The baseball team just can’t catch a break. Blowing yet another ninth-inning lead and playing in yet another extra-inning game, Temple fell, 8-7, in 11 innings to host La Salle Sunday at Frank DeVincent Field.
The Owls lost their second consecutive Atlantic Ten Conference series, as La Salle also took the series opener on Friday.Entering the bottom of the ninth, the Owls (8-15 overall, 2-4 A-10) had a 7-6 lead, with freshman relief pitcher Matt Blackburn on the hill. But having already pitched more than an inning in the game – and pitching for the third consecutive day – it was clear he was tiring.
La Salle (9-13, 2-4) struck quickly in the frame, as outfielder Davis Hewett singled and scored two batters later on designated hitter George Papuchis’ RBI single, which tied the game at 7. The Explorers struck in the bottom of the 11th inning, this time off Temple shortstop Ryan Weber, who took the mound in the bottom of the ninth. La Salle first baseman Billy Kern singled home outfielder Matt Burns to win the game, as Weber wound up taking the loss in his first pitching appearance of the season.
“I was ahead in the count, and we were going to go [with an] off-speed [pitch],” Weber said.
“[Kern] hit a slider not that good, but I guess in a good spot.”
The use of Weber on the mound shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The coaching staff had been grooming him in recent weeks to take over the closing role, due to the struggles of the young bullpen.
For Weber, all he wants to do is help the team win.
“[The] coaches know I’m available so if they ever need me, I’m ready to throw,” the junior said.
“Whenever they need me.”
Starting pitcher Matt Mongiardini delivered
another uneven performance, giving up six runs in 6 1/3 innings. Four of those runs came in the seventh inning, when he only recorded one out. Starts like this have been common for Mongiardini, who has cruised the first two times through the order and then run into trouble.
“That’s where I got to bear down more, later on in the innings,” the sophomore said. “I get lackadaisical and mess up with pitches, and they take advantage of it.”
While fixing this problem takes game time, experience and practice, Mongiardini said being a little more relaxed out on the mound really can’t hurt.
“For the most part, I just got to calm down out there,” the right-hander said. “I just got to bear down and go through with it. When my temper goes up, I just got to calm that down.”
The Owls’ big offensive innings came in the sixth and seventh, as Sean Barksdale’s two run home run, his third of the year, and Mike Kelch’s bases-loaded triple gave the Owls plenty of offense. It wasn’t enough.
But in the end, the Owls are still a young team, coach Rob Valli contends, and they’re learning new things with every game. Valli is just hoping the Owls continue to get something out of this string of tough losses.
“We’re a team, we’re evolving,” he said. “It’s going to be whatever it is, but we don’t know what we’re going to be yet. We’re too new.”Despite this, Valli still cannot hide his disappointment from the results on the field. “As we get late in games, even though we have leads, we’re just struggling to finish games,” he said.
“And that’s a different skill, that’s a whole different thing. Not how to play ahead or how to get a hit, but [how to] finish a tough game. And that’s the lesson we haven’t learned yet.”
The Owls hit the road Tuesday for a Liberty
Bell Classic semifinal match with Lehigh. If they win, they’ll face the winner of the Lafayette/Penn game next Tuesday in the Liberty Bell Classic championship game played at Citizens Bank Park.
Due to the forecasted rain on Sunday, the game time was moved up to 10 a.m.
Senior Dan Brady returned to the lineup this weekend, but was used as the designated hitter in all three games, as he is still nursing his sprained knee.
The Owls’ next A-10 series will be this weekend at Dayton.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at email@example.com.