After going scoreless for the final eight innings of Saturday’s 11-5 loss to Cincinnati, Temple wasted no time getting on the board in Sunday’s series finale.
The Owls scored two runs on three hits in the first inning, and senior pitcher Ryan Kuehn stymied the Bearcats hitters for much of the day – en route to a 7-2 Temple win at Campbell’s Field in Camden, N.J. Temple took two of the three games from Cincinnati over the weekend.
“It felt great to obviously win another series,” coach Ryan Wheeler said. “It gives us two out of the three series’ that we’ve played so far [in conference]. Anytime we get a win it feels good.”
Senior left fielder Bobby Heitzman got the offense rolling in his first game of the series. Batting in the second spot in the lineup, Heitzman lined a double into the right-centerfield gap in the bottom of the first inning. Senior first baseman Robert Amaro smacked an RBI single into left field before scoring on a double by sophomore designated hitter Michael D’Acunti.
Kuehn (2-1, 3.15 ERA), who has mostly been a reliever in his four seasons at Temple, was starting in his third game of the season. The 6-foot-7 right hander worked his pitches all over the zone, going six innings while giving up four hits, two runs – one earned – and striking out three.
Two of Cincinnati’s four hits didn’t leave the infield.
“It was outstanding,” Wheeler said of Kuehn’s performance. “We talked yesterday after the game that everything starts with pitching. Him being a senior, he just went out there and did a great job, got us into the seventh inning and really just kept them off balance all day. It was just what we needed.”
Cincinnati (11-18, 2-7 American) scored an unearned run in the third inning before tying the game at two in the fifth inning. The Bearcats looked to have something big brewing in the fifth inning but Temple senior catcher Andrew Nist threw out an attempted steal at third base to get out of harm’s way.
In the bottom of the fifth, senior shortstop Josh Mason singled into right field. He was moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt from junior second baseman Reyn Sugai. Heitzman then tallied his second RBI of the game with a single into left-centerfield to put Temple ahead for good, 3-2.
Kuehn allowed just one hit in the sixth inning, an infield hit to Mason at shortstop. He made his final three outs look easy – two infield popups to go with a strikeout to finish off his outing.
“Ryan’s been traditionally a bullpen guy for us his first three years,” Wheeler said. “We didn’t know how long he could go, how deep, because he’s not been conditioned to go that far. But today he went into the seventh, he was very efficient, so he certainly makes me feel more comfortable going into next weekend.”
Sophomore reliever Tim McCarthy came on to pitch the seventh inning. After allowing two batters to reach base, McCarthy was able to get out of the jam with a strikeout.
Temple (9-15, 4-5) added a run in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI fielder’s choice from senior third baseman Derek Peterson. Peterson appeared to ground into an inning-ending double play, but Cincinnati first baseman Devin Wenzel came off the first base bag and Peterson was ruled safe.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Owls put the game away. After a single from David Hall and a walk from Nist, Mason reached first base after attempting a sacrifice bunt. For the second consecutive inning, Wenzel came off the bag too early on the throw from the pitcher and Mason was given first base.
An RBI single from Sugai followed by back-to-back sacrifice flies from Heitzman and Peterson extended the lead to 7-2.
In both wins this weekend, Temple used timely hitting and took advantage of Cincinnati’s mistakes to earn victories.
“You can get hits when there’s no pressure on you,” Wheeler said. “But the guys that make the money are the guys that get hits when it counts. We just kept trying to put runners in scoring position and get a couple knocks when it counted, and today it worked out for us.”
Junior closer Zach Batchelor came on in the eighth inning to earn a six-out save, his second of the weekend and fifth on the season.
Temple will travel to Monmouth University for a non-conference game on Tuesday before hosting conference foe South Florida for a three-game weekend series at Campbell’s Field next weekend.
Jeffrey Neiburg can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg.