From Ontario to Long Island, and finally to Philadelphia, Laura Gutscher and Melissa McCartney have been together every step of the way.
The outfielder and third baseman are new to Temple’s roster this year and are more than used to seeing their names on the same lineup card. Both Gutscher and McCartney hail from Ontario, where they frequently played against each other until junior college.
“We knew each other by face in high school, but it wasn’t until Briarcliffe that we became friends,” McCartney said.
At Briarcliffe, a junior college in Long Island, Gutscher and McCartney twice led their team to the Junior College World Series and amassed a 71-32 record. Their success and consistent play caught the attention of Temple’s coaches.
“We have a nice connection with Briarcliffe Junior College,” coach Rocci Pignoli said. “Through them, we got to watch [Gutscher and McCartney] for two years. We really liked what we saw on the field as athletes, and off the field as good kids and good students.”
Assistant coach Terri Adams attended one of Briarcliffe’s practices, unbeknownst to Gutscher and McCartney. Adams originally came to watch McCartney play, but Gutscher caught her eye as well.
“I came [to Temple] by luck,” Gutscher said. “Terri showed up at our practice one day to watch Melissa play, and the next thing I know we’re both traveling down to Philadelphia to see the school.”
Gutscher has demonstrated her power and is second on the team with three home runs, one behind senior outfielder Lynsey Grace. She is the lone Owl with any triples (2).
“She has a lot of power, but it’s the little things that set her apart,” Pignoli said. “Hitting a triple is one thing, but it’s her base running that put her on third. She could have easily been standing at first [base].”
While it has been Gutscher who has impressed her coaches at the plate, McCartney has recently solidified herself as the starting third baseman with her defensive play.
“She can stop anything and knows how to play the position amazingly,” centerfielder Katie Weigle said.
Along with her defensive prowess, McCartney is starting to show promise at the plate. In the last eight games she’s hitting .333 (5-for-7 at the plate) in Atlantic Ten play going into yesterday’s doubleheader.
“Melissa has done a real nice job defensively for us,” Pignoli said. “Her bat is just starting to come along. She is also a very good bunter.”
Last Saturday, McCartney ignited a four-run sixth inning with a bunt down the third base line against La Salle, which helped Temple gain a 7-0 win in the second game of a doubleheader.
She also has brought leadership from her prior college experience to an infield that is half comprised of underclassmen.
“The five seniors have done a great job this year in leading by example,” Pignoli said. “With Laura and Melissa in our lineup, I am more than confident that the seniors next year will do the same.”
The Owls received strong pitching performances from both freshman Richelle Villescas and senior Kim Watkins last weekend against LaSalle. Villescas pitched a complete game shutout with 10 strikeouts en route to her 11th win of the season. In the second game, Watkins improved her record to 6-1, tossing a two-hitter against LaSalle.
Grace homered in both games on Saturday, moving her into second place in team history with 12 career home runs. She needs three more to become the Owls’ all-time leader in that category.
Not bad for a player who joined the team as a walk-on.
Sarah Schultz can be reached at email@example.com.