Revived online presence boosts baseball club’s profile

More than 100 players signed up to try out for the team, which has a 9-2 record this season.

Freshman pitcher Mark Bricker throws to freshman catcher Kevin Hoopes during practice at the STAR Complex on Oct. 3. | JAMIE COTTRELL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

At the end of their junior seasons, Dan Terra and Jordan Pocrass decided they wanted the club baseball team to “go away for a weekend and experience something different.”

During the 2016-17 academic year, Temple only played road games against Penn and Villanova.

In Summer 2017, Terra, the club’s vice president, and Pocrass, the president, received an invitation from the University of Mary Washington to participate in the first annual Fredericksburg Fall Classic.

The trip to Virginia on Oct. 21 marked the farthest the club has traveled since its formation in Fall 2014.

An increased online presence has boosted the club’s reach and recognition. More than 100 people signed up to try out for the team in September, Pocrass said.

“There’s kids from Temple who follow us on Twitter,” Pocrass said. “I had one kid come up to me on Broad Street and be like, ‘Hey, I heard about your series in Virginia this weekend.’ So I think that was a great way for us to put our names on the map.”

“We’ve always had a good turnout for tryouts, but I don’t think we’ve ever had this many people interested in our club,” he added.

Pocrass renewed the team’s use of the Twitter account that former Club President Joe Kokol and former Vice President Brad Stiles launched in January 2015. Pocrass and Terra are the club’s only players remaining from its first season.

Pocrass noticed inactivity on the account last year. The account didn’t tweet or retweet any content for a seven-month stretch in 2016.

Pocrass ramped up the club’s social media usage in May, when he tweeted from the @_TUCB Twitter handle four days in a row and announced the team’s new website.

Twitter is now the club’s main use of social media, Pocrass said. He credits the team’s online presence for helping attract potential players.

“I think that really put us on the map in terms of getting people to try out,” Pocrass said.

About 60 players, including returners, tried out in September, he said. The officers assigned prospective athletes a number and ultimately had to release most of the players. The final roster has 23 people, including junior infielder and pitcher Connor McKenna, a former commit to Division III Misericordia University.

McKenna, who went to Roman Catholic High School in Center City, transferred from Misericordia after one semester.

Once he got to Temple, McKenna knew he wanted to play again so he tried out during his sophomore year. He missed the cut, but he tried out again this fall and made the team.

McKenna is hitting .500, going 11-for-22 with one home run, four doubles and nine RBIs in fall competition.

Only Pocrass has more hits than McKenna. Pocrass won the National Club Baseball Association Division II National Player of the Week award after going 6-for-6 in two wins against Rider University on Oct. 7.

Freshman outfielder Owen Cutaneo heard about the club from a roommate whose friend also tried out for the squad. He didn’t expect to make the team because of the large number of people he had to compete against, he said.

“As the tryout went on, just the whole atmosphere changed me,” Cutaneo said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to work so hard. I want to make this team.’ So luckily, I did make it, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in college so far.”

Cutaneo is one of the team’s six freshmen. The club officers deliberately took more freshmen than they had in previous years because “the freshmen are the future of the club,” Pocrass said.

The Owls (9-2, 8-2 Chesapeake-North Division) closed their fall campaign by splitting a doubleheader against The College of New Jersey on Oct. 28.

Temple’s games in Virginia came during its second-to-last weekend of fall competition. The Owls beat Mary Washington, 4-2, before they lost to George Washington University, 5-2, on Oct. 21.

The first-year players have helped Temple get to first place in its league. Freshman second baseman and pitcher Mark Bricker helped Temple have a four-run inning in the top of the third against Mary Washington. Bricker also pitched 5.1 innings in the fall. He didn’t allow an earned run and struck out nine batters.

Cutaneo went 3-for-8 at the plate, walked three times, stole a base and drove in three runs. Freshman catcher and outfielder Kevin Hoopes is also one of 11 players who’ve stolen a base.

Temple is scheduled to resume its season on March 24 against Penn.

“Without freshmen, in two or three years there might potentially not be a club,” Pocrass said. “We wanted to make sure that we were picking up freshmen that not only could continue the club but also make an immediate impact. And we’ve had plenty of freshmen make an immediate impact.”

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