It was a tough weekend for the Owls in Kingston, RI, who were looking to remain in the race for a spot in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament. Instead, Temple (14-20, 5-10 A-10) dropped its third straight game on Sunday, April 21 to Rhode Island (22-17, 9-3 A-10) by a score of 6-2. The sweep marks just the second time in 2013 that the Owls were swept and the first time this season by a conference opponent.
“[Rhode Island] was a team that tried to get guys on base and make noise on the base paths,” redshirt-senior pitcher Dan Moller said. “Throughout the weekend, they had timely hits and tried to grind out our pitchers and wear us down. They executed and played small ball in all three games.”
On Sunday, Moller pitched in his ninth start of the season, tied with sophomore pitcher Patrick Peterson for the most among all Owls.
The Rams jumped out to the early 1-0 lead as redshirt-senior second baseman Pat Fortunato sent a sacrifice fly to left field with one out, scoring sophomore shortstop Tim Caputo who led off the bottom of the first inning with a single.
The Owls earned just their second lead of the three-game series in the top of the second inning. An infield groundout by junior catcher Andrew Nist allowed redshirt-senior designated hitter Matt Elko to score following his leadoff single. With two outs, a single up the middle from freshman right fielder Jimmy Kerrigan scored sophomore shortstop Nick Lustrino, who reached on a fielder’s choice and gave Temple the 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the third inning, Temple saw its second lead of the weekend disappear as an infield single with the bases loaded scored junior center fielder Jeff Roy. With the bases still loaded, Moller was able to produce an inning ending double play ball to third base, ending the Rhode Island threat after tying the game 2-2.
Moller would not allow the Rams to score another run in his final three innings pitched. The left-handed veteran was replaced in the bottom of the seventh by junior pitcher Matt Hockenberry. Moller finished Sunday’s contest with 6.0 innings pitched, allowing two runs on six hits while adding four walks and six strikeouts and earning a no decision.
After a quick 1-2-3 inning for Hockenberry in the bottom of the seventh, the right-handed pitcher was roughed up by the Rams’ offense in the bottom of the eighth. Rhode Island scored four runs in the inning on five hits, putting the game out of reach for the Owls while handing Hockenberry his second loss of the season.
“[Rhode Island] just got hot at the right time,” Moller said. “They strung together a few hits and I don’t feel that our pitching or their offense executed any differently than earlier in the game.”
In the bottom of the ninth, Rams’ redshirt-senior closer Bobby Dean shut down the Owls, recording one walk and three strikeouts en route to his ninth save of the season.
The Owls will have host Villanova this Tuesday and George Mason on Wednesday before resuming A-10 conference play against UNC Charlotte in a pivotal three-game series at Skip Wilson Field beginning on Friday.
“It’s going to be tough now,” Moller said about making the A-10 tournament. “We definitely didn’t make it easy on ourselves. We should have grabbed at least one win this weekend, but now there is definitely no wiggle room for error.”
John Murrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JohnMurrow12.