While the Owls (19-18, 7-3 Atlantic 10 Conference) have been a scoring machine in recent weeks, the constant fight to stay ahead of their own pitching staff has been an issue.
Temple took its first road trip since a double-header sweep of Wagner in Staten Island, N.Y. when they faced Monmouth (24-13, 10-4 Northeast Conference) and managed to take one game of the double-header.
And the difference between the quality of pitching and hitting within the team was a major factor, again.
Temple, led by junior catcher Stephanie Pasquale, needed its offense once again to outperform the pitching staff, which has struggled for much of the season.
Freshman Kelsey Dominik (9-2) took the mound for the Owls in the opening half of the twin bill. Through the first five innings she allowed just one runner to third. She didn’t allow a multi-base hit the entire day. Instead she gave up 10 hits and three runs, all of which came in the sixth inning, with the game pretty secure.
The Owls offense, meanwhile, took a little to warm up but eventually gave Dominik the room she needed to pitch comfortably.
After two relatively quiet innings Pasquale drove a shot to leftfield, which knocked in freshman designated player Annie Marcopolus. Senior centerfielder Ali Robinson followed her and reached base on an error.
In the top of the fourth, with a 2-0 lead, Temple started right where they left off the previous inning. Marcopolus hit a one-out double that scored junior third baseman Devynne Nelons. Pasquale and Robinson hit back-to-back singles after a walk by junior shortstop Sarah Prezioso, scoring two more. And Dominik helped her own cause with a two-out single that scored Pasquale, pushing the lead to 7-0.
The Owls would go on to win by a final of 7-3. Dominik went the distance, striking out four but walking five.
“She did a really good job,” coach Joe DiPietro said. “She started to struggle a little bit, I don’t know. She didn’t have that crispness like she did early in the game.”
Meanwhile, Pasquale extended her hitting streak to 20 games, going 2-for-4 with two runs batted in and a run scored.
In the second game things started out far differently. Temple scored thanks to a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Marcopolus and Prezioso from second.
But sophomore Jessica Mahoney (3-9) wasn’t able to close out the Monmouth half of the first despite getting two outs after facing three batters.
A RBI-single made it 2-1, but Prezioso bobbled a play at short one at-bat later, allowing the inning to stay alive. The Hawks capitalized immediately thanks to a two-run triple by junior first baseman Kaitie Schumacher. Two batters later senior designated hitter Kate Kuzma took a pitch to left for a RBI-double to make it 4-2 home team.
“[Mahoney] struggled a little bit,” DiPietro said. “They had a ton of infield singles… The majority of their hits today never left the infield.”
Monmouth got another run in the second to make the lead 5-2. The Owls didn’t respond until the fourth, when Robinson took an offering over the centerfield fence for a leadoff homer. Dominik, playing first in the second game, doubled a few batters later, scoring freshman second baseman Leah Lucas.
Down 5-4 in the fifth Pasquale, playing designated player for the second game, hit a grounder to second that scored Prezioso, who tripled the previous at bat. But that was the best Temple could do.
The Hawks responded immediately, getting a two-run single with no outs in the bottom of the fifth. It would be all they needed as the Owls scored no more runs. Mahoney’s struggles continued, as she allowed three consecutive singles in the sixth before being pulled. She finished with a line of five innings, 10 hits, eight runs allowed on four earned, walking four and striking out two. She did allow just one extra-base hit—a double—but her defense committed two errors in the game.
“It would probably be fair to say it’s a combination of [pitching and defense],” DiPietro said. “We just didn’t make the routine plays like we should have.”
Junior Brooklin White finished off the sixth.
With an 8-5 deficit, the story shifted to Pasquale. She come to the plate in potentially her final at-bat of the game without a hit in three plate appearances. The A-10 leader in batting average promptly pulled off an infield single.
“She hit it in the whole and the girl dove for it on the ground…she didn’t get a chance to throw her out,” DiPietro said.
But Temple couldn’t capitalize, falling victim to a double-play and a ground-out to end the game.
Temple’s offense recorded 19 hits on the day, scoring 12 runs. It’s roughly on par with their production during other double-headers.
But the pitching staff struggled to stay consistent and keep the offense in the game. Three Owls took the mound in 13 innings of work, surrendering 20 hits and 11 runs, although four were unearned.
“It’s hard to put it on the offense,” DiPietro said. “If you’re getting eight to 10 hits a game, you should win those games.”
“We haven’t clicked yet on all cylinders,” DiPietro added. “If we don’t get great pitching, especially if we’re not hitting, we’re in trouble.”
The loss puts the Owls at 3-3 in their past six games after a five-game winning streak. But the double-header split doesn’t affect the A-10 standings, something that benefits the Owls at this point because they didn’t do more harm to their A-10 record.
“If you’re playing you should play to win,” DiPietro said. “For me it’s not OK… Splitting with teams is going to end up costing us in the end.”