WILMINGTON, N.C. - Hoping to bounce back from a six-game losing streak that has placed their Colonial Athletic Association post-season tournament hopes in jeopardy, the Tigers will face CAA-leading UNC Wilmington in a three-game series this weekend at Brooks Field.
The Tigers and the Seahawks will play single games on Friday evening (6:30 p.m.), Saturday afternoon (2:00 p.m.) and Sunday afternoon (2:00 p.m.)
The Seahawks, who have won seven of their last eight games, enter the weekend series with a 27-17 overall record and a 17-4 CAA mark. UNCW has a three-game lead over Hofstra (26-17, 14-7) with nine games remaining on the CAA schedule.
UNCW has one of the CAA's top offensive teams with a .292 team batting average. The Seahawks have scored 269 runs in 44 games and they have hit 28 home runs, second in the CAA. The Seahawks' pitching staff has a very impressive 3.36 E.R.A. with three shutouts.
Senior Thomas Pope leads the Seahawks with a .360 batting average. Honored as the CAA Pre-Season Player of the Year, Pope has belted two home runs with 30 runs batted in. Junior Tyler Molinaro leads UNCW with 10 home runs and 29 RBI's. A .249 hitter, he is second in the CAA in home runs.
Tyler McSwain leads the UNCW pitching staff with a 7-2 record and a 3.44 E.R.A. He is 6-0 in CAA games this season. In 73.1 innings of work, McSwain has 50 strikeouts and only 17 walks. Relief ace Ricky Holden is 2-0 with a 1.37 E.R.A. and three saves.
While the Seahawks have plenty of pitching depth, the Tigers' pitching staff has been plagued by injuries. Two of the Tigers' top starting pitchers, Brandon Gonnella and Taylor Clarke, have been sidelined by injuries. It is not known when they will return.
Junior righthander Michael Trionfo has been Towson's most effective starting pitcher. He has a 6-3 record with a 3.95 E.R.A. In 57 innings, he has 40 strikeouts and only 22 walks. However, Trionfo has lost his last two starts, falling to Georgia State and Northeastern.
Senior righthander Tyler Austin and sophomore righthander Chris Acker have pitched very well out of the bullpen for Coach Mike Gottlieb. Austin has made 24 appearances this season, a mark that leads the CAA. Austin has pitched 44.1 innings and has 61 strikeouts, an average of 12.38 strikeouts per nine innings. Austin has a 2-3 record with three saves and a 4.26 E.R.A. Acker has pitched in hard luck lately. In his last two appearances, he has lost games in the bottom of the ninth inning on unearned runs. He has appeared in 15 games and has a 3-4 record with a 4.87 E.R.A. and two saves.
While the Tiger pitching staff has struggled with injuries, the Tigers' offense has been in a deep slump. During their six-game losing streak, the Tigers have batted just .189 and scored 12 runs. Last Sunday, Towson was on the wrong end of a one-hit shutout as the Tigers had only one base runner in a 2-0 loss to Northeastern.
Towson is tenth in the CAA with a .259 team batting average. Freshman Peter Bowles (below) leads the team with a .322 batting mark while sophomore rightfielder Dominic Fratantuono is batting .309 with six doubles, six triples, three home runs and 22 runs batted in. He is fifth in the CAA with a .457 on-base percentage.
Despite a .237 batting average, junior catcher Andrew Parker leads the Tigers with six home runs and 27 runs batted in.
This weekend's series will feature two of the top defensive teams in the CAA. UNCW is second in the CAA with a .972 fielding percentage. Towson is third in the CAA with a .969 fielding mark. The Tigers are second in the CAA with 42 double plays.
Despite their recent slide, the Tigers are still in contention for one of the six spots in the CAA Tournament. UNCW (27-17, 17-4), Hofstra (26-17, 14-7) and George Mason (32-17, 15-9) have virtually clinched spots in the CAA Tournament while Delaware (21-22, 11-10) is fourth. William and Mary (27-18, 10-11) and Towson (20-25, 10-11) are tied for fifth in the CAA with Georgia State (19-26, 10-11). Virginia Commonwealth (25-20, 11-13) is also battling for a playoff berth while James Madison (15-29-1, 9-15) has overcome a slow start to pull into contention.
After this weekend's series at UNCW, the Tigers have only eight games remaining on their regular season schedule and seven of them will be played at home. Towson has a 12-6 record at Schuerholz Park this year.