Some things to think about as the Quakers look forward to 2006 ...
This will be the 128th season of Penn baseball.
March 4, 2006 will mark the first time since the final game of the 1971 season that coaches not named Bob Seddon and Bill Wagner will be leading the Quakers from the bench.
Head coach John Cole has named seniors Brian Cirri and Sean Abate captains for the 2006 season. The two are the 97th and 98th captains named in the 127-year history of the Penn baseball program.
The Quakers return 10 letterwinners (six position players and four pitchers) from last year’s squad while losing 13. Filling leadership roles will be key, as all but one of those players lost were seniors.
This year’s roster includes five seniors, six juniors, nine sophomores and nine freshmen.
Penn will look to land a player on the All-Ivy League team this year - last year was the first time that no Quaker was honored since 2000 and the third time in the last 10 years.
In 2005, the team finished with a solid 10-7 record at Meiklejohn Stadium (formerly Murphy Field).
The Quakers will look to improve their record on the road, which stood at 1-14 last season.
Offensively, Penn will turn to Abate to provide some power in the meat of its lineup. Penn’s most valuable player from a year ago, Abate led the squad in home runs (5) and RBI (25) in 2005.
Abate was also stellar at first base, committing just two errors for a team-high .993 fielding percentage.
Abate and left fielder Kyle Armeny are the only two returning position players that started on an everyday basis for Penn last year.
Cirri will be in the starting rotation for the Quakers, followed by Steven Schwartz, Michael Gibbons, Nick Francona and Andy Console. The latter two are recovering from injuries, so Penn will be looking for other hurlers to start games until they return.
Quoting Coach John Cole
On his coaching philosophy
“The main thing we’re trying to do here is instill a new attitude to go out and not play with any fear. The key word for our players is invest.’ We want our guys to invest their ability and time in our system. If they do that, their return will be a lot greater.”
On making the transition from Division III baseball to Division I
“I feel that the transition isn’t really a big one because the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) is a good league with tough players that competed at a high level, regardless of what division it was. I am certainly excited to coach in a league as prestigious and historic as the Ivy League, but I’m a believer that baseball is baseball wherever you go, and if you stick to the basic principles of the game, you will be successful at any level.”
On the outlook of his young team
“There’s no question about it pitching and defense will keep you around. But in our park, home runs will be key because it’s a small park. I think the middle of the lineup is the strength of our team, so I do believe we’ll hit the ball. If the top and bottom can get on and put the ball in play, we will score some runs. But pitching will win an Ivy league championship. Whether we have enough is yet to be seen, but we will see who steps up and rises to the occasion.”
On the defense
“The strength of the team defensively would have to be the outfield. Kyle Armeny was a starter as a freshman last year, and Jarron Smith and Michael Gatti both saw a good amount of action throughout the year. In the infield, Sean Abate is a solid veteran first baseman, but the rest of our players are inexperienced so they will have to learn in a hurry. It’ll be a battle for the catcher position, with Josh Corn and freshmen Jeff Cellucci and Tim May all competing for the spot.”
On the starting pitching
“With Nick Francona coming off surgery and Andy Console not pitching all summer due to injury, we're very limited right now. We have to hope those two guys get healthy to give us some depth on the mound. Brian Cirri is our best returning pitcher and will be our No. 1 going into the season. Steven Schwartz pitched a good amount of innings in the fall, as did Michael Gibbons. Again, we’re going to look for guys to step up and contribute.”
On the bullpen
“The player who steps up in the closer role will be very instrumental in our success. We’ll have a bunch of guys competing for the job. Our bullpen will consist of Bret Wallace, Joe Thornton, Wes Donehower, Doug Brown, Kenny Yoo and possibly a few others. The name of the game is pitching, and we will not be successful if this group doesn’t respond.”
On the Florida trip
“We're going to be tested very quickly. It's going to be a very difficult challenge for us, but we will find out where we are right away. Central Florida and South Florida are very good, and Maine is a great Northeast program. They're probably all going to be better then us on paper, but we know that coming in, so practice is going to be ultra-critical to going down to Florida with a plan. It all comes down to throwing strikes and hitting the ball. You've got to simplify the game and turn the pressure button to the other bench.”
On matching up in the Ivy League
“It’s no secret that Harvard and Princeton have dominated this conference for a few years now. Just like any other league with long-standing rivalries, I think it will be a dog fight with every team in the Ivy League. We’ve definitely got some work to do, but there’s no reason that we can’t do some damage in the conference. I think people around the League sense that Penn is going to be a force to be reckoned with very quickly.”