Sports

Softball playoff picture now less cloudy

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the Owls put themselves in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot with a 6-4 win over Dayton at the Ambler Sports Complex.

When people think about playing softball, they connect the game to a nice, sunny day.

But that didn’t happen for nine of the Owls’ regular season games this season.

While having nine games canceled because of rain could have proven disastrous, first-year coach Joe DiPietro thought otherwise.

“It really didn’t hurt us much,” he said. “We had some kids banged up, and the time actually helped us in a way, especially with our pitching staff. It gave our pitching coach a chance to work with them a little bit more and get them straightened out.”

While those games helped the Owls in a way, they also had a downside. DiPietro said they put the team in must-win situations more often.

And Saturday was one of them.

The Owls dropped the first game on Friday against fellow Atlantic Ten Conference opponent Dayton, 13-8.

“I talked to them before we came down to [the game] and told them it was a must-win game,” DiPietro said. “We had to win, and they responded.”

The Owls did respond, and in a big way, beating Dayton, 6-4, Saturday afternoon. With the victory, the Cherry and White improved its record to 12-22 overall and 6-6 in the A-10.

The win, which tied Temple for fifth place in the A-10 with Saint Joseph’s, came on Senior Day, and the seniors made an impact.

After the Owls jumped on top of the Flyers, 2-0, after two innings, Dayton answered back with two runs of its own in the top of the third inning.

But in the bottom of the third, Temple answered right back with a three-run rally. Senior third baseman Nicole Lee started the rally, blasting the first pitch she saw over the right field wall.

“I came up to bat, and I [thought] maybe I should take the fist pitch,” Lee said. “My assistant coach said, ‘No, if it is there, take it,’ and I took her advice.”

Lee said her home run started the rally because “hitting is contagious. Once one person gets a hit, everybody gets a hit.”

After the Owls plated three, Dayton promptly scored two runs in the top of the fourth inning.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, senior pitcher Katie Burdeaux, who earned the save with three and two-third innings of relief, helped herself out by hitting an RBI double.

“It was definitely exciting,” Burdeaux said of her double. “I have trouble hitting with people on the bases, and it was definitely a confidence [booster]. Everyone today preformed in the clutch. Not only was it a must-win, but it gave everyone confidence.”

While the Owls have had numerous cancellations, there were other problems during the season.

At the beginning of the season, it looked as if the Owls would miss the postseason and not even contend in the A-10.

The Cherry and White dropped 18 of its first 19 games, and the team was on the fast-track to missing the postseason.

However, the Owls turned their season around and won the next 11 of 15 games.

Now, as the season comes to an end, the original estimation of missing the playoffs seems like just that – an estimation – based on current play.

When he talks about the playoffs now, DiPietro said the team will “absolutely” make them.

“I would be disappointed if we don’t,” DiPietro said. “Once the tournament starts, anything can happen.”

The Owls return to action this afternoon at Iona. They finish up their regular season and A-10 play with two games this weekend against St. Bonaventure in Olean, N.Y.

Nick Hollenstein can be reached at n.hollenstein@temple.edu.

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