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PHILADELPHIA - The 2013 Penn baseball season opens on Friday afternoon as the Quakers travel to Virginia and take on the William & Mary Tribe in a four-game set from Plumeri Park. Penn's first game is scheduled for a 4 p.m start. Following the opener, a doubleheader is scheduled for Saturday beginning at 12 p.m. A 1 p.m. meeting on Sunday closes out the series.
After a travel day heading south, Penn will meet up with Duke for a pair of games on March 5-6. Each tilt will get underway at 3 p.m. from Jack Coombs Field. Spring Break comes to a close for the Quakers as they play three games at Winthrop from March 8-10. Times are set for 6 p.m. on March 8, 3 p.m. on March 9 and 1 p.m. on March 10 from the Winthrop Ballpark.
Though the weather has often been a factor in getting the team out to Meiklejohn Stadium to practice, that doesn't mean the team hasn't been hard at work. The use of the practice bubble at Dunning-Cohen Champions Field has allowed the Quakers to hold a full preseason training regimen in the build-up to the season.
After a 17-23 season in 2012, Penn returns 13 letterwinners, including five position players and three starting pitchers. A number of newcomers, including players returning from injury, will get a chance to earn playing time throughout the year. Here's a brief overview of the Quakers for the upcoming year:
Despite the loss of Vince Voiro, a 15th Round draft pick of the Oakland A's, Penn is optimistic about the depth and quality of its pitching rotation. Jeff McGarry missed all of last season but will make his collegiate debut on Friday in the opener. Connor Cuff played an important role in the early going a year ago, making four starts and leading the team in strikeouts for much of the season until he was sidelined with an arm injury. Dan Gautieri, the leader in appearances for the Quakers in 2012, will make the move out of the bullpen and join returning starters Matt Gotschall and Cody Thomson. Thomson is Penn's top returner in games started (8), innings pitched (52.0) and ERA (3.63). Jeremy Witt will make some spot starts, most likely in mid-week games, as the season progresses.
In the bullpen, Ronnie Glenn will occupy the closer's role, while Mitch Montaldo will see some pitching duties added to his role in the infield. John Beasley, Stephen Silvestri, Pat Bet, Mitch Holtz and Witt round out the main group likely to come on in relief.
The Quakers welcome back plenty of experience at the corners, with Spencer Branigan coming back for his fourth year manning first base. Branigan is an unquestioned middle-of-the-order hitter, hitting 11 doubles, two triples and two home runs last season on his way to 26 runs batted in. Across the diamond, Rick Brebner will hold down third base after missing much of the second half of last season due to injury. Despite being sidelined for 13 contests, Brebner put together good numbers at the plate, batting .313 with four doubles and a pair of home runs. Behind the plate, Austin Bossart returns for his sophomore season after being named honorable mention All-Ivy as a freshman. Bossart made a good transition to collegiate baseball offensively, but it was defensively where he set himself apart. He threw out 23 potential base-stealers and picked off five others in 39 games, something that should keep opposing teams honest on the basepaths this year.
The middle of the infield is untested after the graduation of four-year starter Derek Vigoa. Freshman Michael Vilardo will get the start at second base, with freshman Ryan Mincher and Montaldo - who filled in at third after Brebner's injury last season - looking to form a combo at shortstop.
Just as with the infield, Penn returns starters in the corner outfield positions but will rely on youth up the middle. Right fielder Ryan Deitrich led the Quakers in a number of offensive categories in 2012, including batting average (.350), hits (49) and triples (4). His 17 doubles and four home runs each ranked second on the team. Though the Ivy League doesn't give out preseason accolades, the website College Sports Madness listed Deitrich as its Ivy League Field Player of the Year as well as a first-team All-Ivy selection.
In left field, Penn's regular lead-off hitter from a year ago is back in Brandon Engelhardt. The junior set the table with 32 hits and 23 runs scored in 2012, while tying for second on the team with seven stolen bases. The early nod in center field will go to freshman Gary Tesch. At designated hitter, Joey Greco, Marshall Harden and Matt McKinnon will all receive some at-bats throughout the course of the season.
About William & Mary
W&M enters the weekend at 4-3, fresh off a three-game sweep of Siena. The Tribe opened the year taking one of three off Clemson on the road, then fell in a mid-week contest to a ranked Virginia squad. Playing at home for the first time against the Saints, William & Mary put 26 runs on the board in the three contests and never allowed more than three runs in any one game. Junior Ryan Lindemuth was a preseason All-CAA selection and has batted .423 in the early going this season, collecting 11 hits in 26 at-bats.
Right-hander John Farrellearned the CAA Pitcher of the Week honor a week ago after earning the win over Clemson by allowing just two runs over seven innings. He enters the weekend set with Penn at 2-0 with an ERA of 2.25 Brett Koehler and Jason Ingraham are each 1-1, but also boast an ERA of 3.00 or lower.
After a Wednesday night loss to Campbell, Duke sits at 4-3 and will play a three-game series at home with Towson before Penn arrives in North Carolina. One of the Blue Devils' wins in the early going is a 4-3 victory over a Florida team that has advanced to three straight College World Series. Mike Rosenfeld leads the team with a .333 average and four doubles. Andy Perez is hitting just. 150 but manufactures his way on base, where he has four steals in five attempts.
On the hill, Trent Swart is 1-0 in two starts with a 1.38 ERA. Drew Van Orden has been unlucky so far, going 0-1 in a pair of starts with a 1.59 ERA. Five relievers have made multiple appearances and have an ERA of less than 2.00.
Winthrop improved its record to 3-5 on Wednesday after an extra-innings win on the road at Clemson. The Eagles travel to Florida to play three with UCF this weekend, then host The Citadel in a mid-week contest next week before the Quakers wrap up their trip in Rock Hill, S.C.
Cody Dolan leads Winthrop with a .407 batting average, with three doubles, a home run and three runs batted in. Leighton Daniels is right behind him at .400, with a pair of doubles and seven walks. Matt Lobacz rounds out the trio of hitters off to a hot start for the Eagles, batting .367 with three doubles, five runs batted in and seven walks.
Matt Pierpont is the staff ace for Winthrop. He's 1-0 in two starts with an ERA of just 0.75. The senior has struck out 15 batters while walking only two. Out of the bullpen, Eric Ruth is 1-0 while not allowing a run in four appearances spanning six innings.