The hot bats the baseball team displayed in the final five games of its season-opening Florida trip did not show up in Tuesday’s home opener.
The Owls entered the game having scored 29 runs in the past five games. But they connected for just five hits and stranded the go-ahead runners to end the game as they lost, 3-2, to Lehigh.
“We start getting in a groove and then we get back in this cold weather, then we just don’t hit,” coach Skip Wilson said.
Though they did not deliver at the plate, the Owls (4-6) played well in other areas. The infield turned four double plays, and two outfielders made spectacular catches to end innings. Starting pitcher Chris McCafferty (1-2) and junior reliever Tim Foulkrod combined to allow just six hits but were done in by a disastrous three-run fifth inning.
But the offense failed to capitalize on the solid defense and pitching.
“If you don’t have guys that hit and get guys on base, you can’t win,” Wilson said.
McCafferty, who escaped a jam while protecting a 1-0 lead in the third inning, ran into trouble again in the fifth. With one out and runners on first and second, Lehigh’s John Zaszewski lined an RBI single to center field. After falling into a 2-0 hole to catcher Matt McBride, Foulkrod entered in relief. Foulkrod walked McBride to load the bases, then gave up a single to cleanup hitter Forrest Doane. Two runs scored to give the Mountain Hawks a 3-1 lead.
“I had to get myself loose,” Foulkrod said of the fifth. “It’s cold out here. I had to get into a groove.”
Senior first baseman Mike Weckenman scored on a fielder’s choice in the seventh to pull the Owls within a run, and the score held at 3-2 at the start of the final inning.
Weckenman single to start a rally and was replaced by pinch runner Frank Nunan. Nunan stole second, leaving first base open for the Mountain Hawks to walk catcher Marc Wagner. Both runners advanced on a groundout by third baseman Dan Brady, setting the stage for right fielder Jason Adamek to be the hero.
But Adamek popped up to shortstop to end the game.
“We’ve just got to come back tomorrow,” Foulkrod said. “We’ll get them next time.”
Besides the fifth inning, Wilson said he thought the pitching was pretty good.
McCafferty gave up three earned runs in 4 1/3 innings but stuck out six. Foulkrod gave up two hits in 4 2/3 innings and allowed two inherited runners to score in fifth. Through 20 innings this season, Foulkrod has been charged with just one earned run. His ERA is a paltry 0.45.
“I’m feeling good this year,” Foulkrod said.
Weckenman had two of the Owls’ five hits. … Shortstop Jason Conner doubled in Justin Cooper in the first inning for the game’s first run. … Center fielder Tom Dolan made a sliding catch to end the sixth inning. Left fielder Devon Swope made another athletic grab to end the eighth. … The Owls pitchers held Doane and Smith, both with batting averages over .300, to a combined 1-6. But Doane’s loan single plated the go-ahead runs in the fifth.
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.