The team went 3-2 in its opening tournament in Florida over the weekend.
Making her way to the crowded gym from the downstairs training room, sophomore outfielder Ali Robinson of the softball team opened the door as the piercing sound of metal bats driving balls into the matted walls hit her ears.
During the winter months, the Owls hold practice indoors at Pearson Hall, as the grass fields at Ambler won’t be playable until spring.
“[We’re limited] a lot. We don’t get real pop-ups [or] real bounces as we would on the dirt,” Robinson said. “There are a lot of restrictions, but we try to make the best of it.”
The Owls escaped the cold this past weekend as they participated in the University of South Florida Fairfield Inn and Suites Tampa North Tournament, playing five games over the course of three days. The Owls won three games, with one of their two losses against No. 16 Missouri.
In the Owls’ season opener Friday, starting senior pitcher Kristen Marris picked up her first win of the season giving up three runs on five hits. Temple rallied for four runs in the fourth inning to edge Western Michigan, 5-3. Last season, Marris won a team-leading 13 games, pitched 21 complete games and finished with a 2.65 ERA.
“I’m kind of sad that I’m done, but it makes me feel that I should be more of a leader,” Marris said. “I do tend to be rather quiet, but I’m working on that.”
In the first game of a Saturday doubleheader, Temple thumped Central Connecticut State, 14-6, behind a one-out, three-run homer in the sixth inning by junior designated hitter Rachel Knable.
The junior recorded six RBIs for the game and finished the weekend with a team-leading eight RBIs. In the season’s first five games, Knable leads the team with eight RBIs. The Cherry Hill, N.J., native hit five home runs last season and batted .252.
In its second game on Saturday, Temple fell to Illinois State, 6-1, as the team was only able to record one hit. Red Birds sophomore outfielder Lauren Kellar’s bases clearing triple put the team ahead, 3-1, in the third inning.
Sophomore pitcher Crystal Nyman pitched a complete game in the losing effort, but yielded 14 hits and gave up a two-run home run in the fifth inning.
After batting last season from the third spot in the lineup, Robinson is now sitting atop of the lineup after seeing time there in the fall. Last weekend, the outfielder struggled in the top spot, hitting .150 in five games, going hitless in two games.
Last season, Robinson was comfortable when leading off an inning as she hit a team-leading .515 in that situation and finished her freshman season with 15 RBIs and batted .254.
The sophomore showed her power in the team’s 8-7 loss to Missouri on Saturday with a three-run home run and seemed to be working out of her slump in the team’s final game of the weekend against host Southern Florida. In the third inning, Robinson drove in two runs with a double to give the Owls a four run lead on way to an 8-2 victory.
“It was different [hitting from the leadoff spot], but I like hitting, so I don’t care where I bat,” Robinson said. “I like to see pitches, so I wouldn’t mind having to take pitches either.”
The last two seasons the team has missed the Atlantic Ten Conference playoffs by one game, something coach Joe DiPietro said he believes will change this year due to the growth in the team, both on and off the field.
He said the most noticeable difference this year, is the Owls’ chemistry. In his first two years as coach, DiPietro said some of his players failed to trust each other due to what he classified as “drama.”
“These kids genuinely like each other – they all hang out together, which is unusual on a team like this,” DiPietro said. “I think it’s great that they’re close like that.”
The team returned to Main Campus Monday following the conclusion of the USF tournament and will head back to Florida to spend its spring break playing 13 games in nine days against top-flight programs North Carolina, Illinois, No.15 Louisiana Lafayette and Maryland.
Matthew Breen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.