In the final two games of the three-game weekend, Temple (2-3) split the two-game doubleheader with Holy Cross (1-3) in Blacksburg, Va.
Beginning at 11 a.m., it took the Owls little time for their bats to wake up as they defeated Holy Cross 13-12 after a four-run ninth inning and a walk-off single from senior third baseman Henry Knabe that won the game for Temple.
“It was a very long day,” coach Ryan Wheeler said. “We were out on the field at 8:30 a.m. and didn’t get off the field until about 7:30 p.m. so it was a long day to say the least.”
Jumping out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, Temple quickly found themselves on top of the Crusaders 9-2 in the bottom of the sixth after senior third baseman Henry Knabe doubled, scoring junior first baseman Derek Peterson. But Holy Cross gave everything it had until the final pitch of the game.
“We were cruising early, but let them right back in it,” Wheeler said.
In the top of the seventh inning, Holy Cross sophomore right-fielder Evan Ocello lead off the inning with a triple. Two Crusader singles and a walk lead to the exit of Owls’ junior starting pitcher Matt Hockenberry.
Freshman pitcher Tim McCarthy replaced Hockenberry, but after facing three batters without recording an out, red shirt-sophomore pitcher Zach Batchelor relieved McCarthy. Batchelor got the Owls out of trouble with a strikeout and a bases loaded double play to end the seventh inning with Temple leading 9-6.
Hockenberry finished his day with 6.0 innings pitched, six hits, four runs (two unearned), 2 walks, and four strikeouts.
After a quick 1-2-3 inning for the Owls, the Crusaders bats were back at work once again. Freshman third baseman Nick Lovullo singled, scoring Ocello and just one batter later, junior Mike Ahmed reached on a fielder’s choice, scoring senior shortstop Alex Maldonado. Leading by one run, Temple went to redshirt-senior Steve Visnic, who with the appearance set Temple’s record for all-time pitching appearances.
Visnic gave up a bases loaded walk, tying the game at 9-9, but a double play one batter later sent the Owls to the bottom of the eighth inning. Another quick bottom half of the inning lead to another rally for the Crusaders in the top of the ninth.
In the top of the ninth Visnic hit two Holy Cross players with pitches, followed by a Maldonado single and one more hit by pitch before being replaced by redshirt-junior Ryan Keuhn. Leading the Owls 11-9, one last single by freshman catcher Connor Perry gave the Crusaders the 12-9 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
In the bottom of the ninth, redshirt-junior outfielder David Hall reached on a Holy Cross fielding error, which was followed by a double from senior infielder Elijah Yarborough. Three Owls’ walks lead to a pitching change to junior pitcher Mike Ahmed with the Owls down 12-11.
Sophomore shortstop Nick Lustrino knocked a single which tied the game at 12-12 with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Following junior first baseman Derek Peterson’s fly out, a Knabe walk-off single gave Temple the 13-12 win.
“It was a lot of fun,” Knabe said about hitting his first ever walk-off hit. “I got a good pitch to hit right down the middle and I just hit it back up the middle. It was really a lot of fun.”
Despite 10 runs in the final three innings for Holy Cross and five Temple errors, the Owls were able to grab their second win of the season and their second win in as many days.
“I think we were thinking about sweeping the series early on in the first game and that’s why we lost our focus,” Lustrino said. “The coaches told us last night that no matter how many runs Holy Cross is down, they would claw and fight until the final pitch and that was exactly what they did today.”
In the second game of the day which began at 3:33 p.m., sophomore pitcher Patrick Peterson started his first game of the season for the Owls.
After putting 13 runs on the scoreboard in game one, the Owls tried to provide one last ninth inning comeback just as they did in game one, but fell short in the 8-6 loss to the Crusaders.
Entering the ninth inning down 8-3, the Owls were looking for their second win of the day earned in the ninth inning. A single from Henry Knabe lead off the inning, followed by a walk from redshirt-junior outfielder Daniel Dragos.
Redshirt-junior outfielder David Hall singled, which scored Dragos and shrunk the Holy Cross lead to 8-4.
Following a freshman outfielder Jimmy Kerrigan strikeout, junior catcher Andrew Nist singled and put the Owls down by three. One more Owl strikeout and a single from senior outfielder Allen Stiles had the bases loaded for sophomore Nick Lustrino, who put Temple behind by two runs with an RBI single.
With two outs in the top of the ninth, the bases loaded and a full-count, Derek Peterson fouled out to first base, ending the comeback effort for the Owls.
“We had our chances and we certainly had the right guys up at the plate, but we just didn’t get it done in the second game today,” Wheeler said.
In the second game of the day, Temple recorded 12 hits to Holy Cross’ 11, but also led the Crusaders with two errors to their one.
With a win and loss for each team, Temple earned its second win while its record sits at 2-3 on the season after the weekend. Holy Cross earned their first win of the season in the second game of the day and improved its record to 1-3.
“We didn’t play very good defense behind our pitchers today, but we did do a lot of other things right,” Wheeler said. “We got a lot of things from it, certainly more positive than negative.”
Temple’s next game will be on Friday, March 1 at 3:00 p.m. against Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va. Following Friday’s game, the Owls will also face the Monarchs on Saturday, March 2 at 2:00 p.m. and Sunday, March 3 at 1:00 p.m.
“The two wins we had today really shows what potential we have,” Lustrino said. “I really can’t wait to get the rest of the season fully under way.”
John Murrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JohnMurrow12.