Penn baseball's Branigan rebounds as captain
After a poor junior campaign, Branigan worked hard to get back on track
March 25, 2013, 8:18 pm·
Patrick Hulce | DP
When talking about Penn baseball this year, one can’t help but associate the word ‘youth’ with the Quakers’ roster.
But that doesn’t mean you can forget about the team’s veterans and the strong season of first baseman Spencer Branigan.
Despite some struggles during his junior year, Branigan was named captain heading into his senior campaign.
And he has done nothing but continue to hit from his spot in the middle of the order.
“I definitely had a disappointing year last season, which really got me fired up in the offseason,” Branigan said. “I went to North Carolina for a very good summer league and did well there and continued that into this year.”
Over the summer, Branigan rebounded immediately with a strong performance for the Edenton Steamers of the Coastal Plains League.
In 50 games, Branigan was tied for second on the team with eight home runs, displaying the slugging ability that kept Branigan on coach John Cole’s lineup card.
“He’s a little streaky but he’s a big physical presence in our lineup,” Cole said. “In our ballpark, left-handed hitters can have a field day and he has shown flashes of that light-tower power.”
Through the Red and Blue’s first 19 games, the senior captain has quietly enjoyed his best season at Penn, sporting a .385 batting average, — good for second in the Ivy League behind teammate and fellow senior Ryan Dietrich.
Yet, while Dietrich and Branigan are neck and neck for the Ancient Eight batting title at the moment, the two remain close both on and off the diamond.
“[Ryan and I] are best friends,” Branigan said. “We both are very competitive. We lift together in the weight room. We basically do everything together.
“In baseball season, we kind of just thrive off of each other. If one is doing well, then the other wants to do well. It’s kind of a competitive thing.”
And while you can go on about Branigan’s success this season, the 6-foot-5 first baseman remains focused on helping the team as a whole by carrying its current offensive success into conference play.
“He realizes that he has to take care of more than just himself,” Cole said. “It’s a maturity thing, and he’s made an advancement in development by worrying about what the team is doing.”
With his eyes toward the future, Branigan still stays grounded in his past, acknowledging his teammates who helped him get to his current leadership role.
“There were a few guys who helped me [my freshman year],” Branigan said. “Tom Grandieri, who was [Ivy League] Player of the Year, was definitely a great offensive player and someone really was a vocal leader for me.
“Also, Dan Williams, who was another first-team All-Ivy player, and William Gordon, who was the first baseman before I got here. [Gordon] really taught me the ways of the system as I’m doing now for the freshman.”
And with Branigan’s effort on and off the field, it isn’t hard to see why Cole stuck by his first baseman as he got past his junior year slump.
“He’s a good worker. He shows up every day to compete,” Cole said. “So you stick with kids who are going to put the time in whether they are hot or cold and keep grinding it out.”