Calling all baseball fans, the season is just around the corner.
While the Philadelphia Phillies attend spring training in 80-degree weather in Clearwater, Florida, the Temple Owls have also been training in 80-degree weather – at their indoor practice facility at Chestnut Hill Academy.
For the past few weeks, the baseball team has been practicing and working out, preparing for this much anticipated upcoming season.
“I think the kids are coming along real well and are in pretty good shape,” said head coach Skip Wilson, who is entering his 44th season at the helm.
This healthy and anxious Owls team is ready to get this season underway.
Last season the Owls (22-28, 11-13) finished second in the Atlantic 10 Eastern Division.
Inexperience was the weak link for the Temple Owls last year.
Due to the injuries that plagued the team throughout the entire season, the Owls resorted to playing many of the younger ballplayers.
However, what was last season’s anchor is now this season’s sail.
With an extra year of experience under their belt and the return of senior slugger Rob Cucinotta, the Owls are looking to turn heads and become one of the dominant teams among the A-10.
“I think experience always helps,” said assistant coach John McArdle.
“It’s gonna be good for us and I think we’re going to have a good team. I’m looking forward to it.”
This should be an exciting season for the Owls and here are some reasons why:
The Owls will be led on the mound by a senior trio of righthanders: Mike Caron, Matt Powell and Brian Ursone.
Caron – who led the team in innings pitched, (91.2) and ERA (3.24) – will be Temple’s ace pitcher.
“I think the most experience we’ll have is in our pitching staff, and that is what’s gonna be key,” junior center fielder John Quigley said.
These seniors will bring experience to the otherwise young pitching staff.
On the rubber for the Owls will also be sophomore southpaw Bryan Stamm, who has quickly developed into one of the team’s premier pitchers.
The Owls also have a strong bullpen, with a group of quality pitchers who are able to put out batters late in the game.
Covering the bags for the Owls is a group of experienced players from foul line to foul line.
Temple’s infield consists of a solid core of veteran players with junior Fred Hilliard at second base, senior Rob Cucinotta at first and senior Jeff Roma at catcher, with a supporting cast of sophomores Mike Weckenman and Jason Conners covering the left side of the field.
Last season the Owls flipped 43 double plays, which was 16 more than the opposition.
With strong arms and decent fielding skills, this infield will pose a problem to opposing base runners.
The Owls have a solid outfield with juniors John Quigley and Al Roach and sophomore Pete Colon.
As of now, right field appears to be Temple’s only weakness.
With Joe Lyall playing in his final game last season, it leaves a void out where the dandelions grow.
The team is still up in the air about who is going to fill the big shoes left in right field, but should be resolved by the start of the season.
Although the offensive duo of Lyall and James Tully is gone, the lineup for the Owls still has a lot strength and speed, and more importantly, chemistry.
“Everybody on the team gets along so well,” senior Andrew Clemens said.
“It’s just a really good environment; from practices to games to socializing. We’re always right on tune.”
The Owls have much depth in their lineup, especially in the heart of the order with Quigley, Cucinotta and Roma, who is equally good next to the plate as he is behind it.
The trio should bat third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
“We have a pretty good power hitting team,” Cucinotta said.
“Pretty much 1-9 can hit the ball.”
Last season the Owls batted a stellar .324 against lefty pitchers, but this season they are working to improve their .263 batting average against right-handed pitchers.
The Owls will try to get more runs on the scoreboard this season to avoid relying heavily on their defense.
Temple’s base running is up to par, but not magnificent.
The team needs to work a little on their speed and decision-making.
“Well, there’s going to be improvements in their base-running, simply because of their experience due to playing at this level,” McArdle said.
“Our speed is okay. It’s not tremendous, but were not slow.”
Last season, John Quigley led the team with 14 stolen bases and 92 total bases.
Manager and Coaches
Skip Wilson is in his 44th season as head coach at Temple and rapidly approaching his 1,000th career win.
McArdle, the assistant/third base coach, and Rob Kell, another assistant coach, works with pitchers.
With this coaching staff, Temple will have the knowledge and quick decision- making skills to be successful this year.
The schedule will consist of 58 games, including 23 home games at Erny Field.
Anthony Hood can be reached at Hoody215@aol.com