A little small ball coupled with fielding mistakes from Cincinnati was all Temple needed to earn a victory on Friday afternoon.
The Owls used three sacrifice flies, two sacrifice bunts and two stolen bases – all while taking advantage of five Cincinnati errors – to pick up a 7-5 win in the program’s first home game at Campbell’s Field in Camden, N.J.
“It was a tough day to play,” coach Ryan Wheeler said. “It was cold, wet, damp but I thought we did a nice job. It wasn’t perfect. We made some mistakes but they just made more. We took advantage of them.”
Senior pitcher Matt Hockenberry was solid yet again, going seven innings, scattering seven hits while giving up three runs – two earned – and striking out eight.
Hockenberry improved to 4-1 on the year with a 3.04 ERA. He’s now given up five extra base hits through 47.1 innings.
“We knew that Cincinnati had a rough start to their season, and we did too,” Hockenberry said. “According to Baseball America this is the sixth-best conference in the nation. So you literally can’t take anyone lightly.”
The teams traded a run each in the second inning.
Temple (8-14, 3-4 American) got on the board after senior first baseman Robert Amaro singled into the hole between first and second. Sophomore catcher Michael D’Acunti advanced Amaro to second with a bunt and sophomore outfielder Frank D’Agostino smacked an RBI single to knot the game at one.
With the score tied at two in the bottom of the fourth, the Owls loaded the bases. D’Agostino singled, senior Daniel Dragos reached base on an error and senior Josh Mason walked. Junior second baseman Reyn Sugai hit a fly ball into left field, scoring D’Agostino.
The Bearcats (10-17, 1-6) tied the game right back up at three in the top of the fifth with a sacrifice fly of their own.
In the bottom of the fifth, after senior third baseman Derek Peterson walked, D’Acunti scorched a line drive down the right field line for a triple – scoring Peterson. D’Agostino then hit a comebacker to the mound, which looked to be a double play ball. Instead, Cincinnati committed an error when shortstop Connor McVey dropped the ball, allowing D’Acunti to cross the plate and give the Owls a 5-3 lead.
“I’ve played in this ballpark before and the balls just don’t fly out of here, it doesn’t carry,” Wheeler said. “I knew we were going to have to manufacture runs. We had worked on our bunting and short game during the middle of the week in practice. That was good to see.”
Hockenberry allowed just one base runner in the sixth and seventh innings, his final two of the game.
The Owls added to the lead in the in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly from senior designated hitter Andrew Nist and again in the seventh on an RBI double by sophomore center fielder Jimmy Kerrigan. Temple led 7-3 when Hockenberry departed after the seventh.
Senior pitcher Preston Hill gave up a pair of runs in the eighth inning when Temple committed two errors. But junior closer Zach Batchelor shut the door in the ninth inning, earning his fourth save of the season.
Friday was Temple’s second home game of the season after hosting Delaware on Tuesday at Skip Wilson Field in Ambler. The season opener at Campbell’s had long been anticipated after a deal was struck to bring the Owls there for their American Conference home games back in November.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Wheeler said. “We’ve talked about it for so long. To finally play here was great. The guys were really excited and pumped up and I think it carried over into how we played today. This is obviously a great facility. We’re excited to be here and looking forward to getting back out here when the sun is out tomorrow.”
The new conference foes will meet again on Saturday at 7 p.m. before closing out the three-game series on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Jeffrey Neiburg can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg.