Starting pitcher Matthew Hockenberry has beaten Houston before, and with the Owls’ season coming down to one final tournament, he did all he could to do it again.
However, the Owls fell to a Top 25 ranked Houston squad, 3-0, in the opening round of pool play for the American Athletic Conference Championship at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. Wednesday.
Regardless of the defeat, the resilience the Owls have shown through their season is something Hockenberry is proud of.
“I think it’s just a shock to the world that you’ve got 22 guys that are physically able to play after losing all the guys we did,” the senior said. “We’re proving them wrong.”
“It doesn’t matter who you are and what team you play for,” Hockenberry added. “There are players who can shine in the spotlight when put in good positions. That’s what Temple baseball is.”
The Cougars (42–14, 14-9 The American), who boast the nation’s best earned run average at a 2.01 clip, silenced the Owls’ bats and managed runs in the first, third and fifth innings en route to victory.
American Rookie of the Year Andrew Lantrip started the game for the Cougars, punching out seven hitters with a pair of walks in 5 2-3 innings pitched.
Reliever Tyler Ford earned his fourth save of the season for the Cougars, further padding his 1.05 ERA. Despite managing three hits and a walk on Ford, the Owls failed to convert any of those hits into runs and were held scoreless.
Even with a strong eight-inning start out of senior pitcher Matt Hockenberry, the Owls struggled in the field.
Each of Houston’s three runs were unearned, as the Owls’ four errors proved to be the overwhelming difference in the game.
Hockenberry, who allowed eight hits and two walks while striking out six, was saddled with the loss.
Despite the loss, Hockenberry felt the Owls’ performance made a statement.
“It was a well fought ball game,” Hockenberry said. “Our team has been through a lot of adversities this year and despite all that, we played great. We took a Top 25 team and went toe-to-toe with them.”
The Owls will have a quick turnaround, however, as they look to bounce back against No.2 seeded Central Florida tomorrow at 7 p.m.
Hockenberry believes the dedication of the Owls’ remaining players will help them get back on track.
“I think we just need to regroup and remind ourselves of our hard work and dedication to this program after having guys leave,” Hockenberry said. “We set goals for ourselves and we’ve worked really hard to get where we are.”
“We’re here for business,” he added. “We don’t want to go down as a team that just made it and tanked in the playoffs. We’re going out with fire. We have a chip on our shoulders.”
EJ Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ejsmitty17.