Towson sweeps away Northeastern
Towson baseball fans were able to break out their brooms at John B. Schuerholz Park on Sunday afternoon, as the Tigers completed a weekend sweep against conference rival Northeastern, defeating them 5-4.
The come-from-behind victory pushed the Tigers’ season-high win streak to five games and evened their conference record to 6-6 in the process.
“You hope [the momentum] feeds on itself,” head coach Mike Gottlieb said. “They talk about it being contagious. When you’re losing, you expect to lose. When you’re winning, you expect to win.”
The Tigers took advantage of their opportunities when senior Austin Harclerode tied the game at three in the eighth inning on a bunt-single that scored senior Chris Wychock all the way from second base and advanced junior Brian Wyman to second with one out.
The next hitter, Steve Rice, broke the game open with a hard-hit single to right field, which scored Wyman and Harclerode, giving the Tigers a 5-3 lead they would not surrender.
Towson had the opportunity to climb back into the game thanks to late-inning textbook defense and strong relief pitching from Sean Thompson and Tyler Bugna, who added to another solid outing from senior righthander Charlie Cononie.
Cononie got off to a fast start by facing the three-batter minimum in the first inning, but No. 4 hitter Jon Leroux homered to right field to give the Huskies the lead.
The home run ended Cononie’s impressive streak of 13 consecutive scoreless innings. Towson’s ace responded by striking out the side and befuddling the Huskies’ hitters for most of the game.
The Huskies were not the only ones facing quality pitching, as their own starter, Brandon McNelis, retired 10 straight Tigers after walking second baseman Pat Fitzgerald in the first inning.
That streak ended when catcher Andrew Parker lashed a hard-hit grounder down the third-base line that was fielded by third baseman Jimmy Filter. Filter’s wide throw to first base resulted in a scary collision between Parker and first baseman Matt Miller, who remained in the game. Parker stayed in and ran the bases, but left in the following inning.
Facing more adversity soon after, the Tigers displayed their resilience after the Huskies loaded the bases in the top of the sixth inning with two outs. Rice ended the threat with a spectacular diving catch towards the right-field line to retire the side.
“If Rice didn’t make that play, I don’t think we win,” Gottlieb said.
That momentum carried over into the home-half of the sixth inning, when Wychock capped off an eight-pitch battle, with his fifth home run of the season: a tremendous two-run shot over the left-field wall to give the Tigers their first lead of the game, 2-1.
The Huskies would not lie down, though. After Cononie recorded his career-high 10th strikeout to start the inning, he surrendered a game-tying double to shortstop Oliver Hart that scored second baseman Alan Pastyrnak.
Barbosa, the next and final batter Cononie faced, drove in the go-ahead run on a single to right field to reclaim the Huskies’ one-run advantage.
Cononie pitched 6.1 innings, allowing three runs on six hits and struck out 10 batters while facing deep pitch-counts from a patient Northeastern lineup that tested him and the fielders alike.
“They’re a tough hitting team,” Cononie said. “I just had to play my game. It’s easy to go out there and throw strikes when you know you’ve got such a solid team behind you to field.”
Run prevention, as well as run production, helped Towson claim its first sweep of the season.
The Tigers look to maintain their momentum when they travel to face Delaware State on Wednesday.