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NINTH INNING MELTDOWN COSTS SJU LIBERTY BELL TITLE
Courtesy: SJU Athletic Communications  
Release:  09/01/2004
PHILADELPHIA (4/02/03)- Just three outs away form their first Liberty Bell Classic title, the Saint Joseph's baseball team (6-15) self destructed, allowing Temple (6-13) to rally for four runs in the top of the ninth inning and shock the Hawks 5-3 to win the tournament title at Veterans Stadium. The late inning implosion wasted a brilliant effort by Hawk starter Al Braun, who allowed just one run over seven innings, but he received a no-decision. SJU held a 3-1 advantage entering the ninth, but junior Erik Vardijan, who relieved Braun in the eighth, allowed a single and a hit a batter to open the frame. Vardijan then gave way to senior Erik Holman on the hill. Holman induced the first batter he faced to pop up for the first out of the inning and then coaxed a groundball for what appeared to be the second out. Senior Mike DeLorenzo,however, was called for catcher's interference, erasing the out and loading the bases. Holman then hit a batter to force in a run and make it 3-2. Temple's Pete Colon followed by crushing a bases clearing three-run double into the gap in left center to put TU on top 5-3. St. Joe's managed to get the tying runs aboard in the bottom of the ninth, but could not draw the game even. SJU took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on an RBI single by senior Kevin Dougher. The Hawks then loaded the bases, but left them full. Temple tied the game on a solo home run in the fifth inning. That was the only hit allowed by Braun through seven innings of work. SJU took the lead 3-1 in the sixth inning. The Hawks strung together four straight singles to plate the two runs. Juniors Jason Tarewicz and Bill McCollum each had RBIs in the frame, while freshman Ryan Stadanlick and DeLorenzo scored for the Hawks. The Hawks stranded 12 runners in the game, while the Owls left only five men on base. Holman (0-5) took the loss for SJU. Temple sophomore Chris Kurtz (3-0) tossed three innings of shut out relief and picked up the win. Kurtz was named tournament MVP after posting two wins and a save in three games. The Hawks have now blown ninth inning leads in both of their Liberty Bell final appearances. in 1999, SJU coughed up a three run advantage and lost to Villanova 14-13. Temple won the tournament for the third time. SJU will host Duquesne in a three-game Atlantic 10 series at Elmwood Park over the weekend.