Entering Saturday’s game, sophomore pitcher Eric Peterson was coming off of a complete game 3-1 victory last weekend against George Washington. The right-handed pitcher was able to top last weekend’s performance with his closest attempt to a no-hitter in his collegiate career on Saturday.
After dropping the first game of the three-game series on Friday, Temple (11-15, 3-5 Atlantic 10) defeated La Salle (10-16, 5-3 A-10) 3-0 at Skip Wilson Field on Saturday, April 6.
“I don’t know that you can describe it,” Wheeler said about Peterson’s performance on the mound. “That was just an outstanding performance. After a tough loss yesterday, giving us that kind of performance on the mound is exactly what we needed, so it was an outstanding job.”
Through the first three innings, Peterson had set down nine Explorers’ batters in a row, striking out five of the nine batters faced.
In the bottom of the third inning, the Owls scored the game’s first run as a double from senior second baseman Jordan Queja scored redshirt-junior David Hall, who reached on a leadoff walk. At the end of the third inning, Temple led La Salle 1-0.
“Since Peterson was throwing a great game, I was more relaxed in the box,” Queja said. “I just tried to put a good swing on [the double] and it just worked out.”
After a quick 1-2-3 inning for the Explorers in the top of the fourth, Temple increased its lead to 2-0 as a redshirt-senior catcher Matt Elko sacrifice-fly scored senior third baseman Henry Knabe, who led the bottom of the fourth inning off with an infield single.
Following a fifth inning that sent six batters combined to the plate for both Temple and La Salle, the Owls added one run to increase their lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth. To lead off the inning, Queja sent his second double of the game to left field, which was followed by a La Salle error and a Knabe sacrifice-fly to center, which scored Queja.
“I’m not going to lie to you, but it was probably in the fifth or sixth,” Peterson said about when he began thinking about the no-hitter. “It’s probably on your mind when you see a zero out there. You can say you don’t, but everyone knows the pitcher has it on your mind.”
In the top of the eighth inning, La Salle threatened to score its first run with a one-out walk surrendered by Peterson, but a groundout to second base and an inning ending strikeout kept the no-hitter and shutout intact.
“I kept on doing the same thing,” Peterson said about the time between innings. “I was just sitting there on the same spot on the bench by myself doing my own thing.”
Entering the top of the ninth inning just three outs away from a no-hitter, freshman Joey Ravert hit a fly ball that landed just past left-fielder Allen Stile’s glove for La Salle’s first hit of the day on a leadoff double. After the double, Peterson remained in the game to record a strikeout, a groundout and a fly out to complete his first complete game shutout of his collegiate career.
“I really did,” Wheeler said about if he thought Peterson was going to complete the no-hitter. “That was a legit hit that guy got but I really thought we were going to have it today.”
Peterson finished the complete game shutout with 9.0 innings pitched, allowing no runs and one hit while recording three walks and 10 strikeouts.
While it is never a goal most pitchers to go for, Eric Peterson has flirted with a no-hitter before, just as brother Patrick has. Both brothers have come close, but have been each been three outs away from that exclusive club.
“I hope so,” Peterson said about if he will one day throw a no-hitter.”My brother came close and he couldn’t do it, but I sure hope to one day.”
Last season – almost a year to date – Patrick Peterson had a no-hitter through 8.0 innings pitched, but just as Eric did on Saturday, Patrick allowed a leadoff double in the top of the ninth inning to end the possible no-hitter.
At the completion of the game, Temple’s players and coaches each had their heads shaved to honor cancer victims and survivors.
“I will be the first one in line,” Wheeler said about having his head shaved.
The Owls will complete the third game of a three-game weekend series on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. Wheeler has yet to decide on a starting pitcher for the series finale.
“[Temple] came into this weekend wanting to take two out of three games and this puts us in a good position to do that,” Wheeler said. “If we can win [Sunday], we are right back in the race, right back in the middle of the pack and that is just where we want to be.”
John Murrow can be reached at email@example.com or Twitter @JohnMurrow12.