Amid a season that has been their last for quite some time, the Owls are now set to play out their final contest this weekend.
After dropping a 6-2 loss to Central Florida in its second bout of American Athletic Conference Tournament pool play Thursday, Temple will take the field for the final time against the University of Connecticut Saturday at 11 p.m.
While the Owls’ one error in the field showed improvement from their four-miscue loss against Houston Wednesday, the team’s struggles at the plate continued, as it managed two runs on seven hits against a slew of Knight pitchers.
UCF starting pitcher Robby Howell, who pitched 7 1-3 innings and allowed one run, helped preserve the Knight lead on the hill.
Sophomore outfielder Jimmy Kerrigan, who tripled and finished with a pair of hits, said Howell’s command made him a tough matchup.
“Howell did a good job getting ahead and keeping our guys off balance,” Kerrigan said. “I thought we did a good job putting pressure on him, but we couldn’t convert that into runs.”
Despite their challenges against Howell, the Owls made one final push in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Scarlet Knight bullpen. With the bases loaded and no outs in a 6-1 game, the Owls lineup showed promise, but managed a single run.
Freshman starting pitcher Patrick Vanderslice struggled in his five innings pitched, allowing four earned runs en route to receiving the loss.
“We knew going in they were one of the best teams we’d face all year,” Vanderslice said. “We had to keep the ball down in the zone. We had it going early on, but it got away from us.”
Redshirt senior Ryan Kuehn will take the mound game against No. 7 seeded UConn, who defeated Houston, 7-2, in the second round of the tournament. The Huskies (27-30, 9-14 American Athletic Conference) are 1-1 in tournament play thus far.
Despite the Owls’ inability to compete for the championship, Kerrigan said pride in the program and appreciation for each other will help drive them to salvage a win in their final contest.
“We’re going to come out and we’re going to play with a lot of emotion and a lot of intensity,” Kerrigan said. “It’s been a great ride with these guys, I wouldn’t want to do it with anything else.
“You always know you can rely on the guy next to you,” Kerrigan said. “I wish it wasn’t all over as of Saturday.”
EJ Smith can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ejsmitty17.