With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, leading 4-2, and with reliever Zach Batchelor on the mound, Temple looked poised for a solid road win against division foe Connecticut.
But UConn left fielder Blake Davy ended all thoughts of an easy victory by sending a game-tying, two-run homer into the Huskies bullpen in left field.
“I thought we out-played them all day and when we gave up that home run in the ninth,” coach Ryan Wheeler said. “We knew coming into the ballgame that that guy had some power and we didn’t want to let him beat us, we just made one bad pitch and he did his thing.”
It took four frames of extra baseball before Temple was able to reclaim the lead for good, winning 7-4 and evening the three game series at one win each.
Temple pulled ahead in the top half of the 14th inning on a Josh Mason RBI single. Leadoff hitter Reyn Sugai then knocked an opposite field two-run double to left to put the game away for good.
“That last at-bat I was just looking for a fastball because I knew he couldn’t control his off speed pitches and I got fooled the two at bats before,” Sugai said. “I thought it was foul honestly until I heard everyone start screaming.”
Sugai finished the game 2-8 out of the leadoff spot but knocked in four runs for the Owls.
“I felt good, I kind of struggled yesterday so I was just trying to relax and stay focused,” Sugai said.
Starting pitcher Patrick Vanderslice threw six innings, giving up only one earned run and striking out three.
“The first few of innings I had my slider working and my fastball was there and I kept it low and I knew my fielders would field for me, put the ball in play and they all had my back,” Vanderslice said.
It was a rebound performance for Vanderslice, who had struggled in his previous two starts in which he surrendered five runs in one inning against Cincinnati and five runs through five innings of work against South Florida.
“I see a lot of composure from him on the mound, just like the Cincinnati game we gave him a lead, today he pitched with it, and yeah he gave up a couple of runs but he didn’t cave in and he didn’t give them all back,” Wheeler said. “We have a lot of confidence in him right now in that two spot.”
It was one of Temple’s cleaner all around performances in a season plagued by errors and shaky pitching. In 30 games this year, Temple has committed 68 errors. While the Owls committed two on Friday, they found a way to win – something Wheeler attributes to experience.
“I don’t know if we would have won [this game] earlier in the year. I don’t know if we would have won it in the previous two years but these guys have faced so much adversity and just learned to battle through it, that’s what makes me so proud is just to watch them compete as hard as they do against quality competition and have success,” Wheeler said.
Freshman pitcher Patrick Krall earned the win for Temple, pitching four scoreless innings in relief and catcher Michael D’Acunti added four hits for Temple who will go for the series win Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.