By: Tyler Young, Staff Writer
The Tigers (12-29-2 overall, 6-12 CAA) used a five-run first inning to beat the James Madison Dukes (15-25, 4-14) by a score of 8-7 at Veterans Memorial Park in Harrisonburg, Virginia on Sunday afternoon.
Sunday’s win snapped a four-game losing streak, including losses to George Washington, Bucknell and two games earlier in the weekend to JMU.
In that first inning on Sunday, the Tigers sent 10 batters to the plate and used four singles, a hit-by-pitch, and two walks to get an early 5-0 lead over the Dukes.
Towson extended the lead in the top of the fifth inning. JMU third baseman Kyle Weston made back-to-back throwing errors on ground balls hit by freshman Tristan Howerton and freshman Mark Grunberg. The error on the Grunberg grounder scored sophomore Colin Dyer. Freshman Colin Gimblet followed with a single up the middle to bring in Howerton and make it a 7-0 game.
Howerton has gotten the chance to play more often, including getting to start the last three games. Over nine games he is batting .310 with five RBI, nine runs scored, three doubles and has made just one error in the field. His performance is something that has impressed Head Coach Mike Gottlieb.
“He missed the first half of the season with mono,” Gottlieb said. “It was tough for him to not get a chance to play, but since coming back he has held his own. He does a nice job receiving the ball behind that plate, and he is a tough out.”
On the mound, junior right-hander Lee Lawler cruised through the first five innings of the game before running into some trouble in the bottom of the sixth.
“For whatever reason, Lee had a high pitch count in every inning,” Gottlieb said. “I think he ended up with 120 pitches, and that’s because their hitters were taking him into deep counts throughout the game, but he battled and had a decent curveball.”
The Dukes led off the frame with three straight hits, scoring two runs before Lawler was replaced by junior right-hander Nick Cioffi, who struggled. Cioffi managed to get two outs, but walked a batter ahead of right-fielder Kevin Husum, who smacked a three-run home run to left field, cutting the Towson lead to 7-5.
In the top of the eighth inning, the Tigers added some insurance, loading the bases with a single from sophomore Chris Henze, an error by center fielder Michael Sciorra on a ball hit by junior Richie Blosser, and Dyer took first on a hit-by-pitch. Senior Brendan Butler drove in Henze with a sacrifice fly to center field to make it 8-5 in favor of the Tigers.
JMU answered back in the bottom of the inning, sending seven batters to the plate and scoring two runs. Junior right-hander Austin Clark came on to the get the final out of the inning and was able to strand the tying run on third base. Clark also pitched a perfect ninth inning to close the game down.
Lawler (4-4) earned his team-leading fourth win of the season after allowing three runs from eight hits, four strikeouts and two walks. He now leads the team in strikeouts and is second in innings pitched. JMU’s starter Eric Yankey (1-3) took the loss after allowing five runs in the first inning without recording an out. Clark (1) notched his first save since transferring to Towson.
After heading to the nation’s capital to play the George Washington Colonials (25-14) on Tuesday, the Tigers will have their final homestand of the season when they host the Delaware State Hornets (12-25) on Wednesday followed by a three-game set with the CAA-rival Northeastern Huskies (20-22, 10-5) starting on Friday at Schuerholz Park.