Despite a sluggish start, the softball team has drastically turned its season around.
After a 2-8 start, the Owls won 12 of their last 17 games and look ready to vie for the Atlantic Ten title. Last year, the Owls finished second in the conference.
“We still have high expectations and we really think we can give the A-10 a good run,” coach Rocci Pignoli said.
The team played its first home game last Friday, where it split a doubleheader with Fordham at the new Ambler Softball Complex.
The Owls hosted Villanova on Sunday in a doubleheader.
In a classic pitcher’s duel, the Owls took game one, 1-0, behind a one-hitter from freshman pitcher Richelle Villescas. The only run of the game came off the bat of senior catcher Alexis Gary, who knocked home senior outfielder Lynsey Grace with a double in the bottom of the first.
Villanova won the second game, 4-1, with all of its runs coming in the third inning, which saw the Owls use three pitchers.
Senior pitcher Kim Watkins, who took the loss, was pulled after just two and one-third innings.
With the new field at Ambler, the Owls will have to adjust to their new home away from home.
“We had a nice start in March down south,” Pignoli said. “But getting back and playing on our field is like playing an away game. We’ll have to get used to it.”
The Owls’ first 23 games were played at tournaments in North Carolina and Florida. Their best showing came at the Plant City (Fla.) Tournament, where the Owls won all four games and outscored their opponents 25-3.
Led by a solid core of seniors and some surprising freshmen standouts, the Owls are hitting their stride just as their conference schedule gets underway.
Seniors Katie Weigle and Lynsey Grace have been steady all season, hitting .347 and .338 respectively, while starting every game in the outfield.
“Every one of our seniors has done a good job,” Pignoli said. “And all five of them have done a good job as far as leadership.”
One senior struggling to find consistency is catcher Alexis Gary. After batting .366 and leading the team in hits, doubles and total bases last season, Gary has recently seen her average drop below .200.
Last November, Gary was drafted by the New York/New Jersey Juggernauts of the National Professional Fastpitch League. She relates the draft to her struggles this season.
“It’s mental. I feel I have so much to prove, that maybe I’m trying too hard and trying to be too good,” she said. “I basically need to go out there with the thought that it’s just a game and not put too much pressure on myself.”
Senior pitcher Kim Watkins has been steady on the mound for Temple. In 12 appearances, she has gone 4-1 with a 1.09 ERA. Along with Richelle Villescas, the two have headed a strong rotation for the Owls.
Only a freshman, Villescas has started 16 games, compiling a 9-9 record and 2.31 ERA.
“We’ve been doing it [pitching] by committee most of the year,” Pignoli said. “Between Kim and Villescas, they have been doing a really fine job.”
At first base, freshman Adrienne Repsher has emerged as a star. She leads all starters in batting average (.379), on-base percentage (.479) and slugging percentage (.638).
“We feel real good about ourselves with this freshman class,” Pignoli said.
Jonathan Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.