Wins just don’t seem to come easy for the baseball team.
Battling back from two blown leads and surviving a scary ninth inning Sunday, Temple salvaged the final game from its weekend series with visiting Xavier at Skip Wilson Field. The Owls’ 8-7 win snapped a five-game Atlantic Ten Conference losing streak and improved their home record to a respectable 6-4. After giving up two runs in the top half of two separate innings, the Owls (12-25 overall, 4-11 A-10) immediately fought back in the bottom
Xavier (19-21, 12-3) plated three runs in the fifth, but the Owls answered with two of their own to re-take the lead, 6-5.In the seventh, Xavier tied the game, but the Owls quickly struck back as Sean Barksdale
and Dan Brady catapulted the Owls to an 8-6 lead.
With the Owls up by just a run in the ninth, shortstop-turned-closer Ryan Weber allowed the first two Musketeers to reach base, but then he retired the next two with a flyout and a strikeout.
A passed ball put the tying run just 90 feet away, but Weber ended the suspense by getting Drew Schmidt to weakly ground out, giving the Owls a much-needed win.”[The win] was huge,” Brady said. “We want to stay alive [and] try to get into the playoffs. [We] had to win today.”
Starting pitcher Matt Mongiardini had another up-and-down performance, taming the Musketeers’ lineup through four innings before running into trouble in the fifth.
This has been a consistent pattern for the sophomore right-hander, who usually struggles the second or third times through an opponent’s lineup. However, he said he still felt confident at the end of the day.
“I was working with my change-up a lot [by] throwing it over the plate and it was going
good,” Mongiardini said. “Everyday I feel as though I’m getting a little bit better.
“Our team held strong,” he added. “No one on the team gets down, that’s what’s so great about us.”
With the win, the Owls bettered their playoff hopes. About a month remains in the season, and the Owls sit just two games behind sixth-place George Washington in the A-10 standings. Since the top six teams advance to the A-10 tournament in Dayton, Ohio, the Owls know that now is the time to pick up the pace.
“It’s all hands on deck now,” coach Rob Valli said. “It’s early in the season to go to that, but that’s the position we’re in.”
“Every game is a must win,” Mongiardini said. “But [the win] feels great. After [Sunday], we’re all pumped up and ready to go.”
This season has handed the Owls a number
of tight games. But despite the toll these games can take on a coach’s stomach, Valli likes to take the positive approach of these tenuous affairs.
“The close games are more fun,” he said.
“But they are a lot more fun when you win.”
The Owls travel to Plymouth Meeting Tuesday to take on city-rival Villanova. They return home this weekend for a key conference series with Saint Louis.
Barksdale’s double in the third inning extended his hit streak to 19 games. . .
This was the 2,500th game in the 80-year history of Temple baseball, with the Owls’ record now standing at 1,347-1,120-33. . .
First baseman Dan Brady and third baseman Mike Kelch swapped positions in the sixth inning, in a move Valli said would stay in place for the rest of the season.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at