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Second baseman Nick Italiano is part of a stellar crop of Penn sophomores up the middle. Italiano leads the Quakers in doubles with eight. ( Rachel Julis/The Daily Pennsylvanian)

There's an old baseball adage that says a team is generally only as strong as its players up the middle, namely its double-play combination and center fielder. The Penn baseball team currently has three strong players at those spots, and those players will all be there in the years to come. "Only good things can happen when you play with the same guys for years," Penn shortstop Steve Glass said. "The defense will be one constant throughout the years where we have this young infield." Glass and second baseman Nick Italiano, as well as center fielder Andrew McCreery, are all sophomores. The middle infield pair in particular has grown together this season, as the Quakers (20-15) head into their final five games of the season, starting today against St. Joseph's (16-18). "We really have a strong bond," Italiano said. "We definitely work really well together. We're on the same page. It's amazing how when I turn to him to figure out who's covering the base, we both say the exact same thing every time." At the plate, as well as in the field, both have performed well for the Red and Blue this season. Out of the lead off spot, Italiano's 12 doubles are the most by a Penn hitter in five years. His .360 average ranks third among the Quakers starters. Glass is batting just .269 but easily leads the Red and Blue with 25 walks. His on-base percentage is a much more robust .412. * One player who won't be back in the coming years is Penn right fielder Chris May, one of four seniors in the starting lineup. May has made the most out of his final season with the Red and Blue, though. He broke the Penn record for RBIs in a season with his 49th of the year on Sunday against Princeton and still has a chance to set some other records. May's .461 batting average currently ranks second in the country behind UCLA's Brian Baron(.485). If May's average holds, he will break the 67-year-old Penn record of .459, set by Donald Kellett. And if he does manage to break Kellett's record, May will probably also exceed Mike Shannon's school mark of 70 hits in 1995. May currently has 59, which ties him for third all-time with Glenn Partridge's 1976 total. May is also one home run away from becoming the second player in Penn history to hit 10 round-trippers in a season. Tom Olszak, who held the single-season RBI mark until this weekend, hit 11 homers in 1978 and swatted 12 a year later. * The Quakers can clinch a winning record for the season with a victory today over the Hawks. A win would also move Penn to 3-2 against teams from Philadelphia. It won't be easy, however, as Penn lost a 6-5 game to St. Joe's back on April 4. "I think we felt last time that we definitely should have won that game," Glass said. "You never want to lose to any of the other Philadelphia schools -- there's a bit of a rivalry there. I think they got their revenge on us from last year, but hopefully we can return the favor this time around." Russ Brocato will be the starting pitcher for the Red and Blue today against a Hawks lineup that boasts a .314 team batting average. * May did not practice yesterday due to a bruised elbow he suffered when he was hit by a pitch on Sunday. "I don't want to see it effect him, because he's way up in the stats," Penn coach Bob Seddon said. "We've got some boo-boos out there." Still, May expects to play today, as does Glass, who sprained a ligament in his right hand.

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