Temple lost back-to-back one-run games at the University of South Florida Under Armour Invitational on Friday. The Owls dropped a 1-0 decision to Florida Atlantic, and then lost to Kennesaw State, 5-4, in nine innings.
The Owls’ game against Florida Atlantic was a pitchers’ duel between Temple’s sophomore right-hander Kelsey Dominik and FAU’s starter Amanda Wilson.
Dominik went six innings and gave up six hits and no earned runs, with one strikeout. Wilson pitched five innings and finished with a line of four hits, no runs, two walks and three strikeouts.
“Dominik pitched great,” coach Joe DiPietro said. “We just couldn’t get a hit.
“I thought we were undisciplined,” DiPietro added. “The [FAU] pitcher was not a very fast pitcher. Our timing wasn’t what it needed to be. She got us to pop up and [ground out] too much.”
It was Temple’s shaky defense, however, that once again proved to be the difference in the game. Sophomore second baseman Leah Lucas made an error that allowed the first batter of the day to get on base. The runner later came around to score an unearned run, putting FAU up 1-0. The Owls made three errors in the game, making 11 total errors in the past three games and 16 on the season.
“Last year we led the Atlantic-10 [Conference] in defense, and the mistakes we’re making now, it’s ridiculous,” DiPietro said. “I don’t know if it’s a lack of focus, or because of the cuts. I don’t know what it is. We’re just not playing at a level we should playing at, and I’m not sure why.”
After FAU’s first run, both offenses struggled and the pitchers dominated. The 1-0 score remained unchanged going into the top of the seventh. FAU pitcher Samantha Messer, who had replaced Wilson after the fifth, allowed only a two-out single to left by senior catcher Stephanie Pasquale before clinching the save.
“They brought in their number one pitcher at the end,” DiPietro said. “We had some better swings against her. But we just couldn’t get a hit when we had runners on.”
This theme continued in the Owls second game, against Kennesaw State. The Owls notched 11 hits and walked three times, but stranded 14.
“It’s a game we should have won,” DiPietro said. “We just couldn’t get a hit when we needed it. And again, same as last week, the frustration of not having someone come up and get a clutch hit when we need it, it’s starting to mount a little bit. We just can’t catch a break of someone getting a hit when we need it.”
Kennesaw State scored the opening run in the top of the first. The Owls’ opponents have now scored first in every game of Temple’s season, except for the Owls’ second game, in which they defeated Western Michigan, 11-3.
Sarah Prezioso responded for Temple, knocking her first home run of the year in the bottom of the first.
Dominik hit Pasquale home with a double in the third to give Temple the advantage. Kennesaw State responded with a run in both the fifth and the sixth to retake the lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, down 3-2, the Owls staged a rally. After Pasquale grounded out, Dominik doubled and Lucas walked. Kennesaw State made a pitching change, which was initially successful as sophomore left fielder Annie Marcopolus struck out swinging. But then the Kennesaw State pitcher, Amanda Henderson, hit freshman first baseman Kaylyn Zierke with a pitch to load the bases, and then hit junior right fielder Julia Kastner, allowing the game-tying run to come home for the Owls. Henderson struck out the next batter she faced to send the game to extra innings.
With one out in the top of the eighth, and runners now on second and third, Kennesaw State’s Missy Perkowski hit a single. The runner on third scored easily, and Kennesaw State waved home the runner from second. But junior center fielder Lacey McKeon threw out the runner at home, eliciting praise from DiPietro about the team’s defensive performance.
“Defense was fine,” DiPietro said. “Matter of fact, we actually played decent defense. In the tiebreaker, they tried to score two runs at the same time, and McKeon threw a kid out at the plate, which kept it a one-run game. So it gave us a chance to come back and tie it again.”
The Owls tied the game on a sacrifice fly by Pasquale, which brought home freshman designated hitter Toni Santos.
In the ninth, Kennesaw State responded with a sac fly of its own to take a 5-4 lead, and threatened again to take a larger lead with a runner on third and only one out. But Temple’s starter, freshman right-hander Amanda Gatt, induced a pop out and then struck out a batter swinging to end the inning.
“I thought [Gatt] pitched good,” DiPietro said. “She pitched good enough to win, that’s for sure, but we left 14 people on base. That’s enough right there, that we should win the game.”
Gatt threw all nine innings, giving up five runs, three earned, on 11 hits, while striking out three and walking two. The hard-throwing Gatt also hit a batter and threw two wild pitches.
But her performance, though good enough to win, as DiPietro said, proved ineffectual as Temple faltered in the bottom of the ninth. Lucas advanced the second-base runner, Dominik, with a sac bunt. But Marcopolus fouled out and Zierke grounded out to end the game, stranding the potential tying run at third.
DiPietro said his team is better than it looks and that once they get another win, everything will change for the better.
“I told [the team after the game that] we’re a good team, and once we get one of those close-made wins, we’re going to be fine, we’ll just keep rolling,” DiPietro said. “I think that’s all we need to do. We just need to win a game, and that way their confidence will come back. They’re pressing a little bit. I think the whole cut situation has got into their psyche. And they’re going to have to get tough enough mentally to get out of that, and play the way they’re capable.”
Temple faces Loyola Marymount at 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, and then squares off against Central Arkansas at 4:30 p.m.
Don McDermott can be reached at email@example.com.