Towson scored eight unanswered runs during the middle innings and held on in the end to defeat James Madison 11-10 in the second game of a Colonial Athletic Association baseball series on Friday afternoon at John B. Schuerholz Park.
Towson improved to 25-29 overall and, at 14-15, put itself in better position to claim the final available spot in next week's six-team CAA Championship in Harrisonburg. JMU fell to 16-34-2 overall and 10-19 in league play.
The Tigers trailed 4-2 going into the bottom of the fourth before striking for eight unanswered. Towson posted two in the fourth, two in the fifth and broke through for four in the sixth for a 10-4 lead. The Dukes answered quickly with a five-spot in the seventh.
JMU trailed 11-9 going into the top of the ninth when freshman shortstop Chad Carroll (Oakton, Va./Oakton) led off with his first career home run. Junior center fielder Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield) followed with a single and a two-out hit batter pushed the potential tying run to scoring position. However, Tyler Austin finished off his sixth save of the season with a strikeout.
Chris Acker claimed the win in relief. He held the Dukes at bay for most of 4 2/3 innings before JMU broke through for the five runs in the seventh against him. Starter Kyle Paul lasted just two full innings and allowed four runs on eight hits.
Freshman starter Michael Howerton (Chesterfield, Va./Matoaca) took the loss to fell to 1-4. He surrendered six runs, four earned, on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. Junior Nick Slogik (Strongsville, Ohio/St. Edward) tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.
Towson took advantage of four JMU errors, three hit batters and six walks to go along with its 12 hits. Third baseman Zach Fisher led the way going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a double. Designated hitter Brandon Gonnella had two hits with a triple. Second baseman Pat Fitzgerald and shortstop Hunter Bennett also had two hits. Center fielder Ben Winter drove in three runs.
Carroll led JMU's 14-hit effort by going 2-for-4 with his solo home run and three runs scored. Junior infielder Casey Goss (Springfield, Mo./Glendale) and McInturff each had two hits and drove in three runs. Junior right fielder Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge), senior designated hitter Evan Scott (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) also had two hits. Junior catcher Bradley Shaban (Midlthian, Va./Cosby) homered.
Scott got the Dukes started for the second straight day with an RBI in the first inning on a single to score Bladel. Towson took its first lead on RBI singles by Fitzgerald and Hunter Bennett in the second.
JMU broke out the bats with four hits in the third to take its last lead of the game. The Dukes loaded the bases on a hit batter, Scott single and Carroll bunt single. McInturff then doubled down the right field line to score two and chase Paul from the game. Goss added an RBI single for a 4-2 lead.
That's when Towson began its eight straight runs, starting with a Bennett RBI single and Gonnella's triple in the fourth. The Tigers claimed the lead for good with two more in the fifth on Winter's two-run single.
The host broke things open with four runs in the sixth thanks to a two-run single by Fisher, a bases-loaded hit by pitch of Dominic Fratantuono and a sacrifice fly by Andrew Parker.
The Dukes found a response in their next turn to remain within striking distance with five runs in the seventh. With the bases loaded and one out, McInturff grounded out to drive in one. Goss then delivered a two-run double to left center and Shaban followed on the next pitch with a two-run shot to right to make it 10-9.
Towson padded the lead with Winter's sacrifice fly in the eighth. The run proved necessary when Carroll led off the ninth with a solo shot down the left field line. McInturff reached on an infield single before a strikeout and flyout took the Dukes down to their last out. A hit batter pushed McInturff into scoring position, but a strikeout by Austin finished the save.
JMU will finish its 2012 season on Saturday with a 1 p.m. series finale at Towson.