Temple sees ninth-inning lead vanish in loss

Owls fall 5-4 despite entering ninth with 4-2 lead.

In the final game of a three-game series against UNC Asheville (6-10), Temple (3-8) fell 5-4 and finished the weekend series by taking one out of three games from the Bulldogs.

Despite entering the top of the ninth inning leading 4-2, the Owls’ bullpen was unable to stop the Bulldogs’ offense as it rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth, taking the final game of the weekend from the Owls.

“We let another opportunity and another win get away from us today,” coach Ryan Wheeler said.

In the top of the first inning, the Owls jumped out to an early lead as senior designated hitter Henry Knabe singled up the middle scoring senior second baseman Jordan Queja, who reached base on a leadoff single.

Following Temple in the bottom half of the first, UNC Asheville scored a run of their own to even the score at 1-1. A leadoff single by junior shortstop Eli Miller followed by a wild pitch lead to a groundout to shortstop from redshirt-junior third baseman Robert McIntosh, scoring Miller.

The pitching duel continued for four scoreless innings until the Owls adjusted to Bulldogs’ starter freshman pitcher Lucas Clarke in the top of the sixth inning. With one out in the top of the sixth, sophomore shortstop Nick Lustrino forced a walk, followed by back-to-back wild pitches and a throwing error from Bulldog’s junior catcher Sam Turner, which gave Temple the 2-1 lead.

Junior pitcher Ethan Steible replaced Clarke for UNC Asheville with one out in the top of the sixth. Clarke finished the day with 5.1 innings pitched, four hits, two runs (one earned) and recorded four walks and three strikeouts for the Bulldogs.

In the bottom half of the sixth inning, junior center-fielder Phillip Treadway singled to center field, scoring freshman pinch runner Justin Woods and went down as an unearned run for Owls’ pitcher Hill. Temple escaped the bottom of the seventh inning with the scored tied 2-2.

With the score tied 2-2 entering the top of the eighth, the Owls were able to put together a two-run inning that began as Lustrino was hit by a pitch. A single down the right field line from Knabe had runners on second and third base with one out. Following a Temple ground out, junior third baseman Derek Peterson singled to right field, scoring Lustrino and Knabe and giving the Owls the 4-2 lead.

Entering the bottom of the seventh inning, Temple’s Hill had given up four hits against the Bulldogs. After a leadoff single from UNC Asheville’s Woods, Hill was able to record two outs before a wild pitch and a walk that saw his exit from the game.

Hill finished the game with 7.2 innings pitched, five hits, two runs (one earned), while recording two walks and five strikeouts against the Bulldogs.

Redshirt-sophomore pitcher Zach Batchelor followed Hill in the bottom of the eighth and despite a walking his first batter to load the bases, a fly out to left center ended the UNC Asheville threat.

Entering with a two run cushion in the bottom of the ninth, Batchelor quickly recorded two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the Owls leading 4-2, but the Bulldogs offense did not give up.

Three singles and a Lustrino error with two outs in the ninth tied the game at 4-4. With a runner on second base, senior right-fielder Todd Joyner singled through the right side, scoring sophomore first baseman Hunter Bryant and the sealing the 5-4 win for the Bulldogs.

The walk-off win was the second of the weekend for UNC Asheville as the Bulldogs defeated Temple 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning on Friday afternoon.

“We really should have swept all three games this weekend,” Wheeler said. “Losing today and Friday on a walk-off really hurt us.”

Temple’s Hill earned a no decision in the loss Sunday, while Batchelor earned his first loss of the 2013 season despite giving up three runs, all unearned.

In Sunday’s game, the Owls scored four runs on seven hits while recording four team errors, while the Bulldogs scored five runs on nine hits and recorded two team errors.

Temple’s next game will be on Tuesday, March 12 at Longwood in Farmville, Va. at 4:00 p.m., a day before the Owls’ home opener at Skip Wilson Field in Ambler, Pa. against Lafayette at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13.

“When you make errors and walk people, bad things are going to happen and unfortunately that happened to us in the ninth inning,” Wheeler said.

John Murrow can be reached at john.murrow@temple.edu or Twitter @JohnMurrow12.

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