Anybody can be optimistic when wins are coming easily.
It’s when wins are few and far between that the character of a team is truly put to the test. Upon starting its Atlantic Ten Conference schedule, the softball team is hopeful that it’s done being tested.
To say the season has been a tumultuous one would be an understatement. After starting the year with a win over Georgetown in the Florida International Tournament, the Owls proceeded to lose 18 games in a row before finally snapping that streak with a win against Wagner last week.
Following that win, Temple (3-19 overall, 1-3 A-10) started off Friday’s game against conference foe Charlotte strong, holding the 49ers scoreless for four innings before faltering and ultimately losing the game, 4-0. Instead of being discouraged, the team proceeded to ride freshman pitcher Sarah Reynolds’ arm to victory the following day. Reynolds pitched 10 innings of four-hit ball to give the Owls their first conference win of the year.
While Reynolds took care of the pitching, junior catcher Krystle Metzler and freshman shortstop Jess Hirschbuhl contributed to the offense. Metzler smoked a double into left field in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the game and force extra innings. After Reynolds retired the next nine Charlotte hitters, Hirschbuhl doubled in senior outfielder Amanda Carver to win the game, 3-2.
While salvaging a series split is nice, the team can also take value in the way it was won, coach Joe DiPietro said.
“Charlotte got the two [runs] in the top of the sixth, and we came right back, which is something we haven’t done all year,” DiPietro said. “The team came out fired up.”
While the Owls don’t face Charlotte the rest of the regular season, the team believes it can use the win to help it the rest of the year.
“Before you go into every other game, you identify that winning feeling. You remember how the at-bats and pitches felt,” Metzler said. “You can allude back to those feelings whenever you’re feeling down.”
While the Owls’ slow start can be attributed to any number of reasons, youth is one often associated with inconsistency. However, the fact that DiPietro’s roster consists of 10 freshmen could ultimately help them.
“The freshmen are really starting to pull their weight,” Metzler said. “We’ve got a good mesh of senior leadership, and the freshmen are starting to step it up now that we’re in conference play.”
“In the long run, our youth is going to help,” Hirschbuhl added. “We’re becoming a family. It just takes wins to get there.”
To get those wins, the Owls are going to have to start producing more runs. Outside of senior first baseman Courtney Norene, the team has struggled to find consistency swinging the bats. Norene, who is hitting .300 on the year to go along with her nine RBIs, is much more effective when the rest of her teammates are in the swing of things.
“We know we need to work on our hitting,” Metzler said. “Our pitching and defense are there. We just need to spend a lot of time hitting.”
“We’ve been playing the fundamentals right,” Hirschbuhl added. “We just need to start scrapping up as many runs as we can.”
Despite their record, the Cherry and White are not quite ready to give up on the season.
“The A-10 is our second season,” DiPietro said. “We’re 1-3, which isn’t the best spot to be in, but with our upcoming schedule, our goal is still to make the playoffs.”
“Conference is honestly all that matters,” Metzler added. “That’s what we’re focusing on.”
To get their confidence up, the Owls will certainly need to start winning games on a consistent basis. After Sunday’s doubleheader with Manhattan was canceled due to weather, the Owls return to action Friday in Mt. Vernon, Va., to take on George Washington.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.