Baseball loses in Liberty Bell Classic semifinals

Owls blow fourth-inning lead to Delaware.

In the semifinal game of the Liberty Bell Classic on Tuesday, April 2, Delaware (19-8, 6-3 Colonial Athletic Association) defeated Temple (10-14, 2-4 Atlantic 10) 5-3 in Newark, Del.

Despite a 3-0 Temple lead entering the bottom of the fourth inning, Delaware responded with five unanswered runs to earn a spot in the championship game of the Liberty Bell Classic on April 16.

“Delaware is a strong offensive team,” coach Ryan Wheeler said. “We knew they were going to score some runs today and we did our best to control their offense.”

Starting on the mound for the Owls was junior pitcher Matt Hockenberry. In seven appearances prior to Tuesday’s start, Hockenberry entered his fifth start of 2013 with a 1-1 record and a 5.48 ERA in 23.0 innings pitched.

Temple jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning as senior third baseman Henry Knabe singled to right field, scoring senior second baseman Jordan Queja who reached second base on a error. The second run of the top half of the first was earned as redshirt-senior designated hitter Matt Elko doubled to center field, scoring Knabe and giving the Owls the early 2-0 lead.

Following their two-run first inning, the Owls increased their lead to 3-0 in the top of the second inning. Junior right-fielder Bobby Heitzman led off the inning with a single to right field. A failed pickoff attempt by Delaware pitcher Dan Gatto allowed Heitzman to advance to third base on the error. Following a hit by pitch to freshman catcher Michael D’Acunti, a wild pitch surrendered by Gatto allowed Heitzman to score.

With one out in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Blue Hens scored their first run against Hockenberry. Redshirt-senior right-fielder Nick Ferdinand singled to center field scoring junior left-fielder Cameron Travalini who reached base on a leadoff single to left field. A single up the middle from redshirt-sophomore Zach Lopes scored Ferdinand with two outs in the inning. Following a Delaware groundout, the Owls escaped the third inning with the 3-2 lead.

Entering the bottom of the sixth inning, redshirt-senior pitcher Steve Visnic replaced Hockenberry. In 5.0 innings pitched, Hockenberry finished allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits while recording one walk and four strikeouts.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Blue Hens tied the game on a home run by junior first baseman Jimmy Yezzo, his fifth of the season. At the end of six innings, Temple and Delaware were tied 3-3.

After one inning pitched, redshirt-sophomore pitcher Zach White replaced Visnic in the bottom of the seventh inning. After a leadoff double, a groundout, a walk and a strikeout, White was replaced by sophomore pitcher Adam Dian. Blue Hens’ redshirt-sophomore center-fielder Joe Giacchino notched his first hit of the contest as a single off of Dian scored junior infielder EJ Stoltzfus and Lopes.

For the final two innings of the contest, Blue Hens’ senior pitcher Eric Buckland shut down the Owls, allowing one hit to Knabe and no runs while recording one strikeout in 2.0 innings pitched.

In the Temple loss, the Blue Hens left three men on base during the course of the game, while the Owls left 13 men stranded.

“[Delaware] simply executed when it counted today and we didn’t,” Wheeler said.

With the win, Delaware advances to the championship game of the Liberty Bell Classic on April 16 at Citizens Bank Park. The Blue Hens will face Villanova in the final game, as the Wildcats upset the Quakers 5-4 on April 2.

The Owls will return to action on Friday, April 5 when they host A-10 conference opponent La Salle (8-15, 4-2 A-10) in the first game of a three-game series at 3:00 p.m. at Skip Wilson Field.

“[Temple] just has to keep plugging away,” Wheeler said. “We out-pitched them, out-hit them and played better defense than they did today. Hopefully we can put everything together and get on a little bit of a run.”

John Murrow can be reached at or on Twitter @JohnMurrow12.

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