Owls right ship with weekend wins

Making just his sixth start, freshman outfielder Frank Nunan came up big when the baseball team needed him most.

With the game on the line, Nunan singled home the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning to propel the Owls to an 11-7 second game victory in a doubleheader against Saint Joseph’s on Sunday. The triumph notched a series win as the Owls took two of three from the Hawks last weekend.

“I’ve basically been waiting for my chance all year and now I’m finally getting it,” Nunan said. “I just want to show the coaches that I can do that every day.”

The win overshadowed a disastrous Game 1 loss in which the Owls blew a 4-0 lead in the final two innings of play. The Hawks pulled out a 5-4 win when a passed ball allowed the winning run to score.

“We should have swept them,” Nunan said. “But two out of three, it’s a win in the series.”

The Owls entered the series 1-8 in the Atlantic Ten Conference. They desperately needed the series win at St. Joe’s to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Owls (10-23, 3-9) now reside in fifth place in the A-10 Eastern Division.

“The season depended on that third game [of the series],” senior right fielder Pete Colon said. “The thing we had going for us was that we knew that they couldn’t beat us. We beat ourselves the second game. We knew we could take the third.”

“If you look at our standings, we’re behind,” senior pitcher Mike Weckenman said. “These next couple weekends we’ve got to take advantage of the teams we’re playing, and we’ve got to get back to some winning baseball and a winning record in the conference.”

An offensive explosion sparked the Owls. The Owls tallied 29 runs on 35 hits, including six home runs during the series. Colon and sophomore third baseman Dan Brady each socked two home runs while senior second baseman Justin Cooper led the team with seven hits.

“We’re seeing all the pitches well right now and we’re hitting the ball hard,” Colon said. “The guys hitting the ball are hitting it in gaps and it’s really helping out.”

The Owls also consistently combined good pitching with good hitting for first time in a while. In the first game, Weckenman (1-2) tossed zeroes until surrendering five earned runs his final 1 1/3 innings of work. In the second game, sophomore pitcher Chris McCafferty (2-5) yielded just two unearned runs in 4 2/3 innings of relief.

“The whole season’s [been] either pitching without hitting or hitting without pitching,” Colon said. “Now our hitting is coming along and our pitching is catching up again and it’s really starting to show.”

Game 1 of the doubleheader began Saturday, but rain forced it to be postponed until Sunday. The game resumed with one out in the bottom of the second inning.

After starting the game with five hitless innings, Weckenman allowed three runs in the sixth to drop the Owls’ lead to 4-1. But he came back out in the seventh to attempt finishing the game. With a runner on second base with one out, an RBI single by St. Joe’s shortstop Andrew Heineman tied the game. Two batters later, third baseman Nicholas Baldasari’s two-out single chased Weckenman from the game.

Upon entering, junior reliever Tim Foulkrod promptly loaded the bases with a walk. A wild pitch to the next batter allowed Heineman to score the game-winning run.

In the second game, with the help of back-to-back homers by Weckenman and Colon, the Owls built a 7-5 lead. But their defense unraveled in the eighth inning. With one out and runners on first and second, a throwing error by Brady on a ground ball allowed a run to score. One out later, McCafferty’s errant throw to first base on a grounder let the tying run to cross the plate.

With the score 7-7 in the top of the ninth, senior catcher Matt Lafferty hit a two-out double, setting the stage for Nunan’s RBI single. Three more runs scored on three errors and a double by Cooper.

John Kopp can be reached at jpk85@juno.com.

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