Prior to beginning his final season with Temple, senior third baseman Henry Knabe was used primarily as a bench player who occasionally earned a start in the Owls’ lineup.
In three seasons with the Owls from 2010-12, Knabe spent time in the field at shortstop, second base and third base. After putting in an off-season in which he primarily focused on his swing, the 5 foot, 11 inch Califon, N.J., native has made a noticeable impact in the offensive production and has been a regular in Temple’s starting lineup through eight games this season.
“I think [my success] has a lot to do with the work that I put in this offseason as well as the confidence that comes with being a senior,” Knabe said.
Through his three years with Temple, Knabe compiled a .257 batting average with eight doubles, one triple, two home runs and 22 RBI.
In eight games this season for the Owls, Knabe has started in six games with a batting average of .375, good enough for third best on the team behind sophomore shortstop Nick Lustrino and freshman catcher Michael D’Acunti. Knabe has added nine hits, two doubles, one home run and six RBI to his 2013 résumé.
Entering the new season, coach Ryan Wheeler said it was going to be an open competition between junior Derek Peterson, senior Elijah Yarborough and Knabe. Through eight games, Wheeler has moved Peterson to first base while Knabe and Yarborough continue to battle over playing time at third base.
“We have Knabe, Yarborough and Peterson, and it has just been a battle since Day One in the fall,” Wheeler said. “Just when one guy starts to pull ahead, the other guy seems to rise to the occasion and pass them.”
“We ended up moving Peterson over to first; it was the only way to get at least two of the three in the lineup at the same time,” Wheeler added. “Right now we are kind of just letting it play out and one of them will emerge I am sure, but right now everybody seems to be doing a good job contributing.”
In the Owls’ first game of the season against Wright State, it was Knabe that got the start at third base. To this point, he has proven to Wheeler he has earned the opportunity.
“[Knabe] started off swinging the bat very well so that has put him maybe a little bit ahead of [Yarborough],” Wheeler said. “They have both done a real nice job for us. It’s going to continue to play itself out. If there is one thing that sort of puts Knabe ahead, it’s his offensive production.”
The offensive success Knabe has had early this season did not come without hard work. As a player who has been unhappy with his swing in the past, Knabe practiced at the Jack Cust Baseball Academy in Flemington, N.J., during Summer 2012.
“I worked a lot on staying through the ball, keeping my hands through the ball, trying to back spin it to all fields and started working on my hands a little more, changing my stride and making sure my hands were getting through the ball,” Knabe said.
This season, Knabe has found himself primarily hitting either third or fourth in Wheeler’s lineup and earning the reputation as a power threat.
Along with his hard work off the field, Knabe has proven that he can be a leader of the Owls this year.
“[Knabe] has been around for three years now and he understands what it takes to go through a season,” Wheeler said. “He’s played quite a bit over his time. He does a good job at helping the younger players and he has been really helpful in talking to them and trying to help them to understand the ups and downs of the season.”
“Henry is a savvy vet. He’s one of the best,” Peterson said. “He has had a lot of experience, he really knows the game inside and out, and he has prepared a lot of us newcomers and freshmen of what to expect, while making us feel very comfortable.”
While Knabe has achieved his goal of making an offensive impact early in the season, he said he will not be completely satisfied until he sees Temple in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament at the end of May in Charlotte, N.C.
“I would really like to make the playoffs and win some games there too,” Knabe said. “I haven’t been there yet in my time with Temple so I would really love to go to the tournament.”
John Murrow can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JohnMurrow12.