It’s an inconvenient truth: Penn baseball lost one of its best senior classes in history.
Last year, the Quakers had three members of the Class of 2015 hit over .300. Shortstop Mitch Montaldo hit 10 home runs. Third baseman Jeff McGarry led the team in walks and held down the hot corner. Pitchers Ronnie Glenn and Connor Cuff led the pitching staff to a 3.38 ERA. Among this class were six players who had been named All-Ivy, one Ivy League Player of the Year, and two MLB draftees.
Yet, even after the tough losses, the Quakers will still feature a team that counts among its ranks four All-Ivy players, an Ivy League Pitcher of the Year and many more interesting young players. Although the Class of 2015 made up a heavy portion of the Quakers’ lineup and pitching staff, the Red and Blue received invaluable contributions from its sophomores and juniors.
Rising junior pitcher Mike Reitcheck finished with a 1.72 ERA and took home league Pitcher of the Year honors. Fellow junior Jake Cousins — who has been named to All-Ivy teams in both of his years in University City — was the team’s second best pitcher, pitching to a 2.32 ERA. Cousins and Reitcheck are already two of the Ancient Eight’s best, and they still have two years more to go.
At the plate, incoming seniors Matt Greskoff and Ryan Mincher helped power the Red and Blue offense, hitting .320 and .328 respectively. Greskoff finished second on the team in home runs and Mincher finished second in on-base percentage, as both were named to All-Ivy teams. Senior outfielder Gary Tesch, also a regular in the Quakers’ lineup, came through with many key hits, once hitting in a single weekend. Tesch also played error-free defense in the outfield.
Aside from these entrenched starters, a few players seem primed to join the lineup, such as junior catcher Tim Graul. Graul started 14 games last season, hitting a respectable .245, but filling Bossart’s shoes in 2016 will undoubtedly be a difficult act to follow. It will be the first time since 2011 that the Quakers will regularly feature somebody other than the 14th-round draft pick behind the plate. However, Graul showed promise as just a sophomore last year, chalking up a .328 on-base percentage, .429 slugging percentage and 10 RBIs in just 49 at-bats. Graul will need to improve his receiving and throwing skills behind the plate, considering he only caught one would-be base stealer in six tries and allowed eight passed balls over those 14 contests. However, given the caliber of their pitching staff, the Quakers don’t need an incredible defensive catcher behind the plate to stay afloat. And besides, if Bossart was able to improve from good to great over the course of his college career, it stands to reason that Graul should be able to make a similar transition from solid role player to star.
There is also the Quakers’ rising sophomore class, who barely saw playing time during their freshmen seasons amidst the depth of the squad. Now-sophomore Jakob Levison did manage to collect 31 at-bats on the season, and while it will be difficult for him to break into an outfield that includes Greskoff, Tesch and Campbell, he did hit a solid .258 as a freshman. The Quakers also have a slew of young pitching talent — such as sophomore John “JT” White — that could fill junior pitcher Mitchell Hammonds’ spot in the bullpen as he leaves to join the rotation. Perhaps some of these youthful arms could join the rotation themselves.
There is also the possibility of a breakout player emerging, like graduated senior Connor Betbeze. The outfielder went from hitting .214 in limited playing time during his junior year to being named first team All-Ivy in 2015. There’s no telling who could make such a jump in 2016, but such a surprise would help solidify an already-strong Penn team.
Although the Quakers have been one of the two best teams in the Ancient Eight for two years in a row, it will be difficult to overcome Columbia, who made it all the way to the NCAA regional finals against the powerful Miami Hurricanes last season. However, the Quakers barely missed beating out the Lions for the Lou Gehrig division title, as one more big hit in the nail-biting final regular season series could have given them the edge.
Without a doubt, the Quakers will still have a difficult foe in Columbia going forward. But, from the bullpen to the rotation to the offense, the Red and Blue are restocked and ready for 2016.
And thanks to this seemingly endless supply of talent, Penn baseball looks primed for plenty of successful years to come.
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