Saturday’s main event belongs to Valli’s nine

Though it likely won’t draw a crowd like the football team will, the baseball team’s game against Charlotte, scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Ambler Sports Complex, is Cherry and White Day’s most unheralded show.

Some years, Cherry and White Day has been similar to a large-scale music festival, with the football team’s annual scrimmage serving as the main stage while various other smaller acts, like the baseball and softball teams, perform on adjacent fields at the Ambler Sports Complex.

This year, the event has expanded to two campuses, with the football team highlighting the festivities with its scrimmage here on Main Campus at Edberg-Olson Hall. But just like all those music concerts, sometimes the main attraction isn’t always the best show.

Though it likely won’t draw a crowd like the football team will, the baseball team’s game against Charlotte, scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Ambler Sports Complex, is Cherry and White Day’s most unheralded show.

This is not meant to take away from the football team in any way. Football coach Al Golden has built excitement and optimism among fans of his football team. We all know that’s been no small task.
With that said, baseball coach Rob Valli – who, like Golden, happens to be in his fourth season with Temple – has led a transformation among the baseball program, which certainly deserves notice.

Though Saint Joseph’s knocked the baseball team out of first place in the Atlantic Ten Conference with a sweep in last Friday’s doubleheader, the Owls (13-17 overall) currently sit in second place with an 8-3 mark.

Temple hasn’t won a regular-season A-10 title since 1985, when longtime coach Skip Wilson’s program was just concluding its own Golden Era. Believe it or not, Temple consistently participated in the NCAA Tournament during the 1970s and 1980s, even finishing third in the College World Series in 1972.

But, by the time Valli took over in the fall of 2005, the Owls had finished above .500 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament just once in Wilson’s final 16 seasons at the helm.

Under Valli, the Owls got (much) worse before they improved.

Much like Golden, he suffered through a painful rebuilding process, as the Owls posted their worst mark in program history (12-41) in 2006. Their box scores, the worst of which went to the tune of 35-1 and 23-4, made one wonder whether the opposing batters were hitting off a tee.

Thankfully for Valli, those days are gone.

Valli, who was a proven winner at Gloucester County College before coming to Temple, has the Owls playing some riveting baseball, and the season is heating up.

While the football team is busy running post routes and halfback draws in a glorified practice session, the baseball team will be taking on the pride of its conference, Charlotte.

Traveling to the Ambler campus can be a pain in the butt. However, if there’s any baseball game to get to this season, it’s one of them this weekend (the Owls and 49ers also face each other on Friday and Sunday).

Though the 49ers have struggled this season, they remain the class of the A-10, having won the last two A-10 Tournaments, spent time in the national rankings and qualified for two straight NCAA Tournaments.

The Niners might only be 5-7, but the weekend series is crucial for the Owls.

First, they need to recover from their recent five-game swoon, which featured their only three A-10 defeats.

Secondly, taking the series against Charlotte would not only further secure the Owls’ positioning at the top of the A-10 standings, but hand the Owls confidence. There’s nothing better for a team’s ego than beating the reigning champs.

If the Owls hope to win this year’s conference tourney and advance to their first NCAA Tournament since 2001, they’ll likely need to get by Charlotte in the postseason. If that scenario indeed plays out, it certainly helps to know you’ve topped them before.

While the baseball team hopes to beat a division rival Saturday, at Edberg-Olson Hall, the football team will only be beating itself (which, you may recall, it did three times in the regular season last year, too).
If you’re an avid football fan who digs the Xs and Os, enjoy the scrimmage. Just know the football team likely won’t be the only athletics team going deep on Saturday.

John Kopp can be reached at

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