At some point this season, one would think that first-year baseball coach Rob Valli would have to ask the baseball gods for a little mercy.
Valli received just that, only it was not the form of mercy that he may have desired.
The Owls were beaten by Atlantic Ten Conference leader Charlotte, 12-2, at Tom and Lib Phillips Field on Sunday. The game was called in the bottom of the seventh due to an A-10 10-run mercy rule only effective on Sundays.
The loss marks the sixth consecutive loss for the Owls, who have lost 11 of their last 12. In their last six losses, they have been outscored, 70-13.
With 33 games remaining on their schedule, the Owls need to start winning if they are to avoid a final record similar to that of the 1997 Temple team that finished 16-32 overall and 9-12 in A-10 play. The Owls, who are 6-19 this season and 1-5 in the A-10, have had three losing streaks of four or more games. The 1997 Owls strung together two nine-game losing runs.
In the home half of the first, Charlotte left fielder O’Brien Taylor reached first on a ball misplayed by Owls freshman shortstop Casey Sellen. The Owls had a chance to get out of the inning when the 49ers’ next batter hit a routine double-play ball, but the Owls were forced to settle for a fielder’s choice, instead.
The next Charlotte batter – junior right fielder Spencer Steedley – smacked a two-run home run to right-center off sophomore starting pitcher Tom Dolan. Steedley’s second homer in as many days gave the 49ers a 2-0 lead. Dolan plunked the next batter, who advanced on a wild pitch and eventually scored on a single.
“We had a dead double-play ball, but we got a bad feed on the throw, and we were actually lucky to get the one out,” coach Rob Valli said. “We should have been out of that inning without giving up any runs. Unfortunately we gave up four.”
Charlotte pitcher Derek McDaid mowed through the first eight batters of Temple’s lineup before eventually hitting Sellen with a pitch. The 49ers starter struck out eight in throwing his third-straight complete game.
Temple did not land its first base hit until the bottom of the fourth inning, when junior third baseman Dan Brady lifted a two-out single to right field. McDaid then walked freshman designated hitter Lenny DelGrippo to put runners on first and second, but freshman second baseman Pat Riley grounded to short to end the inning.
In the top of the sixth inning, freshman centerfielder Jamie Abercrombie singled up the middle and advanced to second on a throwing error by Charlotte’s shortstop. The Owls finally got on the board when Brady ripped a double down the left field line that plated Abercrombie.
“We’ve been digging ourselves a hole lately. We’ve got to switch it up and start scoring runs early and often,” Brady said. “We’re hitting the ball well, we just need to start hitting better in clutch situations.” Brady finished the day going 2-for-3 with a run batted in.
Charlotte (21-8, 6-0 A-10) put the game out of reach with a six-run sixth inning. The 49ers batted around, taking advantage of three wild pitches.
Sophomore outfielder Devon Swope knocked in the other Temple run in the top of the seventh when he plated Riley with a single to right field.
Defense aside, Valli said he was pleased with the Owls’ play last weekend.
“We hit really well [last weekend],” Valli said. “We outhit them the first two games, but we haven’t been playing good defense. When you don’t play defense, and hit like we do, it’s tough to win games.”
Dolan threw six innings on Sunday, giving up eight hits and four unearned runs while striking out four. Sophomore pitcher Rob Licata relieved Dolan in the sixth inning before the 10-run mercy rule ended the Owls’ comeback run.
Before going on the road next weekend for a series against Fordham (11-15, 5-1), the Owls host Lehigh on Wednesday.
Kevin Maloney can be reached at email@example.com.