For the second straight week, Temple’s softball team looked to knock off a ranked opponent.
Last week’s 4-2 victory over No. 25 Oregon State instilled confidence that the Owls could repeat the feat against No. 4 Texas A&M at the Texas A&M Invitational this weekend.
“We know we are good enough to be there [Texas A&M Invitational],” sophomore catcher Krystle Metzler said before the team left for the tournament. “The keys are getting timely hits and routine outs. Against Texas A&M there is no room for error. We have to be consistent, stay intense, and take advantage of what they give us.”
Unfortunately for Temple, the Aggies didn’t want to be their next victim.
Texas A&M jumped on the Owls for two victories Friday and Saturday, winning the first game, 7-0, and the second one, 6-0. Temple went 2-3 overall at the Invitational, which also included North Texas and Sam Houston State.
In both games against Texas A&M, Temple kept it close, but costly errors and a lack of hitting – the exact areas Metzler was worried about – doomed the Owls.
Friday’s game got out of hand in the third inning. Temple trailed, 1-0, when two errors, one by second baseman Natalie Wagner and one by shortstop Chelsea Reicher, loaded the bases for Texas A&M’s Jamie Hinshaw. The senior third baseman hit a bases-clearing double for a 4-0 Aggies lead. Another run in the inning made it 5-0.
“We’ve been practicing attacking the ball,” coach Casey Dickson said. “We told our shortstops and second basemen not to wait for the ball to come to you because it will beat you and it did. Their eyes pulled away from the ball and it got caught in their gloves.”
Temple had a chance to cut into the deficit in the bottom of the fourth inning, however, when Metzler and freshman Samantha Dungan hit back-to-back singles to lead off the inning. After a groundout by Wagner advanced the runners to second and third, junior first baseman Courtney Norene and senior third baseman Anna Rico both struck out to end Temple’s only threat of the game.
“We had opportunities against [Texas] A&M, but we didn’t execute them,” Dickson said. “Our substitutes didn’t rise to the occasion; they made easy, routine mistakes like missing signals and not laying down bunts.”
Saturday’s rematch featured more errors and another big inning for the Aggies. Junior starting pitcher Katie Burdeaux held Texas A&M to only two runs through five innings and added a one-out double in the bottom of the fifth to put Temple’s only runner in scoring position. The Owls had only one hit the rest of the game, however, and it didn’t come in that inning, which proved costly.
In the top of the sixth, Texas A&M scored four runs, three of them on a three-run home run by freshman Natalie Villarreal. Two errors by second baseman Rico helped keep the inning alive for the Aggies’ offense and Texas A&M never looked back.
“I thought tonight that Temple hit the ball hard and hung around a long time,” Texas A&M coach Jo Evans said. “But I loved us putting up a four spot there to give us some distance.”
Big innings seem to be a trend with the Owls. In the games against the Aggies, they killed Temple’s chances of winning, but against North Texas and Sam Houston State, they were saviors.
Friday’s 4-3 win against North Texas came thanks to a four-run fourth inning that featured a combination of doubles and singles from the top and middle of the lineup.
And in Saturday’s victory over Sam Houston State, the Owls needed their four-run sixth inning to break open a 1-1 tie and hang on for a 5-4 victory.
Sunday’s 5-0 loss to the Bearkats aside, Dickson said she was proud of the Invitational’s outcome.
“I’m very proud of our players. We’re not ranked in the Top 100 and we took on the number three and number 25 teams in back-to-back weekends,” Dickson said. “When we get back I’m sure our players will practice longer and harder, and, hopefully, the weather will be good enough to be outside.”
The Owls don’t return to action until 23 days from now when they host Delaware State on March 18.
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at email@example.com.