The Owls struggled last weekend in their first three games against a conference rival. Temple fell to Houston by the eight-run mercy rule in both games of its Saturday doubleheader, before taking a close loss on Sunday, 7-6.
The Owls’ offense was dormant on Saturday. After senior shortstop Sarah Prezioso doubled to lead off the first game, Cougars’ pitcher Diedre Outon held the Owls hitless, and only gave up two walks.
Houston’s offense was also quiet throughout the first two innings, but two RBI doubles in the third put the Cougars up 2-0.
Temple’s starting pitcher, right-handed freshman Amanda Gatt, got into another jam in the fourth. After getting the first two outs, Gatt walked three consecutive batters to load the bases. But the next batter flew out to left field, and Gatt was left in to pitch the fifth.
In that frame, Houston took advantage of an error by sophomore second baseman Leah Lucas, a hit batter, an illegal pitch and five hits to knock in six runs. With the score at 6-0, Temple coach Joe DiPietro replaced Gatt with junior righty Jessica Mahoney, but the first batter Mahoney faced hit a 2-RBI single to put the score at 8-0. The game was immediately called due to the mercy rule.
The late game played out in similar fashion. The Owls had two hits and drew one walk, as the team again failed to score.
Houston relied on speed to jump ahead in the bottom of the first. With runners on first and second, the Cougars pulled off a double steal. After an RBI single put runners at the corners, Houston executed another double steal to bring the score to 2-0. Houston scored another run in the inning to go up by three.
In the bottom of the third, the Cougars again attacked Owls’ right-hander sophomore Kelsey Dominik. Houston scored five runs, extending their lead to eight runs. Temple’s offense went down quietly in the top of the fifth, and the Owls lost by the mercy rule for the second time that day.
A depleted roster due to injuries may have contributed to Temple’s offensive struggles. Although Lucas has returned from a leg injury, senior catcher/first baseman Stephanie Pasquale will be held out of play until late March/early April because of a broken finger sustained earlier in the season, and junior outfielder Lacey McKeon and freshman infielder Jessica Haug are both out with concussions.
On Sunday, Houston completed the sweep, but the Owls played better in what was a back-and-forth affair.
Temple started the scoring in the top of the first inning. The Owls’ leadoff batter, Prezioso, reached on an error and then came around to score later in the inning on a sacrifice fly from first baseman Dominik. The Cougars responded with a similar inning – their first batter also reached on an error and then scored.
In the second inning, the Owls utilized three two-out singles to retake the lead. But then in the bottom half of the frame, the Cougars scored twice to go up 3-2, with the latter run being ruled a steal of home. It was the second time in the series that a Houston player stole home.
Lucas led off the third with a home run to even the score. Houston, however, did one better than the Owls in the bottom of the third, hitting two solo home runs, which brought the score to 5-3.
Houston’s bats briefly fell quiet after the third, while Temple’s offense continued to consistently score. In the fourth, Prezioso drove in junior right fielder Julia Kastner for the second time. Prezioso stole second later in the inning, tying the program record for career steals. In the fifth, facing Houston’s third pitcher of the day, senior designated hitter Brooklin White drove in a run to tie the game. Then, with the bases loaded, Toni Santos drew a bases-loaded walk and the Owls took the lead.
The score remained 6-5 until the bottom of the seventh, when Houston staged a rally. With one out and runners on second and third, sophomore center fielder Annie Marcopolus made an error that allowed the tying run to score. Mahoney, Temple’s starting pitcher, intentionally walked the next batter to try to force a double play. But the next batter drew a walk, giving the Cougars a walk-off win, 7-6.
Temple will attempt to snap its three-game losing streak on Wednesday. The Owls will play a doubleheader against Wagner, with the first game starting at 2:30 p.m., in what will be Temple’s first home game since it was announced on Dec. 6 that the program would be cut after the season.
Don McDermott can be reached at email@example.com.