The field at the Ambler Sports Complex wasn’t so friendly to the baseball team last season.
The Owls went 8-18 on their home field in 2005, en route to finishing 17-33 overall. Wins at Ambler Field were sparse.
But this is a new year, with a new coach and a new team that is looking to start a fresh, winning era.
Coach Rob Valli will look to get the Owls back on track this afternoon as they host Lehigh in their 2006 home opener. The Owls, who return from a seven-game series at Hawaii-Hilo, have struggled out of the gate to a 3-7 record.
“We have high expectations for this team,” sophomore outfielder Devon Swope said. “We are hitting the ball, but we just need to start hitting in the clutch, [and] get everything going together. With the Atlantic Ten [Conference] opener next week, we want to try and at least take three games this week.”
Lehigh (5-7) is coming off a 26-win season, their second-best record in school history. Last season, the two teams met once, with the Leopards prevailing, 3-2. The Owls will play Penn at Ambler tomorrow in another game this week.
The Owls enter meetings with Lehigh and Penn with several early-season standouts.
Pitcher Arshwin Asjes, a sophomore transfer, is quickly showing his new teammates why the Cleveland Indians drafted him in last year’s MLB amateur draft. Asjes, who spurned pro ball to play at Temple, sports a 2-1 record with a 1.80 earned run average. He has hurled 15 innings so far, including a seven-inning complete-game shutout.
Redshirt freshman Pat Riley comes into today’s game boasting a .400 batting average and a six-game hitting streak.
Sophomore outfielder Frank Nunan is swinging a hot bat, as well. He has a team-high .432 batting average and 15 hits.
“I got a chance to play halfway through the season last year, and just happened to be able to make the most out of it,” Nunan said. “I am just trying to carry that into this season.
“We have to get on the same page. Having a new coach, there is a feeling-out process,” Nunan added. “I think [Valli] is still getting used to the team that we have. It is going to be nice to have these next few games at home though.”
Lehigh is led by sophomore centerfielder Joe Ercolano, an all-America selection last season who hit three home runs and batted in 25 runs. His .420 batting average ranked 15th nationally among Division I players.
As of Saturday, Leopards catcher Matt McBride is leading the team with a .543 average, 25 hits, three home runs and 17 RBI.
Southpaw Jed Davitt is off to a solid start with a 1-1 record and 3.14 earned run average in five appearances. Davitt has allowed five runs, and opponents are hitting .222 against him.
The Owls will also host Penn in another non-league tilt tomorrow. The Quakers (1-7) are off to a slow start as they have been outscored, 88-31, through their first seven games.
Their pitching staff has not been helped by a defense that has already committed 22 errors. As a team, they are batting a paltry .221 in the early going.
Quakers leftfielder Kyle Armeny leads the offense with a .308 average, compiling eight hits with one home run. The Owls triumphed over Penn, 5-2, in their only meeting last season.
Kevin Maloney can be reached at email@example.com.