The 2014 season left something to be desired. In 2015, the Red and Blue’s veterans want to leave it all on the field.
With 10 seniors on this year’s team, Penn baseball expects to build upon last year’s strong showing that resulted in a second-place finish in the Lou Gehrig Division. After all, the squad enters the season having lost only eight players to graduation and other reasons, giving the squad continuity as coach John Yurkow enters his second season at the helm.
“We’re in a fortunate situation this year because we have so many older players,” Yurkow said. “That means we don’t really have to lean on [younger players] that much.”
The Quakers will, however, lean on senior captains Connor Cuff and Austin Bossart, junior captain Ryan Mincher and the rest of the senior class for leadership.
“The nice thing about having Connor Cuff and Austin Bossart back is they were both captains as juniors,” Yurkow said. “This senior class has done such a good job.”
Senior starting pitcher Ronnie Glenn, fresh off his Honorable Mention All-Ivy season, notes the impact of the continuity the senior class brings to the table.
“The guys I came in with my freshman year, the way we developed together, the struggles and losses we’ve gone through, we’ve established a winning program and helped develop a winning mentality last season,” Glenn said.
Glenn added that the seniors make strong role models for the younger players.
“[They are] only being positive, having a good environment in the locker room,” Glenn said. “These younger guys, they don’t know any other way. And hopefully, that’s how it’s going to continue.”
Despite returning many players, the Quakers will not attempt to replicate the exact production of some of the graduated players, especially outfielder Rick Brebner, who was Penn’s best power hitter and paced the team with eight home runs in 2014. Outfielder Brandon Engelhardt, also graduated, was one of the top threats to get on base.
Although some might think that, given these losses, the Quakers’ offense will face a down year, Yurkow is optimistic.
“I think from one through nine, we could have a more consistent lineup,” Yurkow said. “And that’s kind of what hurt us last year. We would swing-and-miss a little bit, hit home runs, but we weren’t consistent.”
Yurkow added that two goals at the plate this year are to work the count and make more contact.
“Obviously, if you’re not going to hit for as much power, we’re hoping the strikeout numbers come down, because if you can put balls in play, you’re putting pressure on the defense,” Yurkow said. “[Also] I think our team speed is a little bit better than it was last year.”
Especially after the tough loss to Columbia that ended the Quakers’ 2014 season, Yurkow is impressed with the enthusiasm with which the team is entering the season.
“They came in, they practiced with a ton of energy, it’s a good group,” Yurkow said. “They like being around each other.”
Glenn believes that team chemistry is still ticking upwards, thanks to the players’ relationships with Yurkow.
“To have that personal relationship and good coaching that he has brought, it allows for us to relax,” Glenn said. “What he’s done, with our culture, he’s really allowed us to become a closer team.”
Apart from the adjustments on offense, it appears the biggest differences between this and last year’s Red and Blue teams will be new leadership and even better team chemistry, which are as strong as ever.
So despite a few key losses, don’t count out Penn baseball this season.
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