A lot of things don’t live up to the hype.
The Articles of Confederation. The League of Nations. “Tha Carter IV."
However, the preseason sound and fury that surrounded Penn baseball has turned out to signify plenty: The Quakers — preseason favorites in the Ivy League — have been just as good as advertised, rolling to a 10-2 Ivy record.
Leading the brigade both on the mound and at the plate for the Quakers has been the senior class. Coming into the year, Penn was stacked with known veteran entities on both sides of the ball — seniors Connor Cuff and Ronnie Glenn were to be the pitching staff’s co-aces while fellow upperclassmen Jeff McGarry and Austin Bossart were expected to anchor the lineup.
All of that veteran talent earned the Quakers the preseason honor of being named Baseball America’s “Ivy League Team to Beat.”
And guess what: True to projections, the senior leaders have led the way all season.
Glenn and Cuff both sport sub-three earned run averages and have combined to tally more complete games (five) than home runs allowed (three). Bossart has hit at a .344 clip while handling the pitching staff from behind the plate. Meanwhile, McGarry — despite a lackluster .235 average — has started every game and is among the team leaders with four home runs.
But what has made the team truly unstoppable has been the contributions from the less-hyped players.
Take senior infielder Mitch Montaldo. After a pedestrian first three years of his career — he hit just .211 in 2014 — Montaldo has blossomed into the Ivy League’s leading power hitter. The St. Louis native leads the Ancient Eight with eight home runs and sits at third in the league with 26 RBI, all while manning the demanding shortstop position.
Further adding to the hit parade has been senior outfielder Connor Betbeze. Like Montaldo, Betbeze had a rough 2014 — he hit just .214 with a cringeworthy .321 slugging percentage — and didn’t look to factor in as much more than a role player during his senior campaign. To the contrary, Betbeze has emerged as a valuable leadoff hitter, as his .462 on-base percentage leads the team.
Despite their outstanding 10-2 conference record, the Quakers find themselves in a familiar position — tied atop the Lou Gehrig division with Columbia. Last season, the two squads played a one-game playoff to determine the divisions champion, a game the Lions took in painful fashion, 2-0.
However, Penn quickly put the loss behind it and has looked much more confident thus far this season.
“This year, I’m just a bit more at ease,” coach John Yurkow said back in February. “I feel like I can trust my guys a little bit more, since they have a better idea of what we’re trying to do.”
Honestly, it’s very difficult to see last season’s crushing defeat playing out for a second consecutive season. Fueled by its plethora of battle-hardened senior talent, there is no reason why Penn shouldn’t be able to continue to dominate the remainder of Ivy play. The Quakers will get a chance to separate themselves when they play four games against last-place Princeton next weekend before a four-game home-and-home showdown with Columbia two weekends from now.
And assuming that the Quakers take home the Gehrig Division crown, who would want to face the trio of Cuff, Glenn and sophomore righty Mike Reitcheck (4-1, 2.21) in the three-game Ivy League Championship Series? Who would want to face a lineup that routinely bats McGarry — Baseball America’s pick for Ivy Player of the Year — seventh? You’d certainly be hard-pressed to find any takers.
Because with this Penn squad, you always get exactly what you’d expect.
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