This season, the baseball team has had difficulty combining strong pitching and run support. Having too much of one and not enough of the other has often been its downfall.
Temple went the first 12 innings of Sunday’s doubleheader with Fordham without scoring a run. Though their starting pitching was solid, the Owls dropped Game 1, 3-0, and Game 2, 5-3, to the Rams.
The Owls’ first runs of the afternoon did not come until the sixth inning of Game 2 when senior outfielder Pete Colon hit his first career inside-the-park home run. They had only seven hits over the two games and could not capitalize on the Rams’ sloppy defense, which committed a total of six errors.
Not one of the Owls could muster more than one hit on Sunday. The middle of their lineup – 3-4-5 hitters shortstop Jason Connor, pitcher Mike Weckenman, and Colon – were a combined 3-for-16 on the day.
“If you don’t score runs, you can’t win. That ain’t a secret,” interim coach John McArdle said.
McArdle did not believe the Rams’ starting pitching was the reason for the shortage of offense. He instead blamed the Owls’ undisciplined hitting and their lack of focus at the plate.
Colon disagreed with his coach. He said the opposing pitching was a factor, calling Rams starters Cory Riordan and Thomas Davis “studs.”
In either case, the Owls’ deficiencies at the plate could not be overlooked. In Game 1, junior hurler Tim Foulkrod pitched all seven innings, surrendering only three runs on three hits, but was the hard-luck loser. Foulkrod, who suffered his fifth loss of the season on Sunday, said he wants to see the offense get going.
“It’s real disappointing. I don’t know what to say,” Foulkrod said. “We just got to start hitting the ball.”
Unlike Game 1 starter Foulkrod, Weckenman did not pitch a complete game in the second game. He threw 5 2/3 strong innings, allowing only one run. Weckenman’s effort was spoiled when senior reliever Chris Hamilton blew the save in the final inning. Hamilton struggled with the Rams’ hitters, the home plate umpire, and himself.
A consistently generous strike zone throughout the game became very small in the seventh, McArdle said. Some pitches that were called strikes the entire afternoon suddenly became balls, and Hamilton was visibly frustrated on the mound.
After the game, McArdle acknowledged that the umpire affected Hamilton’s mindset on the mound.
“As a pitcher, he’s got to forget that and can’t worry about it, but unfortunately, it [affected him],” McArdle said.
The Rams did the bulk of their scoring late in both games, as the Owls’ hurlers’ pitch counts began to mount. In the opening game, Foulkrod threw close to 90 pitches by the sixth inning when the Rams scored two runs, capped by a solo home run from first baseman Gary Kaible. Despite the high pitch count, Foulkrod denied being fatigued that inning.
“I thought the home run was a pop-up, but the wind took it. I threw good pitches, they just hit the ball nice; they’re good hitters,” he said.
The Owls have six games in the next seven days, so strong efforts from Foulkrod and Weckenman on Sunday allowed the Owls to rest most of their bullpen.
Some of the Owls’ players and coaches agreed that continued consistency in starting pitching, a refreshed bullpen, and more offensive support will all be key if the Owls are to make a late-season push for the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament. Despite their last place standing in the A-10 East Division, the Owls are still mathematically eligible for postseason play. After Sunday, they are 10-26, and their in-conference record dropped to 3-11.
“From now on, we’re just going to have to win everything. There is no looking back; it starts [Monday],” Foulkrod said.
Dan Murphy can be reached at email@example.com. Staff Writer John Kopp contributed to this article.