Towson's Andrew Parker, right, celebrates his three-run home run with teammates Hunter Bennett (7) and Dominic Fratantuono (1) during the sixth inning of an NCAA regional tournament college baseball game against Florida Atlantic in Chapel Hill, N.C., Friday, May 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Andrew Parker hit a three-run homer in the sixth while starter Mike Volpe allowed one unearned run in seven innings to help Towson beat Florida Atlantic 7-2 on Friday, the Tigers' first NCAA tournament appearance in 22 years, in the Chapel Hill Regional.
Parker's blast capped a five-run inning for the third-seeded Tigers (30-28), who hadn't played in the regionals since 1991. Volpe (10-3) allowed four hits and threw 120 pitches before leaving with a 7-0 lead after walking the leadoff batter in the eighth.
Peter Bowles and Dominic Fratantuono also drove in runs in the sixth for Towson, while Brendan Butler added a solo homer in the eighth.
The win for Towson added to what is arguably the best feel-good story in the tournament. The program was supposed to be cut because of financial problems in the athletic department and gender-equity imbalance, but the team was saved last month when the state of Maryland approved $300,000 to fund the team for two years.
"I'm thrilled our kids have a future," coach Mike Gottlieb said. "I'm thrilled I'm not looking for a job. I'm thrilled after 22 years personally, we're able to be back here in this environment. It was a long time without getting here. Just to be able to do that again after such a drought and at my age, that's very rewarding."
Despite the possibility that the team faced an uncertain future, Gottlieb said his players continued to play hard through it all.
"Maybe they discussed the future or a lack of one, I never heard of it," he said. "I never heard it. And they never played like they didn't care. They played hard. To their credit, we're here and we were able to get a victory today."
Jeremy Strawn (5-3) allowed seven hits and five runs in five innings for the second-seeded Owls (39-21), who had won 11 straight — including a run to the Sun Belt Conference tournament title. Tyler Rocklein and Brendon Sanger drove in the Owls' two eighth-inning runs after Volpe's exit.