By SAMUEL BOTWINICK | Staff Writer
With Steve Nikorak embarking on his professional career with the Chicago White Sox, the Temple Owls open the new campaign with the serious challenge of finding leadership and production. The Owls’ ability to fill this void might depend on the bat and glove of sophomore shortstop Nick Lustrino.
"You don’t expect a freshman to handle the number of different roles we asked him to play, and he did it tremendously," said Owls' head coach Ryan Wheeler.
Last season was Wheeler's first at the helm and the Owls finished 19-34. He expects an improvement this season.
Unfortunately, Wheeler's expectations were tempered a bit on Friday as the Owls dropped both sides of a doubleheader in Cary, N.C. - first falling to Wright State and later to Delaware. Lustrino was the Owls' lone highlight, collecting a combined three hits including a double and a home run.
"No one player should take more upon themselves and do too much, because whenever you do too much, that’s when everything goes wrong," Lustrino said. "My goal is to try to keep it simple and just try to win.”
With time, Wheeler believes Lustrino can grow into a leader and one of the better players in the region.
"Knowing that we're going to be playing him at shortstop, I just see more confidence in him," Wheeler said. "He makes all of the routine plays and has improved his lateral range. I see him emerging and being more of a leader on the club."
The Owls face Monmouth on Saturday at 3 p.m. before finishing the weekend Sunday with a contest against Toledo at 10 a.m.