As its season dwindles to the final week, Temple College’s softball team looks to stay sharp while it jockeys for positioning in the Region V North tournament. And what better way to hone its skills than by hosting the Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference leader?
The Lady Leopards sat in third place heading into Saturday’s doubleheader with rival McLennan, which chalked up wins of 13-6 and 13-4 at windy Danny Scott Sports Complex.
Despite the outcomes against the Highlassies (47-5, 26-2), Temple still controls its postseason destiny. The Lady Leopards play fifth-place Weatherford in its final regular-season series next week, starting with a 1 p.m. road doubleheader Wednesday. The double-elimination regional tournament is set for May 5-8 at Weatherford.
Until then, the Lady Leopards (32-16, 17-11) will continue to look to improve, much like they did against nationally ranked McLennan, which displayed too much offensive firepower for Temple.
The Highlassies cranked out 12 extra-base hits, including five home runs, to post the six-inning, run-rule win in Game 1. They added three homers in Game 2, in which they built a 10-run lead before the Lady Leopards scored.
“We made some key defensive plays,” said Temple head coach Kadie Berlin-George, whose team was tied with McLennan at 6 entering the sixth inning of Game 1 before the Highlassies distanced themselves with seven runs. “I thought that our pitchers threw well enough to keep us in the ballgame. We just had too many defensive mistakes to be competitive. If you just eliminate those defensive errors, we were right there with them.”
The Lady Leopards committed eight errors on the day, including five in the second game. MCC benefited from a couple of third-inning Temple miscues in the finale when it pushed across four runs to extend its lead to 6-0, getting RBIs from Riley Rutherford, Julia Herzinger and Madelyn Saven.
The Highlassies — who got a two-run shot from Jenny Robison to plate their first two runs in the second — got another two-run blast that hit the upper half of the scoreboard behind the right-field fence from pinch hitter Sydney Kirby to push the lead to 8-0 in the fourth.
Down 10-0 and facing an early run-rule exit after managing just one hit off MCC starter Hailey Hudson through the first four innings, the Lady Leopards responded with their best frame. Catrin Hoffman’s three-run homer over the 220-foot sign in center was one of three Temple hits in the fifth to stave off the early finish.
Hoffman finished 2-for-4 and Darby Hickey went 2-for-3 to pace the Lady Leopards. Jalen Perez had an RBI double in the sixth.
“We were definitely right there with them,” Berlin-George said. “We just can’t give good teams any of the extras — extra bases, extra hits, anything like that.”
Hudson fanned nine and gave up seven hits in picking up the win.
Molly VandenBout went six innings, striking out two and walking a pair, to take the loss. VandenBout threw a complete game Wednesday when the Lady Leopards got a Hickey homer in a 6-3 win that snapped MCC’s 28-game winning streak that dated to March 5.
Temple leadoff hitter and starting right fielder Aahmyri Kennedy said her team is close and that maintaining camaraderie is key as it heads into the four-game Weatherford series to close the regular season.
“Like, whenever we get one hit, we usually get it started and the momentum flows from there,” Kennedy said. “It’s mostly about staying in the game and cheering each other on. We feed off that. We’re just going to be practicing hard and trying to get that third-place spot and good positioning for the tournament.”
In Saturday’s opener, the teams went back and forth through two ties and one lead change through the first five innings in a game in which offense was the name.
Temple held leads of 3-0, 4-2 and 5-4 before MCC broke through to claim its first lead with Herzinger’s two-run home run to center in the fifth that provided a 6-5 edge.
It was the third long ball of the game for the Highlassies. MCC also got a two-run shot from Caitlyn Wong to trim the gap to 3-2 in the third, followed by a game-tying Jalie Neff blast to right in the fourth that tied things at 4.
The Lady Leopards had jumped on MCC with a three-run first, getting RBI doubles from Hoffman and Samantha Gaona and a two-out run-scoring single from Annabel Segoviano, who added a double in the third to score Hickey for a 4-2 cushion.
Following Neff’s game-tying shot, Temple went ahead in the bottom of the frame when Hickey grounded into a fielder’s choice that plated Brianna Longoria for a 5-4 lead.
Kate Moalo had a sacrifice fly to score Kristen Urbanovsky and tie the game at 6 in the bottom of the fifth, after which the Highlassies got back-to-back homers from Herzinger and Robison during their seven-run sixth to put the game away.