Before Saturday’s 6-2 win against Connecticut, starting third baseman Reyn Sugai went to Coach Ryan Wheeler and told him he would understand if Wheeler wanted to move him out of the leadoff spot against a left handed pitcher.
“I said, ‘Look you’ve been having great at-bats and you may not be getting hits as the end result but you’re having great at-bats and you’re a tough out and it sets the tone for the rest of the lineup,” Wheeler said. “We’re going to keep you in that one spot.”
The decision paid immediate dividends for the Owls, as Sagui went 3 for 4 with a run scored, an RBI, and a sacrifice hit.
“I didn’t lead off at my junior college [last year] so it was a little bit different. I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job seeing pitches and being in leadoff so it’s coming around,” Sugai said. “I’ve just been seeing the ball well this weekend and I felt a little more confident today, this last game was big.”
Sagui also played a spotless defensive game at third base, a position he only recently picked up after Wheeler elected to shake up in infield starters.
“I feel good [at third], I am still getting used to it, the ball is coming a lot quicker, some of them I haven’t even reacted too but I’m getting a better feel and I’m feeling more comfortable,” Sagui said.
Starting pitcher Ryan Kuehn (3-2) turned in a solid performance and earned the win, pitching six innings, allowing one run, and striking out one.
“I felt pretty good physically and mentally, Andrew [Nist] has been catching me three games in a row now and I think that is really working out,” Kuehn said. “You just have to give all the credit to the defense, I mean I think I only had one strikeout so I was just throwing the ball and they were making the plays.”
Saturday’s performance marked just the fourth time this season Temple was able to stay out of the error column, while UConn committed four defensive miscues.
“We made some changes defensively, switched some guys around and we just keep grinding,” said Wheeler. “We’ve got some confidence going [defensively] and confidence is a powerful thing. We’ve stressed pitching and defense and it’s really what won it for us today because they had four errors and it gave us some opportunities to score some runs and we capitalized on them.”
While Temple scored six times, only three of the runs were charged to UConn pitchers. In the second inning, Robert Amaro scored on a wild pitch, in the seventh inning Michael D’Acunti walked which knocked in an unearned run, and then came around to score on a wild pitch later in the inning.
“When we scored in the seventh and eighth inning some of the at-bats were really good. There were some borderline pitches and we stayed off of them and got some walks and those were just great at-bats,” Wheeler said.
The game ended on a defensive high note for the Owls, as shortstop Derek Peterson snagged a screaming line drive and fired to first, doubling off the UConn runner who was caught between bases.
Temple never trailed during Saturday’s win which improved the teams record to 12-19 on the season and 7-8 in the American Athletic Conference.
“When we show up like that, when our defense shows up and when they bear down and make plays for us, we are tough to beat,” said Kuehn. “I think it is becoming pretty obvious that there is an energy that surrounds this team and we show up to play, other teams have a really hard time stopping us.”