On March 4, the Owls celebrated a victory against Niagara in the Rebel Spring games. With it, came some costly losses.
Senior catcher/first baseman Stephanie Pasquale injured her left hand and junior outfielder Lacey McKeon suffered a concussion. Three days later, freshman infielder Jessica Haug also sustained a concussion.
Now, a month and a half later, injuries have become a theme of the Owls’ season. Pasquale redshirted the season and McKeon may be out for the year, while Haug and other players have been in and out with injuries and illnesses. Sophomore second baseman Leah Lucas missed time with a cut leg and senior pitcher/first baseman Brooklin White, freshman outfielder Toni Santos and senior third baseman Devynne Nelons have all missed time with the flu.
“I think [the injuries] affected [us] in a huge way,” coach Joe DiPietro said. “Some players that I had hoped to kind of get some on-the-job training, but at a slower pace, they’re now in a starting role.
“Then the sicknesses,” DiPietro added. “When it rained it poured, and we could never catch a break where we had a healthy lineup for any consistent time. It’s changed pretty much by the game.”
McKeon and Haug both were cleared to play against Memphis on April 5. But after the series, McKeon was once again out with concussion symptoms, and Haug was scratched from the lineup of Temple’s second game against Towson on April 9 with recurring symptoms.
“It’s just a horrible situation for them,” senior shortstop Sarah Prezioso said. “They’ve been trying their best to come back. But when they are OK to come back, something happens where they end up feeling worse the next day. We’re not at all pushing them to come back.”
DiPietro said he followed the proper procedures for concussions.
“They all had a baseline test done in the fall, which acts as a guide to where they are,” DiPietro said. “When they have a concussion, they have to pass everything and get back to that baseline. They were all cleared. When the trainer gave me the OK to let them play, that was the only time we let them do anything.”
Haug was cleared again last Tuesday, and she said she felt well after practicing. McKeon will probably not be as lucky, DiPietro said.
“[The athletic trainers] told me I should not expect her back for the rest of the year,” DiPietro said. “Maybe she would have the opportunity to come back, but I don’t think they’re very hopeful.”
“It’s been really frustrating,” McKeon said. “I thought I’d be back a lot quicker. I was back for a weekend. I wasn’t feeling well, and ever since then it’s just been on and off a lot.”
The biggest loss, though, has been Pasquale. With the program playing its final season after the Board of Trustees approved a plan last December to eliminate it after this year, Pasquale will have to transfer to another institution if she wishes to play out her final season of eligibility.
“It’s devastating to the team,” DiPietro said. “You lose an All-American, it’s going to hurt you. [Pasquale] tried to hit, and she said she still felt some discomfort in her hand, and I guess she just didn’t want to take a chance.”
Prezioso said that the team had initially thought that Pasquale had injured her shoulder, which she said was concerning.
“When we learned it was her hand, we were kind of relieved that it wasn’t anything that serious, like her shoulder,” Prezioso said. “We weren’t too upset about it at first.”
“Originally when they told me four to six weeks, I was hoping to come back within three,” Pasquale said. “And it didn’t go as planned. Just because of where it is in my hand, and the fact that I’m a catcher, I’m a power hitter. I feel like I would have just ended up fracturing it again.”
With Pasquale, Haug and McKeon out, other players have had to step up – particularly for the Towson doubleheader. Although Haug played in the first game, White, Santos and Nelons were all unable to play. Senior Kate Roth made her first career start, freshman pitcher Amanda Gatt played first base and got her first career hit. Senior pitcher Kylie Kristovich played outfield and recorded her first hit as well. Freshman Cassidy Trause made the game-tying hit in the second game.
“People have been stepping up and doing what they’re supposed to do,” Pasquale said. “The people we are playing right now are doing a fantastic job.”
Much of the offensive responsibilities have fallen on the shoulders of Prezioso, DiPietro said.
“When we had all these injuries, people asked me, ‘How come you keep her at the top [of the lineup]?” DiPietro said. “Because she sets the tone for the whole team.”
“I’m just going to do what I have to do to help the team,” said Prezioso, who leads the team with a .402 batting average. “I don’t really feel pressured. I have confidence in my teammates.”
Still, players say the season has been tough at times.
“We just try not to think about [the injuries], and just play the game,” Prezioso said. “We’re rolling with the punches, I guess you could say.”
Don McDermott can be reached at email@example.com.