PHILADELPHIA -The Penn baseball team got exactly the start it was looking for on Wednesday afternoon in the 2012 home opener, opening a 5-0 lead after two innings. But Temple did just enough to keep within striking distance for much of the game then swung the momentum in its favor with a eighth inning home run to tie the score at 7-7. The Owlsscored four times in the 11th inning to complete their dramatic late-game charge, winning 11-9. The Quakers fall to 3-6 on the season.
Connor Cuff has shown a great ability through three starts for Penn to open the game strong and give the offense a chance to open up a lead. That was on display again this afternoon as the freshman worked around a lead-off beanball in the first inning by striking out the final two of the side to squelch Temple's attempt to gain any early traction.
On the other hand, Penn came out firing in the bottom of the first. After Greg Zebrack reached after he was struck by a pitch, Spencer Branigan moved him to second with a single through the right side. Ryan Deitrich then launched a moonshot to left field off of Temple starter Ryan Kuehn to give the Quakers a 3-0 lead. With two outs in the inning, Derek Vigoa started another scoring opportunity with the first of his four hits in the game, this one to right field that was then bobbled, allowing him to reach second base. Austin Bossart brought him around to score with a bloop hit to the no-man's-land between shortstop and the outfielders.
The top of the Quaker order manufactured another run in the second inning. Speed threat Brandon Engelhardt was given a free pass to first with Kuehn's only walk of the game and moved to second on a botched pick-off attempt. The sophomore outfielder then stole third and scored on a deep sac fly from Zebrack, making it 5-0.
Temple pulled within three in the fourth inning as a lead-off walk to Steve Nikorak landed Cuff in some hot water. With a man on third and two outs, a single to right field made it 5-1, and a double to the gap in right-center for Matt Elko scored a hustling Connor Reilly before Cuff could end the frame.
Cuff exited after five innings and made way for the Quaker bullpen. Matt Gotschall and John Beasley worked around a bases-loaded jam in the sixth without giving up a run as Rick Brebner made a nice pick on a grounder to third base and went to his own bag for the force out. Temple continued to press in the seventh and this time was rewarded as they made it a one run game. Beasley had runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs but retired two in a row before being lifted for Stephen Silvestri. Silvestri had two strikes on Temple catcher Taylor Juran but just caught too much of the plate with a breaking ball that was singled back up the middle to cut the Red and Blue lead to 5-4.
Penn's offense emerged once more in the bottom half of the seventh inning. Though soft-tossing Steve Visnic had kept the Quakers in check for over two innings, Engelhardt led off the seventh inning with a double down the left field line and came around to score off a two-run shot that just stayed inside the foul pole from Branigan to the short porch in Meiklejohn Stadium's left field and putting Penn back ahead, 7-4.
Though Penn was closing in on a win over its city rival, things unraveled in the eighth. Two of the first three batters for Temple reached base before Nikorak cracked his home run of the season, suddenly re-starting the game with a tie score of 7-7.
Penn did not lack for chances in the late innings. The Quakers put the potential winning run in scoring position in the eighth, ninth and tenth innings but couldn't find a way to bring anyone home. Vince Voiro shut down Temple for two innings in relief, but he gave way to Sam Horn in the 11th and the freshman struggled with his control in the inning, giving up four runs despite allowing only one hit. Trailing 11-7, the Red and Blue refused to go down quietly, loading the bases with no one away and forcing the Owls to go to their pen. Facing Adam Dian, the Quakers would score twice and bring the winning run to the plate in the inning, but the Temple freshman showed his nerve by retiring the final two batters to earn the save.
Penn returns to the road this weekend with a three-game set at Charleston Southern on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday's doubleheader is scheduled for 12 and 3 p.m., with Sunday's getaway game set for 12 p.m.
Download: Penn-Temple Box.pdf