AMBLER, PA. 5/9/2012 – The first season is complete for new Temple Baseball coach Ryan Wheeler. The record does not match was hoped for, but the team has made strides toward the destination Wheeler hopes to go. The wins and losses do not tell the full story. After the season ending loss to Rhode Island the coach had a chance to reflect upon his first season at the helm. Wheeler is looking forward to building the program back to where they will get more championship signs on the fence at Skip Wilson Field.
“Despite our record I feel we accomplished a lot,” said Wheeler. “I feel the program has a purpose and a direction. We are moving in a right way, and I’m looking forward to next season.”
The Owls finished with 19 – 33 record, 7 – 16 in the Atlantic 10. The team finished the season being swept by Rhode Island. This game represented a chance to view where Temple baseball resides now, but how the present team can give a glimpse of taking the team to another level. Wheeler does see positives gained this season that can be the foundation for better days ahead. And a spot in the Atlantic 10 Tournament in the near future.
“I wanted to build a program where we are teaching every day, and we have players who are eager to learn and want to get better,” Wheeler said. “The players who are coming back I can;t thank them enough for their effort. They’ve been working extremely hard to get better. I think that is a key component in moving forward. We’ve got some young talent who got to play and get the experience they desperately need. That will make them better in the future. We’ve got a good foundation to build on.”
The younger payers that need top learn and carry the torch this season included field players such as Freshman Nick Lustrino who played every infield position and catcher. He batted .291 this year with 28 runs, 53 hits, and 16 runs batted in. Lustrino added more than numbers.
“He was one of our top hitters, and brought a decent amount of energy to practice every day,” said Wheeler
On the mound Adam Dian, Eric Peterson, and Pat Peterson will return. Pat Peterson was 3 – 4 on the season with a 3.51 earned run average. He had 13 starts and pitched 84.2 innings giving up 74 hits and struck out 68 batters. Eric had a 5.29 earned run average in 17 appearances pitching 49.1 innings. Eric had a 1 – 1 record giving up 54 hits and recorded 35 strikeouts. Dain also appeared in 17 games recording a 1 – 1 record with a 4.46 earned run average. Dian pitched 34.1 innings giving up 22 hits and struck out 24.
Those players must perform for the Owls to be successful. There is a need for improvement that need to be undertaken in the upcoming summer months.
“We have to get better in every area,” Wheeler said. “We have to get better pitching all the way around, we’ve got to play better defense, and get some timely hitting. There is plenty to work on.”
However, the current senior class will not return to the field, but will leave a legacy that the current underclassmen need to follow. It was the final collegiate day for seniors Foster Dunigan, Taylor Juran, Jabair Khan, Steve Nikorak, Brant Norlander, and Brian Sustersic. Those players became the teachers providing a vision of what could be in the future. The contributions of the seniors and especially Steve Nikorak will be invaluable to Temple according to Wheeler.
“Steve Nikorak is outstanding young man, and did a tremendous job all season long in trying to show the younger players how things are supposed to be done and in the right way,” said Wheeler. “All the seniors were teaching how to work and how to be a college athlete.”
Temple showed they did not want their season to end. Despite trailing 12 – 2 in the bottom of the ninth, the Owls batted around scoring 3 runs to end the game at 12 – 5. They would not go quietly, and playing to the end impressed their coach. After the game Nikorak was found raking the third base area. Maybe it was his last Temple game, but it did not end his involvement with the team. All of the little things that are noticeable are pointing in the right direction for the Cherry and White.
“I think the young men are excited and are hungry to learn,” said Wheeler. “They brought the right attitude every day. We’ll keep working with them to get them where they need to be.”