Rookie catcher Austin Bossart demonstrates responsibility beyond his years
Coach John Cole expresses high degree of confidence in his freshman
March 21, 2012, 12:29 am · Updated March 23, 2012, 12:06 am·
Patrick Hulce | DP
Austin Bossart has played 11 collegiate baseball games and seen 39 at-bats and a couple-hundred pitches at best, yet there are already high hopes for Penn’s freshman catcher.
“He will be a future captain here, there’s no doubt in my mind,” coach John Cole said matter-of-factly. “He’s done all we’ve asked and more, and I can only expect better things to come.”
Cole said he had a pretty good idea coming into the season that the rookie would take the starting job, filling the void left by catcher Will Davis, a Phillies signee last year, who graduated second in career home runs for Penn with 25.
While Bossart has yet to clear the Meiklejohn fences (or any others, for that matter), he’s batting .308 with two doubles, five RBIs and just three strikeouts thus far.
“I’ve been doing this 27 years, [and] he’s as good a young catcher [as] I’ve ever seen,” Cole said.
Though the coach admitted his swing is still a “work in progress,” he applauded Bossart’s ability to battle pitchers at the plate.
Bossart said the college game is a lot faster than the high school game, and he sees quality pitchers more consistently now. But other than that, “it’s just baseball.”
“I don’t think about myself as a freshman out there. I think of myself as a player. I just go out there and play baseball, and I do what I know I can do,” he said. “People may think that’s a daunting task as a freshman catcher, but I don’t see it that way.”
That confidence has impressed Cole enough to put the freshman in a leadership position behind the plate.
“He’s like being a freshman quarterback. You give him all that responsibility, and he’s able to digest it,” Cole said. “He’s not afraid. The biggest thing with freshmen is they play with fear, and he has no fear and that’s why his game is accelerating.”
Bossart will get his 12th start in 13 games today when Penn travels to Plymouth Meeting, Pa., for a 3:15 p.m. meeting with Villanova. The Quakers (4-8) have not beaten the Wildcats (13-8) on the road since April 2003 and have just one win in five meetings since.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Cole said he hadn’t decided whether he would throw freshman starter Connor Cuff against the Wildcats or pitch by bullpen committee, as he often does during midweek games.
“We have not pitched well to them in the past,” Cole said. “Going over there we gotta get out of the gate early and get ahead. We’ve always played from behind over there and they’re physical enough that they can expand on you.”
An early lead will be even more important for Penn as the Quakers’ bullpen has struggled in recent games, allowing nine runs (eight earned) in six innings of relief last week against Temple and another three earned runs in three innings Saturday at Charleston Southern.
That will be a tall order against a Wildcats team with a slugging percentage of .433 through 21 games.
“Whoever does [pitch] has to keep the ball down and we gotta work ahead,” Cole said.