The Owls rely heavily on their senior captain.
Redshirt senior Steve Nikorak pitches, plays first and third base, regularly hits out of the three hole in the lineup, and is co-captain of the baseball team. As if that wasn’t enough, he was also the first player out of the dugout to help clean up the field following the conclusion of the Owls’ doubleheader against Binghamton at Skip Wilson Field on March 18.
“I think it’s important to have senior leadership on any team,” Nikorak said. “I just try to set the right example, not so much by leading vocally but by doing the right thing on and off the field.”
Nikorak is on top or among the leaders in every offensive category for the Owls [10-13, 0-2 Atlantic Ten Conference]. While hitting in the heart of the order, Nikorak has posted a .326 batting average, a .494 slugging percentage and a .410 on-base percentage. Through 23 games, he’s tallied 29 hits, 25 runs, 16 RBI’s and 11 walks. He is also one of five Owls to go deep this season, as he hit a game-tying three-run home run in the eighth inning against Penn to spoil the Quaker’s home opener on March 14 in an 11-9 victory.
With that said, Nikorak contributes more than just a bat. On the mound, he is 1-3 with a 5.25 ERA. He has punched out 14 batters in 24 innings of work spanning over five starts. He is the third man out of first-year coach Ryan Wheeler’s starting rotation. To Wheeler, Nikorak is the epitome of a workhorse and a team leader.
“[Nikorak] leads by example on the field as well as off the field,” Wheeler said. “I think he has the respect of every one of his teammates. He certainly has the respect of his coaching staff. He’s going to do great things in life whether it’s a chance to continue his career in professional baseball or whatever else he chooses to do.”
Nikorak was redshirted by Temple after blowing out his elbow in his first appearance of his sophomore year in February 2009. He went on to miss the entire season after receiving Tommy John surgery. After a 15-month rehabilitation process, Nikorak was able to return in time for the start of his junior season.
“Temple and baseball have been great in my life,” Nikorak said. “I try to stay humble and remind myself it’s just a game while trying to make it as fun as possible.”
Nikorak, a four-year starter and three-time team captain, will leave a substantial void in the Owls’ starting lineup, rotation and clubhouse after this season. In 2011, Nikorak led the Atlantic Ten Conference in RBI’s, doubles and runs and has been named A-10 player of the week three times throughout his career.
In addition to his on-field accolades, he was also named the Student-Athlete Academic Adivising and Support Center Student of the Month Award in February, which recognizes Temple student-athletes who show what it means to be an Owl on and off the field. Last fall, Nikorak earned a spot on the A-10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
“[Nikorak is] always somebody you can count on, on and off the field,” redshirt-junior catcher/first baseman Matt Elko said. “Whether it’s coming up with that big play, coming through with that big hit or just showing up first in the weight room, he’s the definition of a team guy. It’s going to be some big shoes to fill.”
“I wish I had him for more than just one year,” Wheeler added.
With his final year of eligibility coming to an end this May, Nikorak, a business administration in entrepreneurship major, is unsure of what the future holds for him.
“I’d like to play baseball for as long as I can if I’m blessed with that opportunity,” Nikorak said.
Tyler Sablich can be reached at email@example.com.