Baseball takes two of three versus UMass

After losing nine of their previous 11 games, it seems a weekend trip to Massachusetts was exactly what the doctor ordered for the baseball team’s recent struggles.

The Owls took two out of three from the Minutemen, winning the first two games before losing Sunday’s finale in dramatic fashion.

Game one featured a pitchers duel between Temple redshirt senior Dan Moller and UMass junior Dennis Torres. Moller gave up three earned runs on six hits over 7.1 innings while striking out seven and walking three. Torres upped Moller by throwing eight innings, surrendering two runs (one earned) while striking out four and not walking a batter. The game couldn’t be decided in nine innings, with the Owls eventually coming away with a 6-3 victory in 13.

With the Owls trailing 3-2 in the top of the ninth, junior left fielder Allen Stiles sent the game into extra innings with an RBI double off of senior Leif Sorenson, scoring redshirt junior first baseman Matt Elko. Stiles hurt Sorenson again when, in the top of the 13th, he delivered the deciding blow with a 2-run single that scored junior outfielder David Hall and sophomore outfielder Bobby Heitzman.

Freshman right hander Eric Peterson picked up the first win of his collegiate career. After relieving Moller in the eighth, Peterson went on to pitch 5.2 innings of scoreless ball, striking out five while walking one and surrendering just three hits. Sorenson took the loss after going 4.2 innings and giving up four runs.

Saturday’s game two saw Matt Hockenberry get the starting nod for the Cherry and White. The sophomore threw 6.1 innings, giving up three runs (one earned) on seven hits while striking out three and walking two. Hockenberry’s counterpart, senior Glen Misho, went eight innings despite giving up six earned on 13 hits. Redshirt junior reliever Steve Visnic won his third game of the year after giving up a run in 0.2 innings. The sidewinder has a 1.72 ERA in 22 appearances out of the bullpen this year, by far the most on the team. The Owls closer, redshirt senior Brian Sustersic, recorded his sixth save of the season.

Trailing 4-3 in the eighth, junior second baseman Foster Dunigan led off the inning with a single. Redshirt senior third baseman Steve Nikorak put the Owls ahead for good in the very next at-bat. With a 3-0 count in his favor, Nikorak was given the green light and blasted a towering shot over the right-field wall. Temple would tack on three more insurance runs in route to an 8-4 victory, completing their second straight comeback win over the Minutemen. Nikorak also homered in the fifth inning of game one, continuing his torrid final season as an Owl.

The Owls defense failed them in game three, committing five errors, including a crucial throwing error by freshman shortstop Nick Lustrino in the ninth inning with the game on the line. UMass prevented Temple from completing their first Atlantic-Ten road sweep since 2004, as they took the finale 5-4 in twelve innings.

With standout freshman Pat Peterson on the mound for game three, the Owls cruised through eight innings with a 4-2 lead. Peterson gave up two runs (one earned) while fanning four and walking one over 7.2 innings of work before redshirt sophomore Ryan Kuehn finished out the eighth. Sustersic came out in the ninth looking to close out his second game of the series, but blew the save opportunity, going on to surrender three runs over 3.1 innings. After getting into some trouble in the twelfth, Coach Ryan Wheeler summoned Visnic to the mound, but he was unable to strand the runner at second as senior catcher Tom Conley ended the game with a walk-off double. Sustersic didn’t get much help from his defense, as only one of the runs was earned. Junior righty Ron Wallace was the winning pitcher for UMass, going 4.1 innings without giving up a run.

After a promising weekend at UMass, Wheeler’s ball club improved to 4-11 in A-10 play and 16-27 overall. The Owls will now shift their focus to Tuesday’s bout at Villanova, before they head to Ambler for a weekend series against Dayton. The Wildcats recently defeated the Owls 4-3 on April 21 at Skip Wilson Field.

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