Penn Baseball Ready to Take the Diamond in 2005

Philadelphia - With a strong veteran line up to lead the way, the 2005 University of Pennsylvania baseball team hopes to improve on their success of last season. With the loss of only two starters to graduation, Penn returns 11 players who have seen time on the field, and brings in one of its best freshman classes in recent history. Coach Bob Seddon is looking for consistency both on the field and at bat while he integrates his new players into the line up. Two players who received Ivy-League nods and last year's offensive leader return to the line up for the Red and the Blue to help the team challenge for an Ivy League title.

The Captains - Leading the team this year will be seniors Bryan Graves and Evan Sobel. Two veteran players, who both saw improvement in the field and offensively last year, Coach Seddon is looking for these two to lead both on and off the field. "These two are out in front of the group," Seddon added. "They get very involved with the team, and are there to do conditioning both before and after practice. The two have an unbelievable work ethic and do a great job getting the other players motivated." Graves returns to the team, as an integral part of the outfield, and fresh off of break out season where he had a .301 batting average. Sobel is expected to lead the somewhat new infield, as he returns to short stop this season, coming off his first season with a .300 batting average, hitting .302 for the Quakers. Sobel was also a co-leader in RBI's last season with 26. The two captains are expected to lead by both example and motivation, as they head into their final season at Penn.

Starting Rotation - This year for the Quakers, the starting pitching rotation looks to bring a lot of depth to the team. A key factor will be senior Bill Kirk who returns as a right-handed pitcher. In 2004, Kirk led the team with 12 appearances and made six starts. Also in the starting rotation for the Quakers will be junior Brian Cirri, last year's winner of the Dave Montgomery Most Improved Pitcher Award, who looks to improve in his third season on the mound. Senior Josh Appell will take the mound, as a key weapon in the Ivy League. Last year, Appell's batting average against in Ancient Eight contests dropped 18 points to .190, as he remained the best in the League. Appell led the Red and Blue with 39 strikeouts in 46.1 innings of work. Senior Brian Winings, who also saw staring time last season will return to the rotation. Winings, a 2004 draft pick by the Cleveland Indians, saw start time for the first time last season, and is expected to add to the Quakers line up as starter for now, with the possibility of returning to the relief pitcher's group.

There are other possibilities for the starting rotation this year, as senior Remington Chin will return as a right-handed pitcher, and a few freshman are expected to make a run for the rotation. Seddon has a lot of expectations for this year's pitching squad, as a lot of veteran players return to the rotation. "Last year we didn't really know who was going to be in the starting line up," Seddon stated, "But in 2005 I have some great expectations for some of my returnees, and see the real possibility for some of our new players to make a difference."

Relief Pitching - With the team suffering a few arm problems, the relief pitching staff will be a vital part of the 2005 squad. A key returnee is senior Dan Finkelstein. "Healthy, both Finkelstein and [Joe] Thornton would be huge assets to the team. While they should both be alright, early in the season it is hard to tell just what role they will play," Seddon stated. Seddon also has hopes for a few freshmen to add to the relief rotation, especially the right hander, Andy Console.

The Infield - Senior captain Evan Sobel will lead a somewhat new new infield this season. Evan returns to short stop. Two-thousand four was a standout year for Sobel as he led the Red and Blue in sacrifice bunts (four), assists (88) and defensive double plays (18). Sobel, tied for the team lead in RBI (26), and was second on the team in on-base percentage (.395), walks (15) and defensive chances (150). In 2004, he had career-highs in at bats (109), runs (19), hits (32), doubles (four), triples (one), walks (15), RBI (26) and batting average (.302). With strong returning stats, Sobel is not only a leader in the infield, but will be an important part of the Quakers’ offense. The rest of the infield is still being decided as sophomore Andrew Bechta will take third base, and junior Sean Abate will most likely return to first, where he saw considerable time last year. As for second base, it's still a toss up as sophomore J.T. Hutchinson, senior James Dunning, and junior Ken-Ichi Hino will battle for the position throughout the preseason. Seddon looks to the infield to play an important role on this year's team, and asserts that this is the place where the most improvement will be seen throughout the season. "This year the infield is the most inexperienced part of the team, but it's the place where we can learn the most. I'll be looking for these guys to not only step up on defense, but to emerge with some offensive numbers in order to make the team successful.

The Outfield - The outfield is a somewhat different story from the infield, as three veteran players return this season to lead both on the field and at bat. In center field, last year's first-team All-Ivy League unanimous selection Nate Moffie will return for the Quakers. In 2004, Moffie led the team in 11 offensive categories and tied for the lead in another, leading the Quakers in batting average (.362), where he was eighth in the Ivy League, slugging percentage (.659), on-base percentage (.447), runs scored (32), hits (50), matching a career-high, triples (four), home runs (eight), total bases (91), walks (20), stolen bases (six) and total plate appearances (161) Moffie also tied captain Evan Sobel for the lead with 26 RBI, a career-high. A force on and off the field, Moffie is a valuable asset to the Quakers line up. Also returning will be seniors Alex Blagojevich and captain Bryan Graves. Blagojevich led the Quakers in sacrifice flies with three in 2004, while Graves was one of only two Quakers to start in all 37 games in 2004 and hit .300 for the third season in a row. Behind the three senior starters are four freshmen and a sophomore who will add considerable depth to the 2005 squad. "I expect the outfield to be strong both offensively and defensively in 2005 as the veteran players lead the team," Seddon stated.

As for catching, senior Matt Horn will return for the Quakers. As an All-Ivy League selection in 2004, Horn is a valuable asset for the 2005 squad. Behind Horn, Seddon is looking for some development in quite a few players. "It's important to have depth in our catchers because of the number of games that we play in a season," Seddon asserted. "You can expect to see Horn behind the plate a lot for us in 2005, but we are still working to develop some new talent to back him up." Seddon suggested that junior Nick Pulos, sophomore Drew Matheson and junior Hank Watson will all take their turn behind the plate this season.

The Freshmen - The freshman class is certainly something Seddon and his coaching staff are excited about. "This is one of the best freshman classes we have seen in a long time. There will be nine of them joining us this season to play in a variety of positions." Seddon is excited about the freshman class for more than one reason, as most of them join the team with the ability to play more than one position well, which will prove to be pivotal as they learn and develop under the leadership of this veteran squad.

Ivy League Play - Seddon is looking for the challenge of the independent season to bring improvement to the Quakers squad. "We are playing some challenging teams in California this year, and are certainly going to see some power in our regional games." For Seddon, the independent season gives his players a chance to go up against some of the best, as the East Coast teams always prove to be strong. With the independent season under their belt, Seddon hopes that the experience his players will earn, will show in the way they challenge their Ivy League rivals. In the Lou Gehrig Division, the Quakers will see some tough competition. "The team to beat in the past for us, has always been Princeton, but Princeton suffered some heavy losses to graduation last year, and we will certainly be able to challenge them." Seddon expects some improvement in the Cornell squad, and as always sees Columbia to be a competitive team, but has big hopes for Penn this season. "This year, more so than last we are a much more competitive team. We've got a lot more depth in the squad and return quite a few veteran players that will help us in many ways throughout the season. I expect the Quakers to be a very competitive team in 2005, especially within our own division.”

Written by Meghan Goddard, C’05
Athletic Communications Assistant