Baseball loses two in Liberty Bell Classic

The Owls lost by one run to both Lehigh and La Salle last week to drop to 3-24 overall.

The Owls lost by one run to both Lehigh and La Salle last week to drop to 3-24 overall.

The Temple baseball team tried to put together ninth-inning rallies during the 19th Annual Liberty Bell Classic, but the Owls fell one run short to both Lehigh and La Salle. After a three-game sweep on the road at Saint Louis this past weekend, the Owls now sit at 3-24 overall and 1-8 in the Atlantic Ten Conference.

PAUL KLEIN TTN Senior pitcher Mike Click pitches in the 8-7 loss to La Salle. Click started the game and lasted two innings.

Temple played Lehigh in its first game of the Liberty Bell Classic last Tuesday. Offense dominated play for both sides in the high-scoring matchup, which featured 37 hits and 25 runs at Skip Wilson Field. Ultimately, the Owls stranded a runner on third base in the bottom of the ninth inning and fell to the Mountain Hawks, 13-12.

The two teams used 13 combined pitchers in the game. Redshirt senior pitcher Matt Mongiardini started the game for the Cherry and White and allowed three runs in just two innings of work.

Lehigh (9-16 overall) had two home runs and nine hits in the first three innings. The visitors were up 7-4 entering the top of the fifth inning and were looking to add to their total. Sophomore pitcher Dan Moller threw the Owls’ first scoreless inning, however, and struck out three batters.

The bats came alive for Temple in the fifth inning, as junior third baseman Steve Nikorak smacked a RBI double, and junior left fielder Byron McKoy singled to bring him home. The Owls trailed by just one run before Lehigh regained a comfortable lead by knocking in two runs in the top of the sixth inning.

The Owls would respond, down 9-6, as senior infielder Tony Jusino hit a RBI double to bring home freshman right fielder David Hall. With the momentum in Temple’s favor, junior shortstop Adrian Perez, who leads the team with a .385 batting average, came through with a two-run double to tie the game up at nine.

Unfortunately, the Owls failed to shut down the Mountain Hawks’ potent offense and could not come back in the ninth inning. Temple began its final at-bat trailing by two runs and, after singles by junior first baseman Ben Flanary and sophomore center fielder Jabair Khan, showed signs of life. Jusino hit a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to one run – but that was as close as the team would get.
“We have a very talented group of kids who work relentlessly at their game,” pitching coach Chuck Ristano said. “We got to put everything into perspective.”

Following the win against Temple, Lehigh went on to defeat Villanova and advanced to the championship round of the Liberty Bell Classic on April 20 at Citizens Bank Park. The Mountain Hawks will face Delaware. The Owls last won the Liberty Bell Classic back in 2003. They would not make it back this year after a loss to La Salle the day after the loss to Lehigh.

In the second round of the classic, Temple traveled to La Salle (9-17 overall) to take on the Explorers. Once again, the Owls narrowly missed out on a victory, as La Salle won, 8-7, last Wednesday.
The long ball was the Owls’ main weapon on offense, as they blasted four home runs in the game. Perez hit the team’s first home run in the first inning and drove in Khan to post an early 2-0 lead. Meanwhile, senior pitcher Mike Click did not get off on the right foot on the mound. He allowed four runs in the first two innings.

“We struggle to execute a little bit, but when the chips are down, our leadership has been outstanding,” Ristano said earlier in the season. “It’s easy to be a leader when things are going well. When things aren’t going well, you need to lean on those guys. They’re doing a great job, not just our captains, but our seniors.”

Temple’s offense executed in the fourth inning. Thanks to a Khan solo home run, the Owls tied the game at four. In the fifth inning, Flanary and Hall hit back-to-back home runs and opened up a 7-4 lead against the Explorers. That, however, would be the last of the scoring for the Owls.

In the ninth inning, the Owls trailed by one run and looked to put a couple runs on the board to steal a win. After McKoy drew a walk, Flanary hit a deep ball to right field that looked as though it would head out of the ballpark, but it was caught by the outfielder to end the game.

The Owls, who are currently on a six-game losing streak, play Saint Joseph’s this afternoon at Skip Wilson Field at 3 p.m.

Connor Showalter can be reached at

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