Austin Bossart has a lot on his plate.
As a captain, a catcher and a top-of-the-lineup hitter, the junior Illinois native carries the largest burden of anyone on this year’s Penn baseball squad.
In Bossart’s case, great ability comes with great responsibility - something he has welcomed from day one.
As a freshman, Bossart seized the starting catching job for the Quakers, and he hasn’t looked back.
Bossart, who first year Penn coach John Yurkow calls “the heart and soul” of the team, has started behind the plate in 82 of Penn’s 86 games in his career and was named captain as a sophomore.
“It’s not an accident that he’s a junior and it’s his second year as a captain,” Yurkow said. “That speaks a lot about Austin.”
Just as Yurkow appreciates all that Bossart brings to the table, the Quakers’ catcher is equally excited for the new approach Yurkow has brought to the team.
“We have had a different coaching staff this year, and its definitely been a different environment,” Bossart said. “It has helped me. Being a leader in that environment this year has been great.”
Bossart, who is known for both his awareness on the diamond and his tireless work ethic, has especially made a name for himself behind the plate.
“I think he’s one of the best defensive catchers in the country, not just the Ivy League,” Yurkow said.
With his strong arm - he gunned down 23 runners last season - and command of the pitching staff, Bossart provides the Quakers a defensive luxury every time they take the field.
“He’s like the quarterback of our team,” Yurkow said. “I feel very calm when he’s back there behind the plate. It’s like having another coach out on the field.”
With a strong core group of pitchers and infielders returning, defense looks to be a staple of this year’s team.
Penn’s ability to score runs this season, however, is more of a question mark.
Despite putting up a respectable 207 total runs last season, the Quakers scored an Ivy-worst 62 runs in conference play, and are now without some of their strongest bats from their previous campaign.
With slugger Ryan Deitrich - last year’s Ivy leader in batting average - gone to Duke, the Quakers are looking for Bossart to make up for some of the pop they have lost.
“[We lost] some older guys, so we’re really hoping [Austin] can move up in the order and be more of a presence,” Yurkow said.
Bossart, who spent most of his time hitting out of the six-hole last season, has jumped up to the two spot early this year. The move gives Bossart the opportunity for a more featured role on offense, and also lets the Quakers take more advantage of their catcher’s speed. He was third on the Red and Blue last season with nine steals.
If current trends continue, Bossart could emerge as one of the most dangerous bats in the Ivies. From freshman to sophomore year, Bossart raised his slugging percentage 130 points to .451 and more than doubled his number of extra base hits.
The Quakers’ catcher is already producing at a high level early this season, with a team-leading four RBIs in his first three games.
Bossart describes himself as “more of a ‘lead by example’ kind of guy,” and by all accounts, his play speaks volumes.
If the Quakers follow the tone Bossart sets, they will be primed to gun down their Ivy League competition just as their catcher does with his arm.
“I think Austin’s gonna have a great year for us, and we’re gonna need him to,” Yurkow said. “We’re expecting big things out of him.”