved McCarthy.
Goodloe struck out Parker for the second out. With runners on first and third base, the Tigers tried to pull off a double steal but Osteen's throw to the plate was in time to retire Natoli.
After walking the leadoff hitter in the second inning, Cononie retired 11 hitters in a row. With two outs in the fifth inning, Bower ended the streak with a single to left. Then, on a 0-2 pitch, Slattery belted a two-run homer down the leftfield line, cutting the Tribe's deficit to 5-4.
After pitching out of the second inning jam, Goodloe held the Tigers in the check. In the fourth inning, the Tigers tried to rally. Gonnella led off with a single and Fratantuono drew a walk. But, Goodloe got out of the jam by picking Gonnella off second base and getting Natoli to hit a line drive to Slattery, who turned it into an inning-ending double play.
The Tigers, who outhit the Tribe by a 9-7 margin, weren't able to do much against the Tribe's bullpen.
Goodloe pitched 4.2 scoreless innings of relief, allowing two hits while walking one. He struck out five. Senior righthander Reid Killen pitched a scoreless seventh inning and sophomore righthander John Farrell threw a perfect eighth inning.
Slattery led William & Mary offensively. He was three-for-four with two runs scored and three runs batted in. Osteen and Bower each had one hit and scored a run.
Fratantuono led the Tigers by going two-for-two with a walk. Wychock had one hit and drove in three runs while Harclerode had one hit, scored a run and had one run batted in.
The Tribe lost for the sixth time in the last seven games.
In his final start of the regular season, Cononie improved his record to 8-3 with a 3.39 E.R.A. In 85 innings of work, he has struck out 94 batters to set a school record.
The Tigers and the Tribe return to action on Saturday when they play the second game of their three-game series at Schuerholz Park at 1:00 p.m.
TIGER TALES: The Tigers played their fourth consecutive errorless game in the win over the Tribe ... Towson now has a .968 fielding percentage as a team ... The Tigers improved to 15-5-1 at home with the win ... Towson has an 11-2 record against CAA teams at home this season.
The Tigers' 15 CAA wins represent the most CAA victories that Towson has had since joining the CAA in 2002 ... Wychock's three-run double in the first inning enabled him to move into a three-way tie for second place on the Tigers' career list of runs batted in leaders ... Wychock now has 159 career RBI's, tying him for second place with Scott Bacon, '02 and Adam Heffron, '06 ... Former All-American Gregg Davies, '02 owns the school record with 193 career RBI's.