At the beginning of the baseball season, I was assigned to write a story on the youth of the Quakers’ pitching rotation.
Last season, the team finished with the second-worst earned run average in the Ivies, with a team ERA of 5.61.
And entering the 2013 season, the Quakers had lost four pitchers, including Vince Voiro, who had the lowest ERA on the team — the second best in the league — and more wins than any other Penn hurler.
Of the four starting pitchers this season — sophomores Dan Gautieri, Jeff McGarry, Connor Cuff and junior Pat Bet — only one of them had more than two collegiate starts in his career, and two of the starters went into the season without a single start.
Though the odds were against them, the rotation was a pleasant surprise on all accounts.
Gautieri and Cuff are tied for second in the league in wins this season, with five. Gautieri is also seventh in the league in ERA, boasting a 2.29 mark so far this season, which is better than the 2.45 ERA Voiro had last season. Cuff is tied for fifth in the league in strikeouts. Of the four starting pitchers, only Bet has more losses than wins.
Penn’s relief pitching has been even more of a shocker coming off some blown games last season.
Sophomore Ronnie Glenn, who notched only one save last season, stands atop the Ivy throne with eight saves. Of the 13 pitchers who have made appearances this season for Penn, only three own a losing record.
And the kicker? Penn is in the top half of the league in team ERA, coming in at number four, with a 4.09 mark.
Instead, it was offense that thwarted Penn’s attempt to take home the Ivy Crown, despite the fact that the Quakers kept most of their batting power.
Senior Ryan Deitrich, sophomore Austin Bossart and senior Spencer Branigan made up the heart of their order last season, often in the three, four and five spot.
Considering the impact that each of those three had this season, the offense shouldn’t have been the Quakers’ concern.
However, Ivy opponents outscored the Quakers by a 70-54 margin, including two shutouts and seven games decided by two runs or fewer.
Following Penn’s series against Princeton, Bossart said his teammates needed to relax at the plate more. Coach John Cole echoed this sentiment after that series, saying his batters were feeling pressure at the plate.
What started out categorized as a “slump” by Cole and others, soon turned into a systemic problem, as a lackluster series against Princeton started to push the nail in the coffin for Penn, before losing three of four to Cornell put the Quakers out of Ivy contention.
It wasn’t all bad for the Quakers offensively, however.
Freshman Mike Vilardo has had a fantastic season in the lead-off spot for the Quakers. Vilardo boasts a .327 batting average, the second highest behind Deitrich on the team.
In three of the four games against Cornell last weekend, Vilardo pushed Penn in the right direction with hits in the first inning, and in two of these games he was the first player to cross the plate. But after the first inning, the offense would go cold.
Luckily, in baseball, almost everyone finishes the season with “Wait till next year!” ringing in their ears.
One cannot help but feel a bit of optimism that if the young and inexperienced pitching rotation can build on the successes they had this season, all it will take is a spark in the offense to catapult the Quakers to Ivy success.
BRETTE TROST is a senior English major from New York, N.Y. She can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.