PHILADELPHIA - The Quakers return a wealth of talent to the diamond in 2011and look to match the success of last year, when they finished second in the Lou Gehrig Division and fielded arguably the most potent offense in school history.
Penn went 21-20 in 2010 and trailed division-leader Columbia by just two games entering the final weekend of the season. The Red and Blue were unable to make up the deficit, but finished at 10-10 in the league, a five-game improvement over the previous season. The offense was explosive, as the Quakers led the league in average (.324), runs (337) and were second in slugging (.509) and on-base percentage (.402). Penn's pitching also made strides forward, dropping the team ERA by nearly a full point and finishing second in the league in ERA (5.88) and opponents batting average (.289).
The Red and Blue are well prepared to continue that upward trend in 2011 as they bring back a wealth of talent, including four of their top five starting pitchers and five of eight defensive starters. Headlining this group is a pair of first-team All-Ivy selections, seniors Dan Williams and Jeremy Maas.
Williams is the senior member of the infield, having started 121 games on the left side of the diamond during his first three seasons. Last year he started all 41 games for Penn, the majority of which came at the hot corner. Williams led the team with a .403 batting average, .481 on-base percentage and scored a school-record 51 runs. He also slugged .591 with 64 hits, 14 doubles, four home runs and 26 RBI. The senior also committed just seven errors in 136 chances for a .949 fielding percentage.
Junior Derek Vigoa spent his first two season at shortstop and will see time there once again in 2011. Last year he hit .361, primarily from the 7-9 spots in the lineup, with 52 hits and 28 runs. Vigoa added seven doubles, 25 RBI and stole six bases in seven attempts. The junior also made one appearance on the mound, throwing one hitless inning with a strikeout, and could make a few more in 2011.
The right side of Penn's infield will feature a pair of first-time starters after the departure of seniors Steve Gable and William Gordon. Sophomore Spencer Branigan will man first base while freshman Brandon Engelhardt is expected to open the year at second. Branigan actually started 18 games a season ago, splitting time between first and designated hitter. He played 23 games overall and hit .254, rapping 17 hits and scoring 11 runs. The lefty also showed some power, leading the team with three triples to go with five doubles and a home run. The 5-10 Engelhardt earned the spot at second after a strong fall and will be expected to contribute at the plate and the field. Freshmen Rick Brebner and Kyle Toomey will also see some time in the infield this season.
Senior Will Davis will provide stability behind the plate as he begins his third season as Penn's primary catcher. Davis had a breakout season in 2010, matching the school record with 12 home runs while hitting .281 and slugging .615. He also was tied for second on the team with 37 RBI and scored 30 runs. For his efforts he was named honorable mention All-Ivy.
Senior Mike Mariano is also expected to see some time behind the plate after spending last year as the team's backup catcher and designated hitter. In 33 games, he hit .308 with five home runs, eight doubles and 29 RBI. Mariano was also second on the team with 19 walks and a .442 on-base percentage.
Penn's other first-team All-Ivy selection, Jeremy Maas, will man the outfield for the third straight season. Maas played in 34 games last year, batting .350 overall with 38 runs, 11 doubles, six home runs and 25 RBI. However, most of the senior's damage was done in the final month of the season as he hit .364 with six homers, nine doubles, 19 RBI and 28 runs over the team's final 21 games. He also finished second on the team with eight stolen bases.
Senior Adrian Lorenzo, the team's last returning starter, will roam the outfield once again and looks to build upon his strong league numbers from 2010. Playing in 16 of 20 Ivy contests, Lorenzo hit .340 with 17 hits, eight runs, two doubles, a triple and 11 RBI. The speedster was also successful in all his steal attempts on the season, going 6-for-6.
Newcomer Greg Zebrack has secured his spot as the third outfielder for coach Cole. Zebrack is a transfer who had to sit out last year after playing his freshman season at USC. He appeared in 21 games for the Trojans in 2009, finishing with two hits, two runs and a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 15 chances. Sophomore Ryan Deitrich could also see some time in the outfield for Penn this season.
This year the Quakers return three of their top four weekend starters, led by the junior righty-lefty duo of Vince Voiro and Chris McNulty. Voiro went 3-2, pitched a team-high 60.2 innings and led the team with 11 starts, four complete games and 47 strikeouts. The junior also allowed opponents to hit a team-low .250 off him and only walked 19 batters during the season.
McNulty was named All-Big 5 in his second season after leading the team with a 5-1 record and a 4.25 ERA. The southpaw pitched 55.0 innings, made nine starts, tossed three complete games and allowed just 16 walks while striking out 33 batters. McNulty also allowed just three earned runs over his last two starts, a pair of complete-game victories.
The third of Penn's top returners, senior Paul Cusick has pitched 119.0 innings and struck out 120 batters during his first three seasons. Last year the righty made seven starts, tossing 37.2 innings and finishing 2-4 with a 6.45 ERA. Cusick was second on the team with 42 strikeouts and had four starts where he allowed three or fewer runs, highlighted by a complete-game 10-strikeout shutout against Mount St. Mary's.
Sophomore John Beasley was the only other Quaker to toss 20 innings last year, finishing with 23.2 innings and making nine appearances. The righty made five starts and finished with a 6.46 ERA and 2-1 record. Returners Mike Zuppe, Patrick Brennan and Kirk Hayes all threw at least ten innings last year and will see time on the mound as relievers.
Head Coach John Cole also expects to see some freshmen make their mark on the mound. Righty Cody Thomson should see time on the mound and he, along with southpaw Matt Gotschall, could make a play for one of the final starting positions.
Following the Action
Once again, live stats will be available for all of Penn's games during the Rollins College Baseball Week by going to the Baseball Week home page here. A live blog of each game will also be available from the Penn Athletics website.
Penn opens the season in Florida for the Rollins College Baseball week. The Quakers are scheduled to play at least eight games over the 10-day trip. The Red and Blue face off against Maine twice, Georgetown four times and also take on host Rollins twice.
About the Black Bears
Maine is just 1-7 this season but has played some top tier competition, battling UNLV, Stetson and now UCF. The Black Bears have scored six or more runs in three games, but have given up six or more runs on six occasions. The team is hitting .267 overall and slugging .316 as the players have combined for just one triple and one home run. Junior Taylor Lewis has been the team's top hitter thus far, batting .353 with 12 hits, eight runs and a team-high five stolen bases. On the mound, junior Keith Bilodeau has been Maine's best pitcher, striking out 14 batters in 12 innings with a 3.00 ERA.
About the Tars
Rollins is 9-4 on the season and 7-1 when they can hold its opponent to five or fewer runs. The team has scored at least three runs in each of its nine wins and is hitting .308 with a .367 on-base percentage this year. John Avanzino leads the offense with a staggering .528 average. Avanzino is slugging .889 with seven doubles and two home runs and also has an on-base percentage of .585. Garrett Yount leads the pitching staff with a 3-0 mark and a 3.98 ERA. He has also walked just four batters in 20.1 innings while striking out nine batters.
About the Hoyas
Georgetown is 5-3 entering the weekend, with all their victories coming in games in which they scored six or more runs. Conversely, they are just 1-2 when giving up at least six runs. As a team, the Hoyas are hitting .302 with a .373 on-base percentage. Junior Rand Ravnaas is batting an even .500 this year and has a team-high 17 hits. He has also flashed some power with a pair of home runs, a triple and three doubles. Additionally, Ravnaas has a .526 on-base percentage and is 7-for-9 in stolen base attempts. The Georgetown pitching staff has a 4.30 ERA thus far, led by their relievers. The Hoyas have three relievers who have tossed at least three innings without giving up an earned run, led by Mike Seander who has yet to yield a hit in 5.0 innings of work.