CHARLESTON, S.C. – Junior righthander Michael Trionfo combined with two relief pitchers to scatter 11 hits, leading the Tigers (1-0) to a 6-5 season-opening win over The Citadel (0-1) in the first round of The Citadel Memorial Challenge at Joseph P. Riley Park on Friday afternoon.
Starting his 25th season as the Tigers’ head coach, Mike Gottlieb earned the 599th victory of his career.
Trionfo, who picked up his first win of the season, pitched 5.2 innings, allowing three runs on five hits. He left the game with a 5-3 lead. Freshman righthander Paul Beers escaped a two-out jam by getting Bo Thompson to ground out with the tying runs on base.
Sophomore righthander Brandon Gonnella earned the first save of his career as he pitched the final three innings, allowing two runs on three hits. He struck out six.
The Tigers, who had three freshmen in their starting lineup, banged out 14 hits in their season opener. All three freshmen, first baseman Brendan Butler, second baseman Peter Bowles and leftfielder Richie Blosser, contributed two base hits. Bowles had a double and a triple in his collegiate debut. He scored two runs and had one RBI.
The Tigers, who never trailed in the game, took a 2-0 lead in the third inning. With one out, Gonnella doubled down the left field line. After a single by sophomore Dominic Fratantuono put runners on first and third base, Gonnella scored the first run of the game on a wild pitch by Austin Pritcher. When junior catcher Andrew Parker followed with an RBI single, the Tigers owned a 2-0 lead.
In the sixth inning, the Tigers extended their lead to 5-0. With one out, Butler singled to centerfield. Bowles followed with a triple to right center, making it a 3-0 advantage. An RBI single by Blosser drove in Bowles to make it 4-0. After Blosser moved to second base on an infield ground out, senior centerfielder Ben Winter singled to give the Tigers a 5-0 lead.
After shutting out The Citadel on two hits through the first five innings, Trionfo ran into trouble in the sixth inning. The Bulldogs scored three runs on five hits to cut their deficit to 5-3. In the top of the eighth inning, Bowles doubled with one out. Bennett drove him home with the eventual winning run on a single to right.
The Bulldogs scored a run in the bottom of the eighth inning to make it a 6-4 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, shortstop Bailey Rush led off with a walk. He advanced to second base on a wild pitch while Gonnella was striking out Mason Davis. When catcher Joe Jackson tripled down the right field line, The Citadel trailed by just 6-5. However, Gonnella preserved the victory by striking out Nick Orvin and Justin Mackert, ending the game.Six different Tigers had two hits in the victory. Gonnella, who played left field for the first six innings, was two-for-five and scored a run. Fratantuono had two hits and also scored a run. Parker went two-for-four with one RBI. Butler was two-for-three and scored a run while Bowles had a double and a triple and scored two runs.
The Tigers resume play in The Citadel Memorial Challenge on Saturday when they face Liberty twice.