The Quakers had a 4-1 lead after the top of the fifth, but fell in 10 innings to city rival Temple. Even a little rain couldn't spell the Penn baseball team's Veterans Stadium drought. Battling a constant drizzle, the Quakers (8-8) lost their eighth straight Liberty Bell Classic opener, this one a 5-4 extra-inning heartbreaker against Temple (7-11-2). Getting six solid innings from sophomore starter Mike Mattern -- last year's staff ace -- and holding a 4-3 lead after seven innings, Penn looked as if it was on its way to exorcising its Liberty Bell demons. But missed opportunities at the plate and costly walks from their relief pitchers left the Quakers shaking their heads. Mattern got off to an inauspicious start when Temple leadoff man Jim Tully greeted him with a home run in the bottom of the first inning. But Mattern bore down and showed flashes of the stuff that won him six of the Quakers' nine victories last season. In the third inning, Mattern got into trouble when a leadoff single followed by a walk and an error put men on second and third with no outs. But Mattern used two timely strikeouts and a fly out to get out of the jam. Penn responded offensively the next inning. Center fielder Andrew McCreery, who went 2-for-4 on the day, smacked a single up the middle. Chris May then singled to right on a hit-and-run, giving freshman Nick Italiano runners at the corners with just one out. Italiano popped out foul behind third base, but McCreery alertly tagged up and scored, as Owls third baseman Sam Sabolchick had to make an awkward over-the-shoulder catch that put him in poor throwing position. Penn right fielder Kevin McCabe, who has found a new home at the nine-spot in Penn coach Bob Seddon's lineup, singled May home to put the Quakers up, 2-1. After a one-two-three bottom half of the fourth by Mattern, Penn added two more runs to its lead. Glen Ambrosius reached base on a fielder's choice, stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw by Temple catcher Andrew Clemens. Cleanup hitter Jeff Gregorio drew a walk, and then Ron Rolph singled home Ambrosius. McCreery then hit a deep grounder to Owls shortstop Cap Poklemba, whose quick throw to second was mishandled by second baseman Tully, loading the bases with only one out. But the Quakers could only manage one more run in the inning off a May sacrifice fly that scored Gregorio and made the score 4-1 Penn after four and a half. The Owls clawed their way back into the game in the bottom of the fifth. A two-run triple from Temple's top hitter, Rob Cucinotta, brought the North-siders back to within one run. By the end of the sixth inning, Mattern had already thrown 120 pitches, so Seddon and pitching coach Bill Wagner brought in junior Matt Hepler to pitch at the start of the seventh inning. "If we pitched [Mattern] any more, we wouldn't have him for the weekend," Seddon said. "You can't let a kid pitch more than that." After a scoreless seventh, Hepler walked Sabolchick to start the bottom of the eighth, and a wild pitch allowed him to advance to second. Next, Hepler walked Bob Filler, but Hepler's fourth ball was also a wild pitch, advancing Sabolchick to third. With runners at the corners and no outs, Seddon brought in freshman Paul Grumet. Grumet struck out his first batter, but then gave up a sacrifice fly to Poklemba that knotted the score at four apiece. A leadoff walk in the bottom of the 10th turned out to be Grumet's downfall. A single, a sacrifice bunt and an intentional pass loaded the bases. Then, substitute designated hitter Kyle Sweppenhiser singled to right center to clinch the win for Temple. Temple pitcher Jeff Rugg silenced the Quakers' bats in relief of starter Chris Joyce. The junior reliever pitched the eighth, ninth and 10th innings for the Owls, his only blemish being a leadoff, warning-track triple to May in the top of the eighth. "We didn't put them away when we had the chance," Seddon said. "We didn't score when we had a runner on third and nobody out." The Quakers only managed one hit -- May's triple -- after the fifth inning, and four times Penn had runners in scoring position with one out or less, but failed to convert. "It's too bad. That ball almost went out of there," Seddon said of May's warning-track shot. "If he hit it anywhere else in the ballpark it was a home run."Comments powered by Disqus
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