AMHERST, Mass. –
A day after taking the series opener, the Owls answered first-year head coach Ryan Wheeler
's proposed challenge of clinching the series on Saturday afternoon, as they defeated the Massachusetts Minutemen, 8-4, at Earl Lorden Field. The win gives Temple (16-26, 4-10) its first Atlantic 10 series victory since the final weekend of the 2010 season (May 20-22 at St. Bonaventure) and matches their league win total from a season ago.
Things got dicey after UMass's (15-16, 8-6) seventh inning at bat. Leading since the second inning, the Minutemen jumped in front, taking a 4-3 lead.
Temple maintained its composure and is starting to develop a swagger in these one-run situations over the past four games.
In the eighth, junior Foster Dunigan
led off the inning with a single through the left side. The king of comeback antics himself, redshirt senior Steve Nikorak
stepped into the batter's box. Looking to lay down a bunt to put Dunigan in scoring position, Nikorak couldn't get the right pitch and suddenly was wearing a 3-0 count. A look down the third base line, Wheeler gave Nikorak the green light. A pitch down the middle, Nikorak swung and hit a towering home run over the right field wall to put the Owls back in control.
Nikorak's dinger was the second in the series and the third in his last four games, putting his season total at five, which leads the team.
From that point on, the Owls made sure they put the Minutemen away.
A walk by junior Elijah Yarborough
and two more hits from Juran and Khan, yielded to Yarboriugh crossing the dish and the Owls adding insurance, leading by a count of 6-4.
Senior Brian Sustersic
came on in relief of redshirt junior Steve Visnic
, who earned his third win of the season and is now seven appearances away from most all-time at Temple.
Having one at bat left, the Owls made sure they gave themselves and Sustersic plenty of room to work with.
Sustersic completed the final two innings and notched his sixth save of the season, which places him in a tie for eighth place on the all-time saves list at Temple.
Temple juiced the bases with one out in the ninth. Yarborough worked for a walk, scoring Dungian, who started the rally with a double. Junior Henry Knabe
laced a single to score Nikorak to give the Owls to inevitable 8-4 lead.
UMass starter Glenn Misho retired the first four batters he faced, but the Owls found ways to solve him shortly. The Owls responded with four straight hits with one out in the second inning, as senior Taylor Juran
and Jabair Khan
singled and scored after back-to-back base hits by redshirt junior Matt Elko
and junior Allen Stiles
Temple had no issues putting the ball in play, as it strafed Misho for 13 hits in his outing.
Sophomore Matt Hockenberry
picked up where senior Dan Moller
left off Friday and pitched as effective on Saturday. Hockenberry pitched 6.1 innings and held the Minutemen scoreless over the first 5.1. Leaving the game in the middle of the seventh, his book closed with him being charged just one of the three runs scored on seven hits during his outing, Hockenberry struck out three while issuing two free passes.
Already having the series clinched, the Owls will look for their first A-10 series sweep since March 27-28, 2009 when they took all three games from the La Salle Explorers at Skip Wilson Field. Ironically, the last time Temple swept a conference series on the road was March 27-28, 2004 at Hank DeVincent Field.
Freshman southpaw Patrick Peterson
will take the mound for Temple when the Owls close out the series in Amherst on Sunday at Noon. Right-hander Joe Popielarczyk, who has been the team's ace with a 5-0 record and 1.12 ERA will take the hill for UMass.