Baseball returned from the road in Ohio only to face more challenges at home.
The baseball team is struggling to close out games against opponents as of late after losing both games of a doubleheader with La Salle on Sunday that swept the weekend series.
Before the meeting with La Salle, Temple lost a close one to St. Joseph’s, 4-3, as the Hawks hit a walk-off single to break the tie in the ninth on Wednesday. Entering the three-game series on Saturday, Temple was a perfect 7-0 at Skip Wilson Field and both the Owls and the Explorers were 2-4 in the Atlantic Ten Conference.
Senior pitcher Ben White pitched five-scoreless innings until the Explorers turned in a four-run sixth inning to cut into the Owls’ early 5-0 lead. The 3-5 White, who threw 150 pitches, took the loss after the Explorers tacked on four more runs in the eighth to take control of the game, winning 8-6.
On offense senior infielder Ryan Ferguson led the team with a double and two RBIs. Redshirt-junior infielder Steve Nikorak, who relieved White in the eighth and closed out the game, allowing one hit, went 3-for-5 at the plate with a RBI.
On Sunday’s doubleheader, the Owls lost by scores of 10-2 and 9-5, while starting junior Brant Norlander and freshman Matt Hockenberry both pitched long innings.
Norlander went 8.1 innings in game 1, allowing three runs over eight innings until giving up three runs in the ninth before being relieved. The offense was carried by freshman catcher Will Remillard and Ferguson who each knocked in a run and combined for four of the Owls seven hits.
In game two, Hockenberry pitched 6.2 innings, allowing four earned runs and five hits. The Owls scored three runs in the eighth to tie the game at five runs, but the Explorers would score four additional runs to hold on for the win.
“This is a frustrating three games we had,” Ferguson said. “We’re a much better team than what we displayed out there.”
Temple began the A-10 schedule on the road against Xavier and Dayton with those series taking place March 25-26 and April 1-3. Even while finishing the Ohio road trip with a 2-4 losing record, coach Rob Valli said the two series weren’t a “total disappointment.”
“They’re two very tough places to go and try and win a series,” Valli added. “We just came up a little bit short in both those places.”
With White on the mound, the Owls entered the seventh inning tied, 4-4, with the Musketeers. But two errors in the bottom of the seventh by the Cherry and White spurred a five-run inning for the home team, allowing Xavier to take the win, 10-4.
The offense was led by senior shortstop Adrian Perez, who had two hits including a homerun and a RBI and also by senior outfielder Byron McKoy, who contributed two hits and two RBIs.
“We came up with a couple big innings and got back into several games,” Ferguson said. “We just got to keep that momentum and just battle them back and be a tough team.”
Games two and three against Xavier were played as a doubleheader with Temple taking the first game, 4-3, before the team fell, 8-7, in the second game. Norlander went eight innings in game one, allowing 11 hits and three earned runs, picking up the win, while Nikorak took the loss in game two.
The Owls were down, 3-1, in the first game until the final inning when Nikorak drove in two runs in a rally that would end in a three-run inning, helping the Cherry and White to a victory. In game two, three Owls homered, as Ferguson went 2-for-4 at the plate with two homeruns and two RBIs. Freshman catcher Will Remillard and Nikorak each homered and drove in two RBIs, but the Musketeers would secure the win with a walk-off homerun.
After a 15-12 extra-inning loss to Delaware on March 29, the team drove back to Ohio for a three-game series with Dayton. The first two games of the series belonged to Dayton, and its offense as the home team won both games, 9-1 and 9-7.
White and Norlander each started for the Owls in the first two games, allowing a combined 14 earned runs in 11.2 innings. Ferguson had the lone RBI for the Owls in the first game, while Remillard went 2-for-3 in the second game with a double and a team-high of two RBIs.
The Owls (15-14, 2-7 A-10) won the final game of the series, 17-11, with freshman pitcher Zach Batchelor picking up his first collegiate win of his career. McKoy led the Owls with two hits including a homerun and three RBIs.
Looking ahead to Wednesday at the Owls’ next opponent, Rutgers, Nikorak said he expects the squad to be more successful if the pitching staff improves.
“We have some younger guys who haven’t had much experience pitching in the league,” Nikorak said. “But freshmen through seniors, we’re giving up too many hits and walks.”
“These next couple games are must-wins for us,” Nikorak added.
Connor Showalter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.