TOWSON, Md. - Senior righthander Tyler Austin came in from the bullpen and pitched out of a ninth inning jam to earn his fifth save of the season as the Tigers (23-27, 12-13) edged Hofstra (29-19, 12-13) by a 4-3 margin in the opening game of their three-game weekend series at John B. Schuerholz Park on Friday afternoon.
The Tigers entered the top of the ninth inning with a 4-2. When sophomore righthander Chris Acker gave up a leadoff single to sophomore catcher Matt Reistetter, Austin came in to relieve. Junior centerfielder Taylor Stuart hit a swinging bunt back to the mound. Austin mishandled the ball and Stuart was safe on the error. Junior third baseman Austin Nyman tried to advance the runners with a bunt but he struck out for the first out of the inning. When Austin walked junior shortstop Jason Rouleau on a 3-2 pitch, Hofstra has the bases loaded with one out.
Senior rightfielder Danny Poma, who entered the game as the second-leading hitter in the nation with a .450 batting average, drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to rightfield, pulling the Pride to within a run. But, Austin retired junior second baseman Matt Ford on a ground ball to shortstop, ending the game.
Hofstra came into the game as one of the top offensive teams in the country with a .340 team batting average. However, junior righthander Michael Trionfo held the Pride in check through the first five innings. Trionfo earned his eighth win of the season by pitching 5.1 innings. He allowed one run on six with two walks and one strikeout.
Although the Tigers took a 1-0 lead after two innings, they missed out on a few chances to score more runs. In the first inning, sophomore designated hitter Brandon Gonnella led off with a single and stole second base. Sophomore second baseman Pat Fitzgerald tried to bunt him over to third base but pitcher Joe Burg fielded the bunt and threw to third base to retire Gonnella. Sophomore Dominic Fratantuono reached base when he was hit by a pitch. Fitzgerald advanced to third base when freshman Brendan Butler was retired on a fly ball to centerfield. With runners on first and third and two outs, Fratantuono and Fitzgerald tried to pull off a double steal. But Fitzgerald was thrown out as he tried to get back to third base.
In the second inning, the Tigers took a 1-0 lead and could have had more. Junior first baseman Kurtis Voytell opened the inning by drawing a walk. Junior catcher Andrew Parker followed with a ground rule double down the left field line, putting runners on second and third. Junior third baseman Zach Fisher drove in the first run of the game with a perfect bunt that went past the pitcher’s mound as Voytell scored while Parker remained at second base. With runners on first and second and no outs, Burg came back to strike out senior centerfielder Ben Winter and got out of the jam by getting sophomore shortstop Hunter Bennett to ground into an inning-ending double play.
After being held to two hits through the first three innings, Hofstra put together a rally in the fourth. Ford led off with a single up the middle. With one out, sophomore leftfielder Kenny Jackson walked. When senior designated hitter Kevin Flynn singled to left, Ford tried to score from second base. However, he was out at the plate when Butler made a perfect throw to Parker for the second out. Moments later, Reistetter singled to left and Jackson scored the tying run. Trionfo retired the side when Stuart hit a fly ball to left.
In a wild bottom of the fifth inning, the Tigers scored twice to take a 3-1 lead. With one out, Bennett singled to right. When Gonnella followed with another single to right, the Tigers had two runners on base. After Fitzgerald struck out, Fratantuono came to the plate. Fratantuono had already been hit by a pitch twice in the game. On a 1-1 pitch in the dirt, Fratantuono started walking to first base, claiming he was hit in the foot. However, umpire John Thomas ruled that the ball didn’t hit him and checked with the other umpires to make sure. Burg’s next pitch was also inside and it hit Fratantuono in the leg. But, the umpire ruled that Fratantuono leaned into the pitch and called it a ball. On a 3-1 pitch, Burg hit Fratantuono on the arm and he was allowed to go to first base. When everything settled down, Towson had the bases loaded and two outs.
Then, Butler lined a single to centerfield that drove in two runs to give the Tigers a 3-1 advantage. Burg escaped the jam when Reistetter picked Fratantuono off third base to end the threat.
After Ford led off the sixth inning with a walk, senior first baseman Jared Hammer made a strong bid for an extra base hit. However, Butler made a diving catch to rob Hammer of a hit. At that point, Acker came on to relieve Trionfo. He ended the inning by getting Flynn to hit into a double play.
Leading off the seventh inning, Reistetter doubled to left centerfield. After he reached third base on a wild pitch, he scored on a single by Stuart, pulling Hofstra to within 3-2. Nyman bunted Stuart into scoring position for the first out. However, Acker struck out Rouleau on three pitches, he got Poma on a fly ball to right, ending the threat.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Tigers added an insurance run without the benefit of a hit. Butler led off the inning and was hit by a pitch, the fourth Tiger who was hit by a pitch in the game. Voytell drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch to put two runners on base. A sacrifice bunt by Parker moved both runners into scoring position. Sophomore righthander Brett Schreiber, who came on to pitch in the sixth inning, issued an intentional walk to Fisher, loading the bases.
Winter got a break when his ground ball to shortstop was mishandled by Rouleau. Although Rouleau recovered in time to get Fisher at second base on a force play, it could have been an inning-ending double play if he handled it cleanly. Butler scored to give Towson a 4-2 lead. Bennett grounded out to end the inning.
The Pride outhit Towson by a 10-8 margin as Reistetter went three-for-four with a double, two runs scored and one RBI. Rouleau also had two hits for Hofstra, which lost for only the second time in its last 11 games.
Gonnella and Voytell led the Tigers with two hits each. Voytell also drew two walks as he reached base four times. Butler had one hit and drove in two runs. He also made a great catch in leftfield and threw out a runner at home plate.
With the win, the Tigers improved their hopes of earning a berth in the six-team CAA Tournament. Hofstra, which is second in the CAA, fell to four games behind CAA leader UNC Wilmington.
Towson and Hofstra resume their series tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. at Schuerholz Park.