The final season of the Temple softball program came to an end on Thursday. The No. 6 seed Owls fought hard against No. 3 seed Louisville in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament, but the Cardinals hit a late two-run home run to defeat the Owls, 5-3.
“It’s just tough for everyone,” coach Joe DiPietro said. “Like the coaches, now we don’t have jobs. Now you have to hope someone will hire you. I’m still trying to make sure that all my players get to a school where they can be taken care of by the other coaches. Because they’re always going to be my players.”
So far, only two players have found other schools – sophomore right-handed pitcher Kelsey Dominik will be playing for Coastal Carolina next season, and freshman righty Amanda Gatt will be transferring to Siena College.
Dominik was the starter in the Owls’ final game, and helped her own cause in the first inning by hitting a sac fly to drive in senior shortstop Sarah Prezioso.
Louisville responded quickly in the bottom of the frame. With two outs, two consecutive Cardinal hitters knocked 3-2 pitches from the right-handed Dominik for home runs, to put Louisville up by a run.
The Cardinals continued to hurt Dominik and the Owls with the long ball in the second inning, with Kayla Soles hitting a lead-off home run to give Louisville a 3-1 lead.
But in the top of the third, Owls’ freshman catcher Kaylyn Zierke hit a two-run shot to drive in Dominik and tie the game at three all.
The Owls threatened in the fifth, but could not score. Dominik walked and Zierke singled with one out, but junior right fielder Julia Kastner grounded into a fielders’ choice, with Dominik out at third, and then senior third baseman Devynne Nelons struck out swinging to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, with the game still tied, Soles hit her second home run of the day off of Dominik, giving Louisville a 5-3 lead.
The Owls went down in order in the top of the seventh, and the 40-year history of Temple softball came to an end.
The Owls finished the season on a 10-game losing streak, and compiled a final record of 15-30 overall and 5-13 in The American.
The team played only seven games at home because of snow, rain and poor field conditions. In addition, many of the starters sustained injuries throughout the season, including senior catcher/first baseman Stephanie Pasquale, who decided to medically redshirt the season after breaking her hand; sophomore second baseman Leah Lucas, who cut her leg earlier in the season; freshman infielder Jess Haug and junior outfielder Lacey McKeon, who both suffered concussions; and Nelons, senior pitcher/first baseman Brooklin White and freshman outfielder Toni Santos, who all had to sit out several games with the flu.
But DiPietro said the frustration and sadness about the cuts was ultimately what hurt the Owls in their final season.
“With the hand these kids have been dealt, I’m surprised we won 15 games,” DiPietro said.
Don McDermott can be reached at email@example.com.