Penn baseball will escape the cold with a trip to Florida to open up the 2015 season against Stetson this weekend.
The Quakers are coming off of a strong 2014 season. Under first-year coach John Yurkow, Penn went 24-17 (15-5 Ivy) before having its Ivy championship hopes dashed in a playoff loss to Columbia. Yurkow hasn’t forgotten about the sting of defeat and hopes his players haven’t either.
“I thought we had the best team in the league last year,” the coach said.
“Our team really thought we were gonna win the Ivy League Championship. So I’m hoping that [the loss] motivated these guys all the way through the fall, the summer and the spring.”
For the Red and Blue, the road to redemption will begin on Friday night in DeLand, Fla. Ronnie Glenn — coming off of a strong 2014 campaign that saw him earn Honorable Mention All-Ivy recognition — was confirmed as the opening day starter by Yurkow on Friday.
“It’s a blessing and an opportunity to be able to get the opener,” the senior southpaw said. “I’m trying to establish the tone and go in there ... and show the young guys, ‘This is how we’re gonna roll through the season.’”
Stetson (5-4) will have one major advantage: Florida. The home of the Hatters is sunny year-round, and while this weekend will mark the first time Penn gets a chance to practice and play outdoors, the hosts already have nine games under their belt.
“I’ve tried to program my guys and myself and the coaches as well to not let (the weather) seep in as an excuse,” Yurkow said, although he did voice concern that the Quakers might not be fully prepared to deal with fly balls in the sun.
Yurkow will call on another senior for Saturday’s game, as Connor Cuff will take the hill, before turning to sophomore Jake Cousins for the series finale on Sunday. The coach also expects sophomore Mike Reitcheck to appear at some point.
While wins and losses are the obvious way to measure success (or lack thereof), Yurkow made it clear his hopes for this weekend do not end with the scoreboard.
“We’ve really tried to stress playing great defense and throwing strikes. Because if you can do that early in the season, the games are gonna be close,” Yurkow said. “You might be behind a little bit from an offensive standpoint seeing live pitching for the first time outside, but hopefully by playing good defense and throwing strikes, it gets us close — a timely hit here and there, and you’ve got a shot to win the game.”
Penn’s offense led the Ancient Eight last year in average, slugging and on-base percentage. The Quakers lost their best power hitter last May when Rick Brebner graduated, but Yurkow’s faith in what his team can accomplish with good pitching and fielding does not appear to be misplaced.
And Penn will have some time to work out whatever kinks may exist. Yurkow’s squad will spend the rest of the winter with games in Florida and Virginia before returning home on March 18 to face Villanova. The Ivy campaign won’t kick off until the March 28 home matchup with Harvard.
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