Most first-year coaches go though their share of struggles. But a 12-41 season has to be rather hard to deal with.
Or at least it should be, but not for Rob Valli, who in his second year as the baseball coach has big plans for the elevation of Temple’s program.
“I think the goal for every coach in the nation is to win,” Valli said. “But I really think this year we’ll be able to compete.”
When asked to name some players who are leaders on the team, Valli answered with a straight face.
“I’m not trying to dodge your question,” Valli began, “but our whole team leads. Everyone shows the qualities of hustle and determination that we need to succeed.”
One name that came up eventually was junior pitcher Arshwin Asjes, who went 5-7 last season with a 4.26 earned run average.
In 74 innings, he struck out 55 batters.Valli has named Asjes the ace of the staff, a challenge Asjes has embraced.
“Being the Friday guy [the ace of the staff],” Asjes said, “I want to go out there and build some momentum for the weekend. I love being out there competing for my team and having them depend on me.”
“He has the tool that every great player
has, which is that desire to get better,” Valli said. “His dedication shows up in the way he prepares.”
Preparation will be a key as the team looks to incorporate 29 new players, including
eight freshman pitchers, into the team’s philosophy and strategy.
Expect the eight freshmen pitchers to see some early action and possibly down the stretch, as well.
“We have two real experienced guys who will see action on the weekends, but during the week, the freshmen are going to have to play,” Valli said. “And they will get their chance.”
Valli said Asjes will be vital to the young pitchers.
“He went to Cape Cod and played pretty well,” Valli said of the prestigious summer league. “The young guys look at him and what he’s doing and say ‘OK, well that’s what he does so that’s what I have to do to get there.’ And he is great at it.”
Asjes said he knows the struggles the freshmen pitchers will encounter.
“Last year I had to prove myself,” Asjes said. “I had two seniors in front of me. This year I know I’m the guy. I proved that I can win on a Division 1 level and [the freshmen pitchers] look up to me and see how I prepare and how I pitch.” Valli said the transition should be smooth because the team now is almost completely independent of last season’s squad, which finished last in the 14-team Atlantic Ten Conference with a 6-19 conference record.
“The thing is, this year’s team became our team,” Valli said. “There [aren’t] a lot of guys that are here from last year, I think about five. So, the pressure on this team to do better than last year isn’t really pressing.”
But the goal is to win, and to win soon.
“I think we’re going to surprise a few teams in the A-10,” Asjes said. “Our record last year, 12-41, doesn’t scream out Temple’s the team to beat. But we’ve got some new faces and we’re going to win more ballgames than last year. That’s for sure.”
“The guys that are coming in have been accustomed to winning,” Valli said. “Guys like [transfers] Matt Mongiardini and Mike Kelch have played in championships. So they expect to come here and keep on winning. And that can only be good for the team.”
Mongiardini pitched in eight games as a freshman at Gloucester County Community
College last season. He went 3-2 with a 3.45 ERA. Kelch, a third baseman, batted .353 and snatched 16 stolen bases as a sophomore at Chesapeake (Md.) College.To make room for Kelch, All-A-10 honoree
Dan Brady will switch positions from third base to first base.
“Dan played first base in his freshman year,” Valli said. “It shouldn’t be a big problem for him to go back. He’s a great athlete and I know that he can handle it.”
Brady didn’t flinch when asked about how he felt about switching positions.
“I think it makes the team better,” Brady said. “I think with the new guys we brought in, [Ryan] Weber and Kelsh, they’re obviously going to be in the lineup. So it makes our team stronger if I move to first.”
Asjes praised Brady’s unselfishness.
“That’s a leader of the team right there,” Asjes said.
“He’s an all-conference guy who’s making a switch and never complained about it. He’s doing it for the team and he’s really going to carry this team.”
Brady, who hit .310 with a team-high 57 hits, seven home runs and 35 runs last season, has high expectations for this year’s team.
“I honestly feel that this is the most talented team I’ve ever been on,” Brady said. “It’s just going to come down to how quickly we can come together as a team.”
Terrance McNeil can be reached at email@example.com.