The same problems that plagued Temple in its opening series continued over the weekend. The Owls have been victim to big innings from their opponents while they continue to struggle to get men across the plate themselves.
It hasn’t been a recipe for winning baseball games.
In this weekend’s series in Richmond, Va. against VCU, the Owls were blasted in a three-game series by a combined score of 29-7.
Friday’s opener was postponed for the second consecutive week. Last week’s was because of rain and this time it was because of cold weather.
When the teams finally took to the field on Saturday morning, the series opener went scoreless during the first three innings until Temple got a run in both the fourth and fifth innings off of RBI from sophomore catcher Michael D’Acunti and senior outfielder Daniel Dragos.
The Rams were able to chase Temple senior pitcher Matt Hockenberry from the game in the bottom of the sixth inning. Hockenberry left with the bases loaded and one out, but the bullpen wasn’t able to keep VCU from tying the game in the inning.
Hockenberry (1-0, 4.36 ERA) got saddled with a no-decision after pitching 5.1 efficient innings, striking out four batters while giving up two earned runs.
A three-run seventh inning from VCU gave the team a 5-2 lead, the eventual final score when the Owls were set down in order in the final two innings.
In the second game of Saturday’s double-header, Temple freshman Simon Matthews got the start, his second of the season. VCU got to Matthews early, putting up four runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Meanwhile, the Owls bats were held at bay by VCU pitcher Matt Blanchard. Blanchard was electric, tossing seven innings while striking out six Owls and conceding two hits.
“VCU has a good staff and they’re pitching well here early,” Temple coach Ryan Wheeler said. “Their ballpark is a big ballpark and we’re not really built for that. We had some opportunities to score a few more runs but they did a great job of just minimizing the damage whenever we got it going.”
VCU tacked on six runs in a big fifth inning that was coupled by three errors from Temple as they eventually cruised to a 10-0 win.
The Owls registered four hits in the loss.
In Sunday’s series finale, the pitching woes continued as VCU put up another 14 runs. Temple was only able to scrape five runs across despite smacking 10 hits on the day.
The Rams tallied multiple runs in five different innings in Sunday’s game.
When twins Eric and Patrick Peterson, junior starting pitchers, left the team after the athletic cuts announcement, Wheeler expected the struggles on the mound. Though Hockenberry has been solid in his first two outings, the same can’t be said of Matthews and senior Preston Hill, who started Sunday’s game.
Hill and Matthews are now a combined 0-2 with a 9.40 ERA.
“Right now I think all the pitchers are just trying to figure out how they’re going to be used since their roles have kind of changed,” Wheeler said. “What I keep trying to tell them is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re starting, coming in relief or closing the game down.”
As a staff, Temple now sports a team-ERA of 7.59, with opposing hitters hitting at a .309 average. The Owls have also struggled with control. Matthews has hit six batters on the year and relievers Phil Gianakos and Connor Staskey have each walked four batters in three innings pitched apiece.
“We’ve pitched well at times but for the most part we’ve been behind in counts, not throwing a lot of strikes and you can’t do that and be successful,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said that he doesn’t think that Temple is too far off on the offensive side.
Some bright spots for Temple through two weeks of play have included Dragos, who is batting .471. Dragos has drawn eight walks and sports a team-high .630 OBP. He has also stolen three bases.
Senior first baseman Robert Amaro is batting .360 through 25 at-bats. The nephew of Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, he leads the Owls in total bases (13) and RBI (7).
Temple (1-5) will stay in Virginia for a midweek two-game series against Radford University on Tuesday and Wednesday.