To say that Massachusetts had Temple’s number is an understatement. But the Owls broke a seven-year drought of defeats to the Minutewomen on Sunday.
Going into the doubleheader, UMass had not lost an Atlantic Ten game in over a year. After dropping the first game, 8-6, Temple snapped the streak with a 2-1 victory in the second.
The first game featured a barrage of offense from both sides as a steady rain fell at Ambler Softball Field. After first baseman Adrianne Repsher and catcher Alexis Gary singled, rightfielder Laura Gutscher sent a shot over the right field fence to cap a five-run inning for the Owls.
UMass answered with two home runs in the second and third innings to tie the game at five. Temple pulled ahead with a run in the third, but the relentless Minutewomen grabbed the lead back in the fourth when Aisha Franke slapped a two-run single and eventually was brought home by Hillary Puglia.
After a 52-minute rain delay, Temple showed a lackluster effort with just three singles in the final four innings.
“We came out a little flat after the delay and lost a little intensity,” coach Rocci Pignoli said. “Hopefully we learn from that as we move towards the A-10s.”
In the second game after the rain stopped, Temple ended a 13-game losing streak to the Minutewomen behind senior Kim Watkins’ strong pitching. She only gave up one hit over four innings.
“I was hitting a lot of my spots today and was able to pick the team up when we needed it,” Watkins said.
Between her relief appearance in the first game and the four innings in the second, Watkins threw a total of 113 pitches.
“I was actually the one who pulled myself out in the second game,” she said. “I didn’t want to go into the heart of their lineup not being perfect.”
Rochelle Villescas came in and shut the door on UMass, giving up three hits and one run over the last three innings.
While the Owls relied on their big bats to provide the offense in the first game, they were forced to manufacture runs in the second. Sophomore Jessica Rohn reached first on a fielder’s choice in the third inning and then stole second while UMass pitcher Jenna Busa walked back to the mound.
She then advanced to third on a passed ball and senior outfielder Lynsey Grace brought her home on a single to left.
Temple added another run in the fifth after senior Katie Weigle reached on a fielder’s choice and was again brought home by Grace.
In the seventh, with the score 2-1, UMass had runners at second and third with one out. Villescas got Kristi Stefanoni to pop out to shortstop and Lesley Ferrara to ground out to shortstop to seal the win for the Owls.
Temple has a chance to dethrone UMass from it nine-year reign as regular season conference champs. If Temple can manage to run the table with its four remaining A-10 games in the season, and UMass drops one of its final four games, Temple will clinch the East Division title.
“[It’s] a great feeling knowing we can beat [UMass],” Grace said. “But now it’s behind us. We’ve got to win the rest of our conference games and take this into the A-10s.”
Both outfielder Lynsey Grace and pitcher Kim Watkins were honored as Atlantic Ten Player and Pitcher of the Week, respectively.
In four games last week Grace hit a blistering .412 and knocked in the Owls only two runs of their dramatic win over UMass. Watkins appeared in three games hurling 10 and one-third innings with 10 strikeouts and yielding just one run on four hits.
New field christened
With gray skies and rain threatening, Temple University dedicated the Ambler softball field on Sunday.
While the field has been home to the team since March 26, the ceremony provided a time to thank the community for their support in bringing the baseball, softball and soccer teams to Ambler.
“You guys are the only athletes at this level between Philadelphia and Allentown,” Ambler Dean Dr. Sophia T. Wisniewska said. “It is exciting to have you here as part of our community.”
Former softball coach Ronnie Maurek (1975-1991), and current head coach Rocci Pignoli cut the ceremonial ribbon before the doubleheader against the University of Massachusetts Sunday afternoon. Maruek is the all-time winningest coach in the history of the program with 308 wins.
Temple standout Dionna Harris, who was part of the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal team, threw out the inaugural first pitch.
Sarah Schultz can be reached at email@example.com.