Pitching proved once again to be the deciding factor in the Owls double-header against Lafayette.
Temple entered the series with a five-game winning streak, its longest of the season. But two big innings by the Leopards (7-16, 1-3 in the Patriot League) ended things quickly in a 10-8 loss for the Owls (12-15, 3-1 in the Atlantic 10 Conference).
Junior Brooklin White (3-6) got the nod on the mound but didn’t make it out of the fourth inning. She surrendered four runs in the second inning, three of them earned.
White’s struggles continued shortly after an RBI double by freshman second baseman Leah Lucas made the score 4-2 in favor of the visitors in the bottom of the third. Coach Joe DiPietro saw enough from his struggling starter, pulling her in the fourth after a leadoff single, hit-by-pitch and walk loaded the bases with no outs.
“To use a word, I guess, the pitching in my opinion was poor in the first game,” DiPietro said. “That team only had six wins, and if we’re going to be taken seriously we can’t lose to a team with six wins, no disrespect to Lafayette.”
Junior Kylie Kristovich tried to stop the bleeding, getting the first batter she faced out. But a double by junior third baseman Melissa Robison cleared the bases and suddenly the game was 7-2. A few batters later Kristovich allowed a sacrifice fly and junior catcher Stephanie Pasquale miss-judged a pitch, leading to another unearned run on the passed ball.
“We shouldn’t lose 10-8 to a team that’s not as good as us,” DiPietro said. “Between our two pitchers they just didn’t get the job done.”
The Owls tried to mount a comeback in the bottom of the fourth. A triple by senior centerfielder Ali Robinson knocked in two and junior shortstop Sarah Prezioso knocked her home on a single to right to make it a 9-5, but the deficit was too much.
Temple managed a run in the final three innings, including a solo shot by Robinson in the final frame but fell short in the end.
The positive for the Owls was the production from the top of the order. Freshman leftfielder Annie Marcopolus, Robinson, Prezioso and Pasquale combined to go 9-for-14 with six runs, five RBIs, six walks and no strikeouts. Each had at least two hits.
“The top of the lineup was very good,” DiPietro said. “That was the problem, the bottom of the lineup didn’t do anything.”
Pasquale extended her hitting streak to 10 games with an RBI-double in the first that scored Prezioso, giving the Owls their only lead of the game.
Temple flipped the script in the second half of the twin bill. Sophomore Jessica Mahoney got off to a quick start, striking out two of the three batters she faced in the top of the first, then froze the opposition in the second, all on 2-2 counts. She would strike out five batters in a row from the first through third innings.
The offense got off to a quick start as well, punching in two runs each in the second and third innings and giving Mahoney a 4-0 lead while she continued to miss the Leopards’ bats. Two scored in the second thanks to a fielding error, and Lucas hit a two-run shot an inning later. She finished 2-for-3 in the contest.
“In between games I told the girls I was frustrated, disappointed and angry,” DiPietro said. “I was trying to explain to them, when I get like that… it’s because they’re so much better than what they played.”
“Plus there was a little bit of embarrassment after the first game,” DiPietro added. “They were embarrassed the way they played and I think they came out and tried to make amends for that, play a little more the way they’re capable of.”
But the fifth was the dagger the Owls needed. A hit-by-pitch and two walks loaded the bases for the home team and Prezioso took advantage, driving a 1-1 pitch to left for a two-run double. One pitch later Pasquale—who finished 1-for-3 while getting some rest as the designated player—extended her hit streak to 11 with a three-run blast to right center.
Temple led 9-0 in just two pitches, and Mahoney iced the game in the top of the fifth with two more strikeouts for a mercy rule.
Mahoney finished with 10 strikeouts while walking three and giving up one hit in five innings of work in her first win of the season. She started the year 0-8.
“She dominated,” DiPietro said. “That’s what she’s capable of.”
“If Jess pitches the way she did today that’s really just going to make us a better team,” DiPietro added.
On offense, the middle of the order provided the punch this time. Prezioso went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and two RBIs. The three-four-five combination of Prezioso, Pasquale and Lucas combined to go 5-for-8 with four runs, seven RBIs and two homers.
“The offense just kind of took off and she was dominant,” DiPietro said. “We played the second game like we should have played the first game.”
In both games the six through nine hitters combine to hit just 3-for-21 with four runs, two RBIs and six strikeouts.
Since the start of the regular season the Owls are 6-2 after going 6-13 during the tournament portion of their season. They play next against Wagner in Staten Island, N.Y., Thursday. It’s their second of four straight scheduled double-headers, with the first game beginning at 2:30 p.m.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jakeadams520.