There is a theme developing for this year’s baseball team: the unearned run.
Through last Sunday’s loss to South Florida, the Owls had given up 195 runs and more than one-fourth of them were unearned.
Temple has committed an American Athletic Conference-worst 57 errors on the season. Making matters worse for coach Ryan Wheeler’s squad, the Owls are the only team in the conference that has yet to hit the 30-game mark. Their fielding percentage, at .942, is also in the basement of the nine-team conference. The eighth-worst percentage is Cincinnati at .957.
Through Temple’s first 28 games, the team has compiled a conference-worst 2.11 errors per game.
“You got to just go back to the fundamentals, the techniques,” Wheeler said. “Those are things that we’ll work on in practice and then we hope that they translate into the games.”
In last Wednesday’s 3-2 loss, a 10-inning affair against Lehigh, Temple committed five errors. Two of the three runs from Lehigh weren’t charged to
an Owl pitcher.
After a harsh winter, one of the worst Philadelphia has seen in a number of years, Temple was forced to practice indoors for much of the early part of the season. Instead of practicing outside at Ambler Campus, the team was relegated to the Student Pavilion on Main Campus.
While the warmth and comfort of the on-campus facility did provide a suitable location to work out, members of the team say it was also detrimental for preparing for the inaugural season in a new conference
“It’s just been tough not being outside,” junior shortstop Josh Mason said. “Being inside with turf, you have perfect hops where everything goes your way. Now you’re outside and there’s a little rougher playing surfaces.”
In terms of games, Temple has played four at Ambler and five games at Campbell’s Field in Camden, N.J., the team’s new home for conference home games.
Campbell’s is a field that gets a lot of play. The 6,425-seat ballpark is home to the Camden Riversharks, Rutgers-Camden and now Temple.
In last weekend’s series against Cincinnati, a series that Temple won 2-1, the Owls committed 12 errors in those three games, a season-worst for any three-game stretch.
“The hops are a lot different than any other field we’ve played on,” Mason said.
“This field, for as nice as everything is, it gets a lot of use,” Wheeler said. “It’s been a tough winter, so I don’t think right now the surface is as good as it can be. That’s nobody’s fault, nothing that they could really control.”
Wheeler credits some of the struggles to mental lapses on the field.
“Baseball is such a mental game and now it’s in the heads of some of these guys,” Wheeler said. “They haven’t forgotten how to field, but there’s that mental block of, ‘I’m hoping not to make an error.’”
“I just think that, we’re this many games into the season, we should be making some mental adjustments and physical adjustments based on the fields we’ve played on,” he added.
Senior third baseman Derek Peterson, who is tied for the second-most errors on the team with seven, said the fielding troubles are something the team doesn’t focus on.
Instead, they’re more results-oriented.
“I don’t really count them, we don’t really pay attention to that,” Peterson said. “We just pay attention to wins and losses. [Against Cincinnati] we had seven errors and we still had a chance to win late in the game. To me, it’s really just about winning.”
But through 26 games, there were only nine wins to Temple’s record.
Mason was confident in Temple’s ability to improve defensively. They’ll need him to be right as the season winds down.
“It takes reps, it takes practice,” Mason said. “Now that the weather is allowing us to, we’ll be outside.”
“It’s going to improve, I can guarantee you that,” he added.
Jeff Neiburg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.