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Quick Shout Out To The Temple Baseball Team For Going Down Swinging

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PHILLY – The Owls (14-29, 8-13 American Athletic Conference) won their first contest in the final three-game homestand against 12th-ranked Houston (40-14, 13-8), 4-1. They clinched a spot in the inaugural AAC Tournament, which starts next Wednesday at Bright House Field, the Phillies’ spring-training home in Clearwater, Fla. They haven’t been to a conference tourney since 2008, when they were in the Atlantic 10.

This, after six players – including their top two starting pitchers, closer, shortstop and centerfielder – opted to transfer. The roster is 22 deep, 13 fewer than a program is allowed to have. Also, Wheeler, a Souderton High product who is in his third season, recruited 11 players for next year who will not be coming to North Broad Street.

“Two pitchers who left were on the mound for North Carolina State on TV the other night,” Wheeler said. “That’s what hurts the most. I believe we were on the right track. Then this all happened.

“I’m extremely proud of them. I tell them that quite a bit. We played [at home] last Friday against Louisville, which is ranked fifth. They threw two kids that you’re going to see [in the majors] someday. We lost, 2-0. But we hung in and competed. That’s how it’s been . . . When I first got here, one of the things I heard was how Temple had always been known as a gritty program. We wanted to bring that back. Even though the time era is different and kids are different today, I think this group has exemplified that to the fullest. Every single day, when they really didn’t have to. That says a lot about them.”

Since 1927, Temple has fielded a team on the diamond. When the school’s administration announced they’re cutting 7 sports programs effective next year, including baseball, this squad could’ve rolled over and called it a life. Sure, a 14-29 record isn’t anything to be glorifying, but after 6 of their top players jumped ship going into a lame duck season it’s nothing short of remarkable they’re giving teams like Louisville a fight and beating 16th ranked Houston. It’s even more amazing they’ve qualified for a conference tourney for the first time in 6 years.

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It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, you have to love a team full of Dead Men Walking stuffing their jocks and fighting till the last pitch. They’ll need to take down the AAC tournament to get an automatic bid in the College World Series, which will obviously be a tough feat. But anything can happen if they get into the tournament. In 2008, Fresno St. was the equivalent to a 16 seed in basketball and took down the title. Would I put money on them making the dance? Shit no. But this team is like the Cleveland Indians in Major League. Nobody’s giving them a shot and this is most of the player’s last chance to put on a uniform. The mentality has to be balls or bust.

And I guess there’s only one thing left to do.