Last season, Christian Dekker became the first pitcher in Temple University club baseball history to earn All-American honors.
But the junior financial planning major might not be the pitcher he is today if it wasn’t for a bases-loaded jam during his sophomore year of high school.
Dekker loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning of the 2014 Berks County Interscholastic Athletic Association championship game when playing for Berks Catholic High School.
His coach, Tom Frees, went to the mound to settle Dekker down. Dekker ended the inning without allowing a run.
That bases-loaded jam proved to be a growing moment for Dekker in his baseball career, Frees said.
“I was nervous as hell going into that game,” Dekker said. “My catcher calmed me down, and I ended up throwing a really good game even though we lost. That definitely helped me grow.”
Dekker, a shortstop and pitcher for the Owls, has established himself as one of the team’s best players since his freshman season.
As the team’s top starting pitcher this year, he is 3-0 with no runs allowed in 18 innings pitched. On Nov. 7, after the last weekend of games during the fall portion of the season, Dekker was the conference’s pitcher of the week.
At this point in the season, Dekker leads the Chesapeake Region North Conference in strikeouts.
Dekker, however, would rather experience team success than earn individual accolades.
“I just want to see the club continue to progress,” Dekker said. “I would love to just see the club continue to improve and show that we can compete with whoever.”
Dekker has played shortstop and pitched since he began playing baseball at the age of 5.
Frees originally wanted Dekker to strictly play as a middle infielder in high school, but after he saw Dekker perform on the mound in games, Frees realized his potential as a pitcher.
“He just kept working on location and by the time his senior year came around, nothing he threw was above the knee and everything was on corners,” Frees said. “He just knows how to pitch.”
Dekker has natural movement on his three pitches — a two-seam fastball, curveball and circle changeup — because of his consistent arm angle, which makes it tough for hitters to adjust, senior catcher and club president Nick Delp said.
Dekker’s changeup is his “out pitch” against left-handed batters, while his slider is more effective against right-handed hitters, Delp added.
“It’s three pitches coming at the same angle, and they all move differently,” Delp said. “So that’s why he’s so effective. I catch him and his stuff’s moving all over the place.”
Toward the end of his senior year of high school, Dekker prioritized the development of his circle changeup because his dad always told him that a strong changeup could “make or break a pitcher,” Dekker said.
A good changeup as his third pitch makes him less predictable on the mound and confuses the opposing hitters more, he added.
“That’s probably the most important pitch someone can have, and it’s really shown for me,” Dekker said. “You’ve got guys throwing only fastballs and curveballs, and it’s really easy as a hitter to pick up on the repetitions of a pitcher. But, if you mix in a changeup, it’s a lot harder to try and focus on three different pitches.”
Dekker also wanted to play in the field and become a more versatile player. At Temple, he occasionally plays shortstop when he isn’t on the mound.
In his only game at shortstop this season, Dekker went 2-for-4 and scored a run. Last season, he hit 7-for-22 with seven RBI.
Even though Dekker lost in the 2014 championship game, it made him a better pitcher.
Dekker will be on the mound when the Owls resume play with a double header at Neumann University on Sunday.