Coach Joe DiPietro used Sunday’s double-header against St. Francis, of Loretto, Pa., as auditions for the second spot in the pitching rotation.
After 23 games, Temple’s staff is far from settled, with the top slot sewn up and nothing but question marks after that.
The Owls (9-14, 1-1 Atlantic 10 Conference) sit in the bottom half of the A-10 in team earned run average, with 6.31. They have sent five pitchers to the mound this season and just one, freshman Kelsey Dominik has a sub-three ERA.
“Her ball moves and she’s able to hit her spots,” DiPietro said. “The girls like playing behind her because she works fast and she doesn’t walk people.”
“I don’t think she came in expecting to pitch a lot and so she kind of had a clear mind and went after it,” junior pitcher Brooklin White said.
DiPietro has four listed pitchers – Dominik is listed as an infielder – with two being juniors. But the elder statesmen of the staff, White and Kylie Kristovich, have the team’s worst ERA. Kristovich has only pitched two innings this season, but has surrendered five runs.
Pitching has been the team’s weak link through the first 23 games. Temple has the fourth-leading offense in batting average (.272) in the A-10 and is third with 115 runs scored.
The Owls’ glove work has also been top notch, boasting a conference-leading fielding percentage of .966. La Salle, which Temple split a double-header with Saturday, is second with .959.
The onus is on a pitching staff searching for its identity. DiPietro said Dominik has earned the role of the top spot in the rotation as long as she keeps producing at this level. Through Sunday’s games Dominik had pitched 39.2 innings, surrendering 42 hits, 16 walks, 15 earned runs while striking out 22 for a 3.40 ERA.
“Every time I put her out there she competes and gives us a chance to win, so right now she’s our No. 1 pitcher,” DiPietro said.
“I knew that he had confidence in me so I guess that kind of helped me,” Dominik said. “When I go out there and pitch I just go out there and hit my locations and spin the ball. And if I feel something’s not working I go up to the catchers.”
DiPietro said he is still looking for the answers. Fellow freshman Jessica Tolmie is second on the team with a 5.24 ERA but has pitched just 22.1 innings, fourth on the team. Sunday was an audition for her to grab the second spot in the rotation, DiPietro said before the games.
“I’m thankful that we have younger pitchers that can take control because I know how frustrating it probably is on the fielders,” White said.
Sophomore Jessica Mahoney has all but pitched her way out of the top spots in the rotation after losing her eighth game Saturday against the Explorers. She has no wins and an 11.49 ERA with 34 walks allowed.
But the biggest disappointment has been White.
Last season, White posted a 14-11 record in 28 appearances, striking out a team-leading 98 batters in 150 innings of work. She allowed 87 earned runs, good enough for a 3.36 ERA, second on the team.
This season has been a different story for the most experienced pitcher on the club.
“It’s all how you start,” White said. “Last year I had a good start and it took me through the season…and this year I didn’t have a good start and it kind of made me doubt myself a little bit.”
While she did go the distance in the first game against St. Francis, White’s season has been far from solid. She’s 2-5 in nine appearances with an ERA of 10.49, having struck out 11 while allowing 30 walks and 52 hits.
“She’s fighting it mentally,” DiPietro said. “It’s all mechanical with her. When she’s right mechanically, her ball moves and she throws it where she wants to throw it. We spent a lot of time with her this week, really hands on with her.”
“I know my mechanics are off and I’m working on that, I’ll be fine,” White said. “There’s only so much you can do physically, but if you don’t have it all together mentally then it’s not going to work.”
She’ll have to figure it out quickly. DiPietro and the offense are depending on the pitching staff finding its groove sooner rather than later. With only two consistent pitchers in the rotation so far, the job is that much more challenging.
Jake Adams can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jakeadams520.