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TU preps for Campbell Tournament

26 February 2014 By Jesse Jones, Sports Editor No Comments

After a 4-2 start to the season – including sweeping Wake Forest, Georgetown and Marshall in the Wake Forest Tournament and avoiding a sweep against Cal State Bakersfield – Towson will travel back to North Carolina to participate in the Campbell Tournament in Buies Creek.

Towson will face both West Point and host Campbell twice, including a double-header against each team on Sunday.

West Point is 4-2 on the season and most recently swept UMass. In its first series of the season, the Black Knights dropped 2-of-3 games to Colonial Athletic Association foe William & Mary.

Campbell has the best record of all three teams at 7-2. The Fighting Camels are 6-1 at home and split two games with Delaware last weekend.

“I’ve looked at the numbers and I know a little bit about their history,” Head Coach Mike Gottlieb said. “They’re both pretty good programs right now.”

Pitching will be a concern for Towson. The Tigers, who are still without starting junior Paul Beers due to injury, recently lost starting junior Nick Cioffi for 4-6 weeks with a broken finger.

Cioffi is 1-1 on the season with a 1.59 ERA, and is the only pitcher besides junior Chris Acker and freshman Bruce Zimmermann to start a game on the mound this season.

The Tigers will first face the Black Knights on Friday at 1 p.m. Towson will most likely face senior Nick Dignacco, who is 2-0 on the mound so far, having not allowed any earned runs in 11 innings.

Suiting up for Towson will be Acker, who has had two no decisions in his first two outings. He’s allowed just 0.84 earned runs in 9.1 innings of work.

On Saturday, Towson will face either Campbell’s Hector Cedano or Heath Bowers.

Both pitchers are 2-0 on the year and have not allowed an earned run.

According to Gottlieb, Saturday’s starter is still to-be-determined.

Towson’s continuity on offense should provide a spark against both Campbell and Army.

Junior outfielder Peter Bowles, senior shortstop Hunter Bennett and graduate center Zach Fisher are all batting over .340 and have starting all six games.

The trio has combined for 24 hits, 11 runs and seven runners batting in.

“For me, personally, it’s been just having a good approach and not trying to do too much,” Bennett said. “Bowles and Fish have great approaches and really seem to be locked in and comfortable at the plate.”

Senior designated hitter Kurt Wertz also leads the team with five RBIs and has started all six games.

“They’re good hitters. It’s really nothing magical,” Gottlieb said. “In Hunter’s case, he’s just being more aggressive early in the count swinging at fastballs, whereas in the past he would get in trouble if he took
too many fastballs. He’s a fastball hitter. That’s his strength and he’s being more aggressive when he sees them early in the count.”

Campbell boasts the best offense, statistically, out of the three teams.

The Fighting Camels hit .343 at the plate and have scored 61 runs through eight games.

Freshman Danny Pardo has played in seven games and is batting .552.

He has 16 hits and 12 runs, including two triples and six stolen bases.

For West Point, sophomore infielder Grant Van Orden and senior outfielder Jon Crucitti hold the highest batting averages with averages of .429 and .364, respectively.

Van Orden leads the team with a .500 slugging percentage and junior infielder Harold Earls leads the team with six RBIs.

To stop both offensives, Towson will need to continue its strong fielding play.

The Tigers boast a fielding percentage of .939, have caught six base runners attempting to steal bases and have 18 double plays thus far. However, they’ve also committed 15 errors.

“We can’t beat ourselves,” Bennett said. “We have to make the routine plays and avoid big innings.”

Gottlieb reiterated that Towson needs to stick to the basics on game day.

“It’s the same old stuff. You’ve got to make the plays that you should make,” he said.

One thing the Tigers will try to do to limit the errors is switch Bennett and second-baseman Pat Fitzgerald.

Last season, the two combined for the most double-plays in NCAA history.

Because of an arm issue with Bennett, Gottlieb said the team will put Bennett at second and Fitzgerald at shortstop to see if that improves the fielding defense.

Towson will conclude the tournament on Sunday.

First pitch against host Campbell is set for 3 p.m.

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