Stinging the Hornets
A day removed from a 10-3 loss to St. John’s in Queens, N.Y., Towson returned home for just its third game at John B. Schuerholz Park this season.
Six of the Tigers’ home games this season were postponed or cancelled due to rain, but the sun shined down on the field Wednesday against Delaware State.
Wednesday’s game proved to be a good tune up for this weekend’s conference opener, as the Tigers took down the Hornets 4-1.
“It’s important,” Head Coach Mike Gottlieb said of the win. “We think we’re a good team. We certainly have not been all the time, and we really pitched well today.”
Pitching was the key for Towson (14-9) on Wednesday. Sophomore righthander Joe Patton pitched five innings, giving up only two hits and one run while striking out three batters.
“The whole key to his success is throwing strikes,” Gottlieb said of Patton. “He’s doing a better job of getting his curve ball over, and when you do that you keep batters off stride. That’s what pitching is all about.
Interestingly enough, his velocity has picked up from last year and earlier this year. That combination has worked well for him.”
Although he got off to a 0-2 start on the season, Patton has earned wins in the last two games that he’s pitched in, something he credits to Gottlieb and Assistant Athletic Trainer Isaac Trujillo.
“Early in the year, I threw alright,” Patton said. “The mechanics weren’t there and I was working with Coach and Isaac because my arm was bothering me with the way I was throwing. I made a small change and
it made a big difference. Since then, my outings have been consistent, which is what last year I was struggling with. I’m finally getting back in the swing of things and it’s been working out well for me.”
After a scoreless first inning, Towson got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second.
With junior first baseman Peter Bowles on third and junior third baseman Brendan Butler on second, senior shortstop Hunter Bennett hit a two-run single to centerfield that broke the scoreless tie.
Delaware State (12-9) responded with a run in the top of the third inning when senior outfielder Aaron Nardone hit a home run off of Patton.
The Tigers got the run back in the bottom half of the inning.
With senior outfielder Dominic Fratantuono on second, Butler hit an RBI single to right field, increasing Towson’s lead back to two at 3-1.
Both teams played strong defense through the next four innings, including two scoreless innings from senior lefthander Kyle Paul in the sixth and seventh innings.
Senior righthander Brandon Gonnella, who had played centerfield for the first seven innings of the game, came in to close in the top of the eighth inning.
After pitching a perfect inning, the Tigers added an insurance run in the bottom half of the inning.
The inning got started with a single by Fratantuono.
Senior outfielder Kurt Wertz then drew a walk before Bowles reached first on a fielder’s choice.
After a wild pitch that advanced both Fratantuono and Bowles, the Hornets intentionally walked Butler to load the bases in hopes of a double play.
However, their tactics failed as senior third baseman Mike Draper earned a walk, bringing Fratantuono home and giving Towson a 4-1 lead.
Delaware State would get out of the inning after another Towson scoring chance, but Gonnella pitched another perfect inning in the top of the ninth to earn his fifth save of the year.
Towson will now prepare for a three-game home series against the College of Charleston.
Because last week’s Colonial Athletic Association series against Hofstra was rained out, this weekend will be Towson’s first test against a conference opponent.
“I’m excited. That’s what it’s all about,” Gottlieb said of CAA play.
Charleston is 17-10 on the year, but just 1-2 in conference.
The Cougars took two of three games against then-No. 12 North Carolina, who the Tigers played in the NCAA Tournament last year. Charleston also suffered a sweep to Houston, who swept Towson earlier in
“Historically, they’re a very good program,” Gottlieb said. “They pitch well. I’m sure they play pretty good defense, if not better than just good defense. And going into the year a lot of people thought they’d be
one of the better teams in the conference.”
The weekend series starts Friday.
Junior righthander Chris Acker will take the mound for the Tigers, as the first pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.