Dropping the ball

23-4. 16-1. 35-1. These aren’t gambling odds from Las Vegas. They are the final scores from three lopsided losses that have been incurred by the baseball team and its first-year coach Rob Valli. There have

23-4. 16-1. 35-1.

These aren’t gambling odds from Las Vegas. They are the final scores from three lopsided losses that have been incurred by the baseball team and its first-year coach Rob Valli.

There have been points this season that have been trying and tireless. Through it all, Valli said he still remains optimistic that his team harbors a slight chance to make a late surge at attaining one of four berths into the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament.

“We knew we were young coming into this season,” Valli said. “We know that with any young team there will be adjustments, growing pains, success, as well as failures. That’s what we’re having. We’re still getting better every day.”

Valli certainly has a young team on his hands, with his everyday lineup regularly consisting of three freshmen in the infield, another behind the plate, and a freshman and two sophomores scattered about the outfield. Junior third baseman Dan Brady, who played every inning last year at third base, is the only upperclassman of the eight everyday position players.

The same goes for the Owls’ weekend starting rotation. Senior pitcher Tim Foulkrod, who has struggled so far this season with a 1-4 record and a 4.50 earned run average, is the lone upperclassman in the rotation. Sophomores Arshwin Asjes and Tom Dolan have combined for a 4-4 record and 22 earned runs in 62 innings pitched.

Senior pitchers Tim Andrel and Justin Mendek and junior Chris McCafferty anchor the bullpen and vie for the weekday – and typically non-conference – starts. The trio is 0-5 on the season through 33.2 innings pitched, having allowed 25 earned runs. A crowd of underclassmen completes the rest of the rotation.

Andrel said the differences in coaching style between longtime manager Skip Wilson and Valli are not so clear.

“It’s hard to pinpoint the difference,” Andrel said. “Coach Valli is more about executing the little things in order to get guys on the right track for the future.”

The return of freshman shortstop Casey Sellen, a four-time, all-league selection in high school, might give the Owls (7-22, 1-8 A-10) a needed boost. Sellen, who returned March 31 to compete in the Charlotte series, had missed the first half of the season due to an NCAA scholarship technicality.

Last Wednesday Sellen provided the difference in a 5-4 win over Lehigh with his two-run single that broke a 3-3 tie.

“[Casey] helps us defensively, because when we moved Riley to short, it weakened us at both shortstop and second base,” Valli said. “[Riley] is more suited to play second and Casey is more suited to play shortstop.”

The Owls’ schedule was front-loaded with three of the top five teams in the A-10. Charlotte, Fordham and Rhode Island have combined for a 21-5 (.808) A-10 record and a 54-31-1 (.635) overall mark.

If the Owls want to make a final push for one of the A-10’s last playoff spots, they must take advantage of their remaining conference series.

Of the remaining A-10 teams, not one has an overall record above .500. The quintet (George Washington, Massachusetts, Xavier, Saint Bonaventure and La Salle) has combined for an 18-26 (.409) A-10 record and a 45-84 (.349) overall mark.

Even with the favorable part of the Owls’ schedule approaching, there are many areas that they must improve on.

In almost every telling statistic, their opponents have the advantage. Opponents are hitting .317 while the Owls are hitting .253 and have been outscored 224-94.

Their on base percentage is 90 points lower than that of their counterparts, they have struck out 91 more times and have walked 52 fewer times. The most telling stat may be that the Owls score 3.3 runs a game, while their opponents average 7.5 runs per outing.

While Valli insists that Temple’s season is far from over, he will look to solidify some shortcomings tomorrow when the NCAA spring signing period begins.

Following his hire as Temple’s coach last fall, Valli signed two of his former Gloucester College players, who missed the deadline to transfer for this season. Known as a tireless recruiter, Valli said he has no strict geographical recruiting boundaries.

There is a possibility that at least two players as far West as California could be signing National Letters of Intent tomorrow to play for Temple next season.


Game 1: Fordham 2, Temple 0

Game 2: Fordham 6, Temple 2

Fordham pitcher Javier Martinez stymied the Owls’ offense as he fanned 14 batters through seven shutout innings in Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader at Fordham.

The contest was a pitching duel, as Temple countered with Arshwin Asjes, who allowed two runs on five hits through six innings.

Fordham’s runs came in the bottom of the sixth when rightfielder Brian Keeney laced a two-run single over the outstretched glove of third baseman Dan Brady.

Asjes has received little offensive support lately, getting just nine runs over his last four outings.

Temple dropped Game 2 to the Rams (16-15, 8-1 A-10). Brady had two hits in the losing effort.

The Owls will face Delaware tomorrow in a road non-conference game before embarking on a four-game homestand, which features games against A-10 rival Rhode Island and Towson.

Kevin Maloney can be reached at kevmaloney33@yahoo.com.

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