2008 Baseball Spring Blog - 3/7/08 - UPDATED

BOCA RATON – 10:41 AM: Greetings from the third-base dugout on field two of the baseball complex at Santaluces High School in a breezy, yet warm Boca Raton, Florida. One week ago at this time, the Penn baseball team was preparing for its season-opener against West Chester at Meiklejohn Stadium. The temperature at game time last Friday was 35 degrees. By the end of the Quakers’ 2-1 loss to the Golden Rams, it was in the twenties. What a difference a week makes. As the Red and Blue stretch in preparation for some early morning batting practice, it is 80 degrees, a nice 45-degree swing in the right direction.

With the amateur meteorology out of the way, let’s get down to business. The Quakers are here in Florida for an eight-game swing over ten days. Up first for Penn is Lehigh on Saturday at 10 a.m. Other opponents down in the Sunshine State include Air Force, Maine, UConn, Penn State, Pittsburgh, NJIT, and Dominican (NY).

Penn is 0-1 on the season after dropping a close one to West Chester seven days ago. The Quakers are the defending Ivy League Gehrig Division Champions and are looking to take the next step and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The next week or so should go a long way towards setting the pitching rotation and allowing the new crop of freshmen and upperclass additions to the club to acclimate themselves to college ball.

Another added bonus to the ten-day sojourn away from Penn is a chance for Quaker fans to get to know the young men who make up the 2008 baseball squad. The goal of this blog is to augment the game coverage and provide insight into the makeup of the team. Throughout the course of the next ten days, check back to www.PennAthletics.com for player profiles, interviews with players and coaches, and perhaps even a few entries from the guys themselves.

Right now, stretching is complete and the guys are warmed up. Coaches Cole, Yurkow and Cross – as well as the catchers – are hitting fungoes to the position players and the pitchers are in the outfield working on mechanics.

8:43 p.m. – The team just concluded a quick meeting outlining the plan for tomorrow morning’s game against Lehigh. Anyone who thinks this trip is all about relaxation and fun with a little baseball thrown in is sorely mistaken. With the first pitch of tomorrow’s game scheduled for 10 a.m., the team will receive early wakeup calls. Team breakfast is set for 7 a.m. with the bus leaving for the park at a few minutes before 8 a.m.

If field two plays anything like it did today, the Red and Blue should expect a few more runs than they saw last week against West Chester. Batting practice for the Quakers saw quite a few balls fly over the fence – including one from left-handed hitter Tom Grandieri that flew over the fence, over the shrubbery surrounding the field, over the ravine behind the bushes and onto the banking on the other side. The new addition to some Floridian’s backyard traveled an estimated 435 feet – according to the invisible measuring stick used by team manager Langston Smith. Factual measuring will take place tomorrow morning.

To eliminate any thoughts that the aerial display was limited only to a little BP, take a look at the score of the game held later in the day on the same field between Lehigh and Air Force. The two teams combined for 29 runs in the Mountain Hawks’ 15-14 win.

If tomorrow’s game evolves into a hitter’s delight, expect senior co-captain Kyle Armeny to have a say. He led the Quakers in home runs last season with eight and added 14 doubles (the fourth most in a season by a Penn player). Sophomore third baseman William Gordon has the next most dingers by a returning player with four.

The Hawks are finishing up their spring trip and are 5-6. They are 5-2 since dropping their first four games of the season to #14 Virginia. One of their other two losses came at the hands of #8 Miami (FL). Similar to Penn, Lehigh is a young squad, with multiple freshmen and sophomores seeing significant playing time. Leading the way is first-year outfielder Bill Goldman. He is hitting .333 so far in ’08 and is tied for the team lead in RBI with seven.

The man he is tied for also patrols the outfield for Lehigh. Senior Joe Ercolano entered the season with a .345 career batting average. He has reached base in nearly half of his plate appearances this season and has stolen seven bases on eight attempts.

Another rookie earning playing time is Brendan McGaheran at second base. He is second on the team in runs scored (six) and leads the Hawks in doubles (four).

For those who are not able to join us at the park tomorrow, you can follow the action on www.pennathletics.com via Live Stats off the link to the 2008 schedule.