Wheeler’s team faces an exodus

Several athletes are choosing to transfer to other institutions.

Carl Iwasaki had his eye on Reyn Sugai last year.

Sugai was coming off of a season where he batted .349 with 28 RBIs and 12 steals at Fort Scott Community College in Fort Scott, Kan.

Now, Iwasaki will get the opportunity to bring Sugai – a fellow Hawaiian – to his program at Northern Colorado after Temple’s baseball program will cease to exist on July 1 after the Board of Trustees voted to eliminate the team last December.

For Sugai, a junior broadcast journalism major from Honolulu, the decision to leave Temple for Greeley, Colo., wasn’t easy.

“Temple has a really good journalism program, which I don’t think you come upon every day,” Sugai said. “I really like the classes and my teachers and stuff, but since I was a little kid I wanted to play college baseball.”

“I just want to chase the dream as long as I can,” Sugai added.

Sugai isn’t alone in wanting to keep that dream alive.

The Owls’ roster features 18 players with NCAA eligibility remaining beyond this season, even after the program had six players transfer immediately following the cuts.

While the future of many of those 18 players is undecided, a few underclassmen have joined Sugai in making their decision for next season.

Sophomore pitcher Tim McCarthy will be heading to St. Joseph’s University, freshman pitcher Simon Mathews will transfer to Georgetown and sophomore catcher Michael D’Acunti will continue his playing career at the College of Charleston.

The future of sophomore starting centerfielder Jimmy Kerrigan remains uncertain. Coach Ryan Wheeler said that Kerrigan has been hearing from schools like St. Joe’s, Virginia Commonwealth University and Radford.

Kerrigan has started in all 36 games and is second on the team with a .299 batting average and is second on the roster with seven steals.

“I’m just looking to go somewhere where I can play and play for as long as possible and hopefully win a championship somewhere,” Kerrigan said.

Not knowing who is watching or what their future holds, Kerrigan and Sugai admitted to feeling added pressure throughout the season.

“I have [felt extra pressure] at times,” Kerrigan said. “Sometimes I get too ahead of myself and I tell myself to just relax.”

“You try not to think about it but it’s definitely in the back of our minds when we’re playing,” Sugai said. “You’re always trying to have a 4-for-4 day and you kind of do put on some added pressure that wouldn’t necessarily be there if we weren’t in the situation we were in.”

Wheeler said his job has been difficult as well, shuffling lineups during midweek games to try to get as many people on the field as possible.

“I’m trying to remain competitive but yet I’m trying to showcase these guys and give them a chance to show what they can do for other teams,” Wheeler said.

Once July 1 comes, Wheeler will be without a job, along with the rest of his coaching staff. The third-year Temple coach and Souderton High School graduate still isn’t sure what’s in store for him beyond this season.

“We’re coming down to the end of the season, so maybe there’ll be some coaching vacancies out there,” Wheeler said. “[I’m] still kicking around and talking to a number of folks [about things] that would keep me in baseball, but not necessarily in the college coaching ranks.”

Twenty years after graduating from Penn State, Wheeler may have to put 17 years of coaching college baseball in his rearview mirror. He has a degree in golf course management he could use.

“I’ve been away from it for so long that I don’t know if I could jump back in that field or not,” Wheeler said. “Who knows? Maybe so, if nothing turns up on the baseball field.”

Jeff Neiburg can be reached at jeffrey.neiburg@temple.edu.

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