In search for some momentum as the American Athletic Conference Conference tournament approaches, Temple was swept in a three game series this weekend against Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J. The three losses bring Temple’s losing streak to a season-high eight games.
In a Friday through Sunday series, the Owls lost by scores of 5-4, 4-3 and 9-6, respectively.
Friday’s contest was a 14-inning thriller that saw Temple battle back from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game in the eighth inning. Rutgers, however, ended the four hour, 10 minute game with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 14th inning.
The Owls would spot Rutgers another 4-0 lead on Saturday and their comeback effort was halted in the ninth inning. Temple scored a run in the sixth inning, two more in the eighth and had the tying run on third base with one out in the ninth. But after a groundout by catcher Andrew Nist, Reyn Sugai hit the ball hard to the right side and Rutgers’ second baseman Nick Favatella made a miraculous play to secure a win for the the Scarlet Knights.
On Sunday, Temple jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, but the Rutgers bats connected for 17 hits on the day en route to the 9-6 win. The Scarlet Knights chased senior pitcher Ryan Kuehn from the game after three innings of three-run baseball with six hits surrendered. They then tallied four more runs on seven hits against freshman Simon Matthews.
Standouts for the Owls’ weekend include senior outfielder Bobby Heitzman, who went 5-for-15 with two doubles, three runs scored and three RBIs. Senior first baseman Robert Amaro went 5-for-12 with a home run, three runs scored and three RBIs.
The recent skid has Temple’s record at 12-27 with a 7-11 record in conference play. The Owls fell into seventh place with Sunday’s loss and will have some work to do with just six games – all in-conference – remaining.
Out of the nine teams in The American for baseball, eight make the conference tournament. Memphis is currently in eighth place with a 6-12 conference record and Cincinnati rests in last place at 4-14.
With little room for losses, Temple will now take on two of the strongest teams in the conference, and the nation, in No. 8 Louisville and No. 13 Houston. Both series are at home, with Louisville bringing its 10-game win streak to town next weekend.
Though the competition is sure to make things difficult, Temple is still in a good place in terms of qualifying for the tournament. Cincinnati and Memphis will lock horns next weekend as they battle it out for the eighth and ninth seeds in the standings. Last-place Cincinnati will then travel to Louisville the following week.
As long as the Owls can stay competitive and pick up a few wins against Louisville and Houston, they’ll be heading down to Clearwater, Fla., to play in the conference tournament on May 21.
Jeff Neiburg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg.