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Penn second baseman and lead-off hitter Nick Italiano has found success in the Cape Cod Baseball League this summer, hitting a team-leading .300 in 50 plate appearances. Theodore Schweitz/SP File Photo

For the Penn baseball team, the arrival of summer means a departure from school.

But that doesn't mean the Quakers also get a break from baseball.

As in years past, many of Penn coach Bob Seddon's returning players for the 2002 season are currently honing their skills in summer baseball leagues from June to August.

"If they're playing summer ball in higher-level leagues, it's going to help them and they should learn a lot," Seddon said. "The most important thing is that they're playing."

The most notable of these is rising junior Nick Italiano. The Quakers' starting second baseman and lead-off hitter was a second team All-Ivy selection in 2001, hitting .364 and leading the team with 13 doubles.

This summer, the native of Marlton, N.J., is playing in the very prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League, in which Penn alumnus and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Doug Glanville once played.

The ten teams in the league, which play in one of two divisions, compete in a 44-game regular season followed by a playoff tournament in August.

Italiano, who is listed as the shortest and lightest man on his team, has been very impressive thus far in his debut with the Bourne Braves. His team-leading .300 batting average is ninth-best in the league, and more than 50 points higher than the next-best hitter on the team and 100 points better than the team average.

"I think that team is a little shocked that he's doing that well," Seddon said, "because he's by far the leading hitter, [despite] playing with players from high-level schools like North Florida and Wichita State.

"Poor Nick, he always has to prove himself because he's not a big guy. But he's been doing very well."

As of last Tuesday, the Braves are 14-4-1 and first in the Western Division by seven points -- the equivalent of three two-point wins and a one-point tie.

Their next game is tomorrow in Harwich Port, Mass., against the Harwich Mariners at 7 p.m.


A little closer to home is the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, which features three Penn baseball players -- Paul Grumet, Andrew McCreery and Jim Mullen -- this summer.

All three of them play for the Delaware Valley Gulls, a team with 10 of its 27 players from four Philadelphia area schools -- Drexel, Penn, Temple and Villanova.

Grumet, a rising junior, has dominated opponents in his six appearances as a reliever. The 5'11" lefty has held opposing hitters to a .125 batting average en route to posting an earned run average of 0.61 in 14.2 innings of work.

McCreery -- a unanimous first team All-Ivy and Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference honorable mention selection last spring -- has been equally impressive for the Gulls. The rising junior has continued to demonstrate his value as a utility player, and made six appearances as a pitcher and nine starts in the outfield.

McCreery's ERA of 0.57 is second-best in the league, as he has given up just one earned run while striking out 15 in 15.2 innings pitched. He has been rewarded for his efforts with a selection to the 2001 ACBL All-Star Game, which will take place on Monday at noon at Shea Stadium -- the home of the New York Mets.

Mullen, who will return to the Quakers after a one-year hiatus, started off slow but has found some rhythm lately. He is hitting .235 in 51 at-bats and leads the team with 13 walks.

Delaware Valley is 9-12 and in third place in the four-team Wolff Division. The Gulls are six games back from the division-leading New Jersey Colts, and one game behind the Quakertown Blazers, which the Gulls will face at home in Norristown, Pa., on Saturday at 2 p.m.


Not so close to Penn is the California Coastal Collegiate League, in which rising junior Steven Glass is playing.

"He's the starting shortstop for the San Francisco Seals, and that's a senior team," Seddon said. "He came back last fall, and had really improved. He had bulked up a bit, so I expect huge improvement from him again."

Glass is the only player on the Seals that has started in all 23 games so far this season. And although his .179 batting average is nothing impressive, he has drawn a team-leading 16 walks while striking out just seven times in 78 at-bats.


A number of other Penn players -- including pitchers Greg Lee, Dan Fitzgerald and Mike Mattern -- are competing in various leagues around the country, and some are in camps or baseball schools.

But just about every player has found some way to incorporate their athletic talents into their summer.

Now it's just a matter of making sure that all that summer work will pay off in the upcoming 2002 season.

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