Penn Reloads in 2004 - The Quakers' baseball team will have a new look but same goal.
Dec. 16, 2003
PHILADELPHIA --All of the components seem to be in place for the University of Pennsylvania's baseball team to improve on the success of last season. Even though the Red and Blue lost four seniors from 2003's 22-win squad, Penn brings back two first-team All-Ivy standouts and a pair of 2002-All-Ivy recipients that should give the Quakers the offense needed to make a run at the Lou Gehrig Division title in 2004.
Junior Leadership With only three seniors on this year's squad, Penn will look to its 13 juniors to lead the way for the eight returning sophomores and six incoming freshman.
From the Big 5 to the Big Leagues Three Penn baseball players were drafted in 2003, the most by any Ivy League school in one year. The Arizona Diamondbacks, drafted Andrew McCreery, the third Ivy League Player of the Year in Penn history, on the strength of a .338 batting average, driving in 36 runs and belting seven homers in his senior season. The Diamondbacks also signed McCreery's pitching partner Ben Krantz after leading the team in wins (four), innings pitched (55.1) and strikeouts (52). The Philadelphia Phillies picked up Nick Italiano, the new king of swing at Penn with 194 career hits, and Russ Brocato left draft day as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.
"9" Head Coach Bob Seddon enters his 33rd season on the bench at Penn. He is the winningest baseball coach in Quakers history with 613 victories and is the only Ivy League coach to have reached the 600-win plateau, a feat Seddon accomplished in a 19-10 win over Columbia (Mar. 29, 2003). Seddon has managed five teams into the NCAA tournament with the most recent trip coming in 1995. He is not alone on the bench and hasn't been for over three decades. Assistant Coach Bill "Wags" Wagner has sat alongside "9" since the beginning. The Quakers pitching coach is also in on all game strategy decisions. His pitching staff set yet another single-season record with 271 strikeouts in 2003.
And Now Batting ... The Red and Blue will begin with a line-up that highlights speed and power, especially in the first five positions in the batting order. The coaching staff knows that an offense geared more towards the National League style of baseball may suit the Quakers best in 2004. "We have to play small-ball," said Seddon, "But offensively we still have a lot of pop."
Alex Blagojevich, a 2002 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper freshman All-American, looks to be the lead-off hitter heading into the spring. The junior started 14 of the 16 games he played last season amassing 10 hits, one for extra bases, and three RBI in 52 at-bats. He was 3-of-4 in stolen bases and drew five bases on balls.
Kasey Adler may be the most solid hitter returning in 2004. Also a junior, Adler hit .320 last season with 41 hits (second) and 32 RBI (second). He had his best performance of the season against Columbia (March 31) going 2-for-4 with a double, a homerun and three RBI.
Co-captain Mike Goldblatt should fall into the number three spot in the line-up. Goldblatt finished last season with a .343 batting average, good for third on the team. He only played in 10 games during his injury-shortened junior season, starting all 10 games, and hit over .300 in all but four contests.
Bryan Graves, co-captain and 2002 All-Ivy recipient, will look to battle Nate Moffie for the clean-up position in the line-up. Graves played in one game last season, due to injuries, but has showed power and promise heading into the spring. Moffie finished 2003 first on the team in sacrifice bunts (five), at-bats (141), hits (50), sacrifice flies (four), stolen bases (five) and total plate appearances (173). He was second on the team in batting average (.355), runs scored (39), walks (22), doubles (nine) and total bases (70).
Around the Horn The Quakers infield should shake out with Adler manning first base and Evan Sobel, a junior out of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., at second base, who could also see time at shortstop. Battling Sobel for second base duties will be James Dunning, who hit .200 in six games played last year, and Jeffrey Hutchinson, a freshman hailing from Princeton Junction, N.J.
The second part of the double-play tandem looks to be a competition among two newcomers and a sophomore. Jesse Barnes and Andrew Bechta will challenge Josiah Brand for the starting shortstop job. Brand played in 24 games in 2003, starting 14 of them, and hit .200 with 12 hits and nine RBI and nine runs scored. He had a .821 fielding percentage, five putouts and 18 assists in 28 chances.
The hot corner belongs to Goldblatt who finished last season with a .923 fielding percentage with 11 putouts, 13 assists and only two errors in 26 chances.
The Outfield Blagojevich, Graves and Moffie look to start the season in centerfield, rightfield and leftfield respectively but freshman Steve Belfiglio, also a left-handed pitcher, could see time in the outfield as well as Graham Bangert, who may play outfield but will also see time as the Quakers' designated hitter, possibly in the lead-off spot due to his speed. In 2002, Bangert was a perfect five-of-five in steal attempts in 23 games played. Defensively, he had a .917 fielding percentage.
Co-captain Mike Goldblatt
Co-captain Bryan Graves
A Little Pitch and Catch According to Coach Seddon, the Quakers need to produce runs for their pitchers but the hurlers on the mound need to pitch well and throw strikes in order to be successful. The rotation looks to set up with Bill Kirk, Penn's only returning starter, Remington Chin, Josh Appell and Brian Winings.
Kirk, a hard throwing right-hander, pitched 43.1 innings in seven starts with a record of 3-3. He struck out 30 batters, fifth-best on last season's team and is the only returning pitcher from last year's staff to pitch a complete game.
Chin started only four games but saw action in 13 contests in 2003. He gave up 41 hits and sat down 20 opposing hitters in 32.1 innings pitched. Appell was the Quakers' main source of relief, leading the team in appearances (16), which tied him with Travis Arbogast (1997) for second on the all-time list for appearances in a single season. He kept opposing batters to a miniscule .167 batting average. The lefty finished second in wins (three) and strikeouts (44). Winings led the team with eight saves last season pitching, 15.1 innings and recording 19 strikeouts. His eight saves set an individual record for saves in a season, previously held by Nick Barhorst (2001). His individual performance even bettered the all-time record for team saves, which was held at seven by the 2001 team.
Completing the battery at catcher will be either Matt Horn, a right-handed junior, or senior Jon Slaughter. Slaughter hit .299 while Horn had a batting average of .237. Horn led the team last season by stopping the opposition 12 times when attempting to steal.
Fresh Faces Penn welcomes seven newcomers to the team in 2004. Three of the freshmen will join Wagner's pitching staff, while three more will look for time in the infield and another will hunt for work behind the plate. Steve Belfiglio, from nearby Newtown Square, Pa., is the only left-handed pitcher among the newcomers. Drew Matheson (Windermere, Fla.) and Joe Thornton (Lincoln, R.I.), both right-handed hurlers, will join Belfiglio on the staff.
Jesse Barnes (Oakland, Calif.), Andrew Bechta (Ellicott, Md.) and Jeffrey Hutchinson (Princeton Junction, N.J.) join the team with 10 years of high school baseball experience among them. Each will look to fill a need in the infield during the 2004 season.
Hank Watson, a Pittsburgh native, will join Horn and Slaughter behind the plate during his first season with the Red and Blue.
Run For the Ivy Penn has not finished first in the Lou Gehrig Division of the Ivy League since 1995, as the Quakers finished second the last two seasons, missing out on the Ivy League baseball playoff by finishing three games behind Princeton. "It's tough to predict in 2004," said Seddon, "One thing is that you can't afford to lose four in a row during a weekend in this League and expect to win when five or six losses could win the League."
Princeton may still be the team to beat in 2004, due in large part to superior pitching, but Penn and the other two teams in its division, Cornell and Columbia, have made large strides to close the gap heading into this season. "Cornell should be a factor and Columbia is improved but still is yet to break through," said Seddon of his intra-divisional rivals.
"We must compete with the pitching of Princeton and our other Ivy opponents in order to be successful," Seddon added, "Thankfully, we do not lose much from 2004 to 2005 due to much of our team consisting of juniors and underclassmen."
Written by Mat Kanan, associate director of athletic communications