The baseball team’s motto all season long has been “Band of Brothers.” The Owls have consistently said that, despite the cloud that’s hanging over their heads in the form of their quickly approaching elimination this summer. But they haven’t given up.
This weekend’s series against No. 5 Louisville proved that they haven’t.
Temple carried an eight-game losing streak, the latest a three-game sweep at the hands of Rutgers, into a weekend tilt against the Cardinals, who brought an 11-game win streak and a 38-11 overall record to Philadelphia.
Instead of limping to the finish line, with only two series left in the program’s final campaign, the Owls gave Louisville all it could handle for three days. In three games decided by two runs apiece, Temple came away victorious in one.
Friday’s matchup was played at Skip Wilson Field in Ambler and was won by Louisville 2-0. Senior pitcher Matt Hockenberry (4-5, 3.74 ERA) continued his impressive season, striking out a season-high 10 batters in a complete game effort. Hockenberry scattered seven hits and allowed a run in both the fifth and sixth innings.
Cardinals ace sophomore Kyle Funkhouser (10-2, 1.86 ERA) was stellar, giving up just four hits in eight innings of work. Funkhouser struck out 12 Owls.
On Saturday, the teams continued the series at Campbell’s Field. Temple earned a 4-2 victory behind the first win for freshman pitcher Patrick Vanderslice (1-3, 6.00 ERA). Vanderslice went five innings, surrendering two runs on four hits while striking out a pair. Junior reliever Zach Batchelor was solid out of the bullpen, throwing 3.2 innings of shutout baseball before freshman Patrick Krall came on to get the final out of the game.
The heart of the batting order did most of the damage as Derek Peterson, Michael D’Acunti and Robert Amaro combined to go 8-for-12 with four runs scored and two RBIs, both of which came off of the bat of the team’s leading run producer Amaro.
In Sunday’s rubber match, Louisville scraped out a 6-4 victory in 11 innings. The Cardinals jumped out to a 2-0 lead, scoring a run in both the first and third innings off of senior Ryan Kuehn (3-2, 3.80 ERA). D’Acunti then blasted a three-run home run in the bottom of the third to put the Owls in front, his second homer of the season.
In the 11th inning, Temple’s fielding issues came back to haunt them yet again, as both of the Louisville runs off of sophomore Tim McCarthy were unearned.
The weekend’s standouts included Amaro, who went 6-11 with a run scored and two RBIs. He extended his team lead in RBIs (37) and batting average (.333). D’Acunti went 5-13 with three runs and three RBIs.
Temple (13-29, 8-13 American Athletic Conference) will now be rooting for Louisville next weekend. The Cardinals take on last place Cincinnati (6-15) in the final weekend of the regular season. The Owls currently sit in sixth place, with only eight of the nine American teams advancing to the conference tournament.
The Owls will take on No. 13 Houston (39-13, 13-8) at Campbell’s Field for a three-game series starting on Thursday. Two wins will guarantee Temple a spot in the conference tournament, but just one win or a losing sweep will place the conference tournament fate in the hands of Memphis (7-14) and Connecticut (7-13).
Jeff Neiburg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg.