Philadelphia - The University of Pennsylvania baseball team concluded a hard fought season as the month of April drew to a close. The year was highlighted by the offensive supremacy of junior outfielder Nate Moffie who led Penn in 11 offensive categories and was tied for the lead in one other. This season saw the emergence of Matt Horn and Evan Sobel at the plate, stellar defensive play from the likes of Kasey Adler and Bryan Graves, a period of pitching dominance from two-sport student-athlete Josh Appell and a possible glimpse at the future in freshman hurler Joe Thornton. Moffie, Jon Slaughter and Matt Horn were honored with All-Ivy nods.
The 2004 season began in the sun as the Quakers made their way south. This year the destination was Winter Park, Fla. and the Rollins Baseball Week Tournament. Before tournament play began, the Quakers visited Eckerd and South Florida, and began the season with West Virginia Wesleyan. Penn jumped all over the Bobcats, emerging victorious, 20-8. The season opener was highlighted by five home runs and a nine-run sixth inning. Moffie wasted no time getting into the swing of things, going 2-for-4 with a pair of home runs. Ken-Ichi Hino and Joe Udine both jacked pinch-hit bombs in the nine-run sixth in each of their first at bats of the season.
The team provided more excitement in the second game of the season as the Quakers traveled to St. Petersburg to play two games at Eckerd. Both teams found themselves knotted at seven when senior slugger Mike Goldblatt stepped to the plate in the top of the 10th inning. Goldblatt crushed the first of his four home runs on the season to break the tie and give Penn a 10-7 lead that it would not relinquish. Remington Chin made his first start of the season, going six innings and allowing just two runs, both unearned, and striking out six. Thornton made his collegiate debut, working 2.2 scoreless innings, earning the victory and officially making a name for himself on the Penn pitching staff.
The Quakers finished the Florida trip with a victory as the Red and Blue came from six runs down to defeat Long Island University, 10-7, in the consolation championship of the Rollins tournament and finish the trip with a 4-7 record. Penn scored seven runs in the bottom of the sixth inning as Moffie jacked a three-run home run in during the inning to give his team the lead for good.
Moffie led this season's offense. He led the team in 11 offensive categories and tied for the lead in another, pacing Penn in batting average (.362), ranking eighth in the Ivy League, slugging percentage (.659), on-base percentage (.447), runs scored (32), hits (50), matching a career-high, triples (four), which was also good for second in the Ancient Eight, home runs (eight), which also tied for fourth in the League, total bases (91), walks (20), stolen bases (six) and total plate appearances (161).
Moffie tied teammates Sobel and Slaughter for the lead with 26 RBI, which were a career-high. Moffie also led the team with 18 multi-hit games this season, which broke down into 14 games with at least a pair of base hits and four more with at least three. His 50 hits this year gives him 109 for his career, 85 away from career hits leader Nick Italiano (194). He was a unanimous first-team selection in the outfield. It was the second-consecutive season Moffie had been a first-team selection.
He recorded career highs in triples and home runs and registered a career-matching nine doubles. Moffie was named to the Ivy League weekly honor roll three times this season and received the John Harwood Top Offensive Player and the Walter O'Malley Most Valuable Player Awards at Penn's postseason banquet.
But the junior was not the only member of the team to boast impressive offensive numbers this season. In fact, five Quakers finished the season with a batting average over .300. Behind Moffie was third baseman Goldblatt (.329), junior catcher Horn (.326), junior shortstop Sobel (.302) and junior outfielder Graves (.301). Graves and Goldblatt, this season's co-captains, are career .300 hitters but the play of Horn and Sobel added a shot in the arm to the Red and Blue offense.
Horn returned from the Florida trip with a .267 average and after the Ivy League opener, a 5-3 Quakers win over Columbia, the North Hollywood, Calif. native was hitting .324. Horn's season was highlighted with nine multi-hit games, which tied him for fourth on the team. His break out game came as the season was winding down as he went 4-for-4 with two runs scored and another driven in during Penn's 8-3 win over Ivy rival Princeton. It was the first of two wins over the Tigers as the Red and Blue defeated Princeton, 9-7, to end the season. The Harvard-Westlake grad was named to the Ivy League weekly honor roll (Apr. 27) and finished the season hitting .326 and .385 in Ivy League competition, which ranked him ninth in the League and first among all Ivy catchers and earned honorable mention at catcher on the All-Ivy League team. Horn was also named a member of the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) Academic All-America District II team.
He registered career-highs in at bats (92), batting average, runs (16) and hits (30). Horn led the team in defensive chances (174) and put outs (135) and was one of two Quakers to receive the Joseph Rullo Most Improved Player Award.
Sobel also improved on all of his career numbers, as the California native was the other Quaker to receive the Joseph Rullo Most Improved Player Award at the postseason banquet. Sobel also received the Doug Glanville Defensive Golden Glove Award, leading the Red and Blue in assists (88) and defensive double plays (18). He tied for the team lead in RBI (26) and finished second on the team in on-base percentage (.395), walks (15) and defensive chances (150).
The junior had career-highs in at bats (109), runs (19), hits (32), doubles (four), triples (one), walks (15), RBI and batting average (.301), and recorded the first .300 season of his career.
Junior outfielder Alex Blagojevich came up big for the Quakers in many situations throughout the season. The largest was against Brown at Murphy Field as the Tampa native broke out with a 4-for-5 performance, driving in six runs. He hit his first home run of the season and second of his career with a grand slam off a 1-1 pitch in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Blagojevich also generated offense when the opportunities presented themselves. He was 6-for-8 (.750) with a runner on third base and less than two men out and hit .547 (29-for-53) with the opportunity to advance runners. The junior finished the season with a career-high in hits (28) and RBI (17) while also recording 60 put outs on the season.
Penn made a call to the bullpen this season, by moving a pair of relievers into starting roles. In past seasons, Appell and Brian Winings made their way closing out games, not starting them. Winings entered the season as Penn's single-season saves leader after recording eight in 2003. Both he and Appell made the transition into starters with recognized success.
Appell had a two-start, three-appearance span of 8.0 innings without surrendering a hit. He gave up just two hits in seven innings of work against Yale (Apr. 3) to give Penn a 1-0 victory and earn his second win of the season. The junior All-Ivy punter for the Ivy League champion Quakers football team was named to the Ivy League baseball weekly honor roll on Apr. 5.
He struck out five and gave up just three hits in 5.1 innings on the mound against Cornell (Apr. 18) and sat down six batters in his final start of the season, a 5.2-inning effort at Temple (Apr. 21).
Appell led the team in ERA (5.48), innings pitched (46.0), a career-high, and strikeouts (39), second in the Ivy League. He held the opposition to a miniscule .208 batting average against, which ranked first in the Ivy League. Even more impressive is the fact that Appell's batting average against in Ancient Eight contests dropped 18 points to .190, still best in the League. He received the Andy Muhlstock Most Outstanding Pitcher Award at Penn's postseason banquet
Winings made his first career start against South Florida (Mar. 9). He sat down a season-high six would-be hitters and allowed just two hits in 6.0 innings of work against Harvard (Apr. 10) and. He ranked eighth in the Ancient Eight in batting average against in Ivy League competition (.242) and was second on the Penn baseball team in opposing batting average (.295), innings pitched (43.1), strike outs (31) and batters struck out looking (six). The junior right-hander set career-highs in innings pitched and strikeouts in 2004.
The pitching staff also saw what the future may hold in the arm of freshman hurler Thornton. After picking up his first collegiate win in his first collegiate game he threw two more strong innings at Rollins (Mar. 10), allowing just one hit.
Thornton made his first start as a Quaker in his third appearance of the season, going seven innings and allowing three runs on as many hits against Long Island (Mar. 13) to pick up his second win of the year. He worked 21.2 innings this season, punching out eight batters en route to earning the Henry Bower Outstanding Freshman Award.
Penn saw a pair of its everyday starters play their final game in the Red and Blue as Goldblatt and Slaughter will graduate this spring after four years as Quakers. Golblatt hit .329 for the season, his third .300 season at Penn, to finish second on the team this season. He was also second on the team in slugging percentage (.469), runs scored (25), hits (47), home runs (four), total bases (67), stolen bases (three) and total plate appearances (157). He had career-highs in at bats (143), hits, runs scored and home runs and matched career numbers in doubles (six). Goldblatt finished his career with 55 RBI, 63 runs scored, nine home runs and 111 hits in 346 at bats for a .321 career batting average.
Slaughter finished the season as he began, lacing a pair of singles and scoring three runs in his ninth multi-hit game of the year in the season finale at Princeton, a 9-7 Penn win. He had ripped a pair of double-baggers to open the year against West Virginia Wesleyan. He was tied for first on the team in RBI (26) and also tied for seventh among Ivy Leaguers in doubles (12), which also led the Penn team. He had career-highs in at bats (129), hits (37), RBI, doubles and home runs (three). Slaughter finishes his four-years with the Quakers with 55 RBI, 33 runs scored, 20 doubles and 80 hits in 288 at bats for a career batting average of .278. He too was named to the first-team All-Ivy League team, filling the designated hitter position as he hit .299 in League competition.
Penn's record of 10-27 and 5-15 in the Ivy League tells only part of the 2004 season's story. This team endured four multi-game losing skids only to finish the year, as they would like to every season - on a winning streak. Penn entered the final weekend with four to play at Princeton, the eventual Ivy League champion. The Quakers' performance in their final double-header of the season was not cause for a celebration but a reminder that the Penn baseball program, with its five Ivy League titles under Head Coach Bob Seddon, is a contender in the Lou Gehrig Division of the League heading into every season. It also served as a notice that the tools are in place to make a run at Seddon's sixth Ancient Eight crown in 2005.
Written by Mat Kanan, associate director of athletic communications