Chris Krusen has two trophies to remember his performance at this year’s Liberty Bell Classic tournament.
Krusen, the tournament co-MVP, led the Owls to their second Liberty Bell title in nine years. The team beat the University of Delaware last Thursday night, 11-4.
In the game, Krusen nailed a home run over the wall in left field to help the Owls jump out to a 6-0 lead over the Blue Hens.
That homerun, plus the game winning RBIs in the semifinals against Lehigh, earned Krusen the MVP award.
“It feels great, obviously, but I didn’t expect it at all,” Krusen said of his MVP award. “I was struggling but I finally broke through in this tournament. I’m just glad we won — I’m so happy.”
Temple got out on top early on. Kyle Sweppenhiser hit a double in the second inning that moved Jeff Roma to third. Roma scored on an error on the next batter.
Jim Tully drove in a run with a single, loading the bases. Rob Cucinotta walked and a man came home. Then Sam Sabolchick knocked in two with a single. Temple led it 5-0 after the second inning.
“We came out and scored a lot of runs and gave our pitchers support,” Sabolchick said. “They did a great job of pitching with the lead, and overall I think we did a great job.”
Krusen’s homerun in the fourth made the score 6-0, Temple. Peter Maestrales doubled, and then scored on an error. But the fifth inning ended for Delaware when Bob Filler caught a fly ball and threw to second base for the force.
Matt Powell, who started on the mound for Temple, played great until the fifth inning. He struck out one batter and only allowed three hits up until the fifth.
Then in the sixth inning he was rocked for a three-run Maestrales home run. That homerun put Delaware within striking distance, 7-4.
Chris Joyce, who came in for relief in the seventh inning, struck out one and forced three batters into ground outs. He allowed two hits, both in the bottom of the ninth.
In the top of the eighth Temple scored four runs. Two of those runs were scored on a Roma automatic double. He hit a shot that looked to be a grand slam, but it fell a bit short and wound up bouncing on the turf and over the wall.
Sweppenhiser grounded out after Roma, but a run scored and Temple went on to win the game, 11-4.
“We came out with a lot more confidence,” Roma said. “We knew we had to come out and score runs to get back from that poor weekend [against Xavier].”
Temple got 14 hits in the game compared to Delaware’s eight. The name of the game for Temple was pitching.
Matt Powell picked up where his brother Greg left off against Lehigh. He pitched four solid innings before giving up the four runs. Joyce then came in and iced the victory.
“Tonight we got good pitching,” coach Skip Wilson said. “Plus the hitting, we had two errors up there but we got the pitching so they played well, I thought.”
“It was the best ball we played all year,” Krusen said. “We came together as a team today and we looked solid. We’re going into a big weekend so it’s going to help us out a lot.”
Temple won its first game of the season over Delaware, 8-7. The team had another game scheduled with Delaware this past Tuesday. Wilson is worried that the Delaware pitching staff is going to pitch Krusen with all curveballs, pitches he struck out on twice in the finals.
“Next week, when we play Delaware, all he has to do is sit back and wait for the curveball,” Skip said, “because they’re not going to give him any fastballs.”
Delaware came into the game as the perennial favorite to win the tournament. Delaware last year lost to St. Joe’s in the finals, and this year beat the Hawks 9-8 in the semifinals.
The Blue Hens in 1998 lost to Villanova in the finals, and the year before beat Villanova for the title.
In the nine years of the tournament Delaware has been to eight championship games and won four titles, the most of any of the eight competing schools.
This win is Temple’s second, both over Delaware. The tournament is hosted by the Phillies. Temple, La Salle, Villanova, Drexel, St. Joe’s, Lehigh, Delaware and the University of Pennsylvania compete.