The look of frustration on the player’s faces said it all.
Returning home from a weekend series in Rhode Island where they suffered a three-game sweep, the Owls hoped to build some momentum at home against the University of the Sciences.
Instead, the Owls continued to skid, dropping a 5-4 decision to the Devils on Tuesday, a team they handled easily earlier this season.
“We just need to get our heads back on straight,” junior third baseman Mike Weckenman said. “It’s always hard. This was one of the games where you try to regroup, and it just didn’t happen for us.”
Coach Skip Wilson gave freshman Eric Lovelace the start on the mound. Making only his second start of the season, his inexperience showed, giving up four runs on five hits in just two innings of work.
Following a solo home run by senior shortstop Jason Connor, the Owls rallied to get within one in the bottom of the third. Each team went on to add another run, but the Owls were unable to overcome the deficit.
Temple had opportunities to take the lead, but the Owls left the tying run in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth. In total they stranded 11 runners on base, including twice with the bases loaded.
“We just haven’t been hitting,” coach Wilson said. “We had the bases loaded twice, once with no outs and we still couldn’t score any runs.”
After winning seven games in a row and playing their best baseball of the season in late March, the Owls have bottomed out in April. The loss on Tuesday was Temple’s fifth straight and seventh in the last eight games.
Now past the halfway point of the season, the Owls can ill afford to lose close games if they want to keep their postseason hopes alive.
The losses to Rhode Island proved especially tough. In two of three games the Owls held a lead of at least three runs but couldn’t finish the Rams off.
In the first game of a doubleheader they saw a four-run lead diminish and lost 8-7.
Then in the second game, the Owls got three runs in the first inning off of Rams starter Zach Zuercher, arguably the best pitcher in the Atlantic Ten. But again they found a way to cough up the lead. The Rams scored nine runs in the bottom of the third and went on to take the game 9-3.
“We have to learn how to win some of the tough ones,” assistant coach John McArdle said. “We just couldn’t hold them [Rhode Island] down. It was very frustrating.”
Suddenly the Owls (14-14) find themselves in fourth place in the A-10 East Division. While their chances of winning appear dimmer each day, they are still in the hunt for an at large bid into the conference tournament.
With a number of conference games on the horizon, the Owls have their work cut out for them.
“We need to get it done at the plate,” junior outfielder Pete Colon said. “We have to put support under our pitchers and give them some confidence in games.”
In the coming weeks the Owls take on conference foes Saint Joseph’s, St. Bonaventure and Massachusetts in three crucial series before wrapping up the season against Fordham and Xavier.
“We’re going to have to sweep one of these teams, and then get two out of three in every series after that,” Wilson said. “Coming down the stretch I think we can do it. But if we don’t hit we’ll never beat anybody.”
Jonathan Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.