PHILADELPHIA Penn is scheduled to open its baseball season on Friday with a pair of games against West Chester at Meiklejohn Stadium. The first pitch of game 1 is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. moved up from the original start time of 1 p.m.
The Quakers are the defending Ivy League Gehrig Division Champions and are looking to erase the disappointment of losing in the Ivy League Championship Series to Brown, two games to none, last season.
“The sting of losing the ILCS and not advancing to NCAAs is still fresh in our mind,” senior co-captain Kyle Armeny said earlier this week. “We got a taste of what it felt like to achieve success in the league and we want to get back there again this season. This time, hopefully we can take the next step.”
In order to get back to the ILCS, Penn will have to navigate a conference schedule that has increased in toughness since last season.
“Every team in the League has gotten better,” W. Joseph Blood Head Coach of Baseball John Cole said. “And when you look at it from our end, we won’t be able to sneak up on anyone this year. We will get each team’s best pitchers and best effort.”
The Quakers will be able to counter their opponent’s best hurler with an ace of their own in sophomore Todd Roth. Named one of Penn’s co-captains as a sophomore, Roth hopes to build on his extremely successful rookie campaign for the Red and Blue. He was Ivy League Rookie of the Year and also was named Big Five Rookie of the Year and Co-Pitcher of the Year. He was first-team All-Ivy and first-team All-Big Five. He was named to Louisville Slugger’s Freshman All-America team and was a member of Ping! Baseball’s All-Freshman second team. In 13 games on the mound, he was 6-2 with a 1.98 ERA while striking out 62 hitters. He led the Ivy League in both strikeouts and ERA.
“It will be hard for Todd to repeat the year he had in 2007, and we are not asking him to do that,” Cole said. “What we do expect is for him to be a great role model and leader for the other young pitchers on our staff.”
Roth knows expectations will be heightened for himself and the team this year.
“You never know what will happen in baseball year to year,” he said. “I think I have worked harder this offseason than any before and that the guys in the clubhouse have done the same. The key is to transfer that hard work onto the field.”
Outside the Ivy League, Penn plays a non-conference schedule filled with local teams as part of the Big Five as well as in the Liberty Bell Classic.
“The Big Five games mean a lot around here,” Roth said. “I know when recruits come in, especially if they are local guys, they ask how we did against the Philly teams.”
Last season, Penn was 201 against Big Five Opponents and was voted Big Five Team of the Year for their accomplishments inside the City of Brotherly Love and outside.
The Liberty Bell Classic pits eight local teams against each other in a tournament to decide the best team in the area. Penn opens the Liberty Bell Classic March 25 at Lafayette. If the Quakers advance to the final, they will play April 15 at Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies.
“As a senior, getting to the finals of the Liberty Bell and playing at Citizens Bank Park is one of my goals,” Armeny said. “These games are a way of securing bragging rights in the Philadelphia and Delaware area. I take them very seriously. The team is starting to do so as well.”
After the twin-bill with West Chester, Penn travels to Florida for eight games in Boca Raton over Spring Break. The Quakers will take on Lehigh, Air Force, Maine, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Dominican (NY) and NJIT while in the Sunshine State.
“The early part of the season is about setting the rotation and finding roles for the guys on the team,” Cole said. “We will be tested very quickly. West Chester is a quality team, one of the best in Division II. Some of the teams we play in Florida are from power conferences and will be very challenging opponents. I see this as a great chance for our new guys to learn about college baseball in a competitive environment.”
Quotes from coach Cole on his team ...
Team Leadership for 2008...
“I am thrilled with our team’s selection of our 2007-08 captains. Senior first baseman Kyle Armeny (Florham Park, N.J.) and sophomore pitcher Todd Roth (Lanoka Harbor, N.J.) will provide our program with mature, solid and sturdy leadership. Their approach, both on and off the field, reflects what we look for in a Penn baseball player.”
“Our freshman class will provide an immediate impact to our team. This group is very athletic and has tremendous work ethic. We addressed our needs of quality starting pitching, impact catching, middle-infield depth and speed in the outfield. I expect this group to contribute from the moment they step on the field.”
“The infield has become a solid foundation for our team. Senior co-captain Kyle Armeny enters his second season as our starting first baseman. In addition to his offensive skills, he has developed in the field as well, as evidenced by his committing only one error in 39 games in 2007. Junior Tim May (Mission Viejo, Calif.) along with sophomores Reid Terry (Atlanta, Ga.) and Jason D'Ambrosio (Philadelphia, Pa.) all have experience and will contribute at first as well as in the designated hitter role. Sophomore William Gordon (LaGrange, Ga.) will get first look at third base with junior Jim Farrell (Yardley, Pa.) joining him at the hot corner. Sophomore Matt Toffaletti (Durham, N.C.) is in line to start at second base. He is joined by classmate Steve Gable (Emmaus, Pa.) and junior Rajan Paty (Syosset, N.Y.). Shortstop is a key to every baseball team, and this year we are turning it over to a pair of freshmen. Promising first-year player Dan Williams (Southampton, N.J.) has the inside track on the starting nod, but we expect Matt Tellem (Pacific Palisades, Calif.) to compete for playing time as well. Depth in the infield will be very important for us, as two of our starters are also vital components of our bullpen. Toffaletti is one of our first relievers out of the pen, and Gordon has emerged as our probable closer in late-game situations."
“I see the outfield as being a very competitive situation for us this season. Senior Alex Nwaka (Burtonville, Md.) will give us tremendous leadership and experience out there. He can hit for average and run the bases extremely well. In the field,his defense is first-rate. Behindhim we have sophomore transfer Tom Grandieri (Media, Pa.) and a pair of freshmen in Adrian Thomas (Columbus, Ga.) and Jeremy Maas (Alpharetta, Ga.). In centerfield, there is definitely a tight race between freshman Adrian Lorenzo (Miami, Fla.) and senior Mike Gatti (Watchung, N.J.) for the starting job.”
“The catching position should be a stabilizing force for our program. Returning starter, junior Jeff Cellucci (Coatesville, Pa.) and freshman Will Davis (Atlanta, Ga.) anchor this deep group. These two underclassmen provide us with a great righty/lefty offensive combination to go with their superior defensive skills and instincts behind the plate. The future looks bright at
catcher, as behind these two impressive players are two more freshmen, Mike Mariano (Monmouth Junction, N.J.) and Sam Conte (Georgetown, Mass.)."
“Our pitching staff is still young, but extremely talented. We return sophomore co-captain Todd Roth at the top of the rotation. He is coming off one of the most successful rookie seasons in Penn history. He was Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Big 5 co-Pitcher of the Year. Three more underclassmen will compete for spots in the rotation. Sophomore Robbie Seymour (Atlanta, Ga.) will be challenged by two freshmen, Jeremy Maas and Paul Cusick (Wilmington, Del.). Senior John D'Agostini (Berwyn, Pa.) joins the team this year after playing football for two years at Penn. He will be one of the first men out of the bullpen in 2008. He will be joined by fellow senior Andy Console (Haddonfield, N.J.). Toffaletti may also come in from his infield spot to relieve as well. In late game situations, we should be very strong. Reid Terry and transfer sophomore Tom Grandieri are competent set-up men. William Gordon rounds out the staff as our closer.”
Looking Toward the Season...
“Our young starting pitching should continue to improve in 2008. Couple that with a stronger bullpen, and we should be able to shorten games. This will be magnified when we begin our nine-inning games during Ivy League doubleheaders. We expect to be strong defensively at all positions to go with our experienced lineup. Increased offensive pressure on our opponents will work in our favor and give us the chance to play into June.”