Opening up the 2013 season with two losses at the USA Baseball Complex Classic in Cary, N.C., the baseball team had not pictured it would start like this.
Temple (0-2-0) led off the three-day tournament Friday with an 8-3 loss to Wright State. The Owls followed that performance up with an 8-4 loss to Delaware.
“We came out today and it was tough because we haven’t been on a field since fall,” sophomore infielder Nick Lustrino said. “It is no excuse. There were good things that came from today, and there were bad things.”
After holding Delaware scoreless in the first inning, redshirt-senior pitcher Dan Moller allowed six runs on seven hits, while recording four walks and two strikeouts in 3.2 innings.
Until the top of the eighth inning, the Owls recorded three hits, all of which were singles. In the top of the eighth and continuing into the ninth inning, Temple found its power surge.
The Owls scored their first run of the game in the top of the eighth, as redshirt-sophomore catcher Connor Reilly hit his first home run of the 2013 campaign.
“The pitch before [the home run], he threw me a slider,” Reilly said. “I got another slider and I knew it was coming.”
Two batters later, Lustrino connected on a home run of his own, shrinking the gap to 8-2 Wright State.
“It was crazy,” Lustrino said about hitting his first home run of the season. “It all happened so fast. It was a high and away pitch and I really didn’t think it was going to go out.”
In the top of the ninth, senior infielder Henry Knabe hit Temple’s third solo home run of the contest, putting the Owls within five runs of the Raiders.
Following the home run, back to back strikeouts gave Wright State the 8-3 win.
After the loss to Wright State, the Owls prepared for a 3:30 p.m. start against Delaware.
“We played hard and competed all day long, but there is no way to train to go out there and play two games on the first day,” coach Ryan Wheeler said.
In the bottom of the first, Delaware redshirt-senior outfielder Nick Ferdinand doubled to left center, scoring redshirt sophomore Joe Giacchino.
In the third inning, Lustrino doubled down the left field line, eventually reaching third after a throwing error on the next play. Senior outfielder Allen Stiles flied out to left field, scoring Lustrino on the sacrifice fly and tying the game 1-1.
Starting the game for the Temple was junior Preston Hill, who allowed six hits, five earned runs, three walks and four strikeouts during six innings pitched.
In the top of the sixth inning, Reilly singled to right field, scoring junior infielder Derek Peterson. The Owls would hold the score at 5-2 in favor of Delaware until the Blue Hens put up three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, expanding their lead to 8-2.
Just as they did in the first game of the doubleheader against Wright State, Temple put together another late rally. Four singles lead to two runs for the Owls until Delaware senior pitcher Chris Branigan struck out junior infielder Derek Peterson to end the game.
“I don’t think it is physical, but mental for us right now,” Wheeler said. “We need to get over that mental hurdle.”
Temple’s next game will be Saturday, Feb. 16 against Monmouth at 3 p.m. Wheeler said he expects junior pitcher Matt Hockenberry to start against the Blue Hawks.
“The good thing is that the energy is there,” Reilly said. “I am really looking forward to this season because I know that we are never going to give up.”
John Murrow can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JohnMurrow12.