Penn baseball fans would have a hard time guessing who leads the team in batting average (.364) and on-base percentage (.447).
Here’s a hint: it’s not reigning Ivy League MVP Tim Graul.
It’s freshman Chris Adams.
While it’s true that the season has only just begun and that the sample size is small, Penn’s leadoff man has the potential to continue his success. Coach John Yurkow tried to temper expectations but stopped short of calling Adam’s early success unsustainable.
“I’m not expecting him to hit .400 all year, but if he can continue to have good at bats...” Yurkow said. “Even if [freshmen] have early success it doesn’t mean they aren’t going to struggle, because they haven’t gone through it.”
Adams is a part of a freshman class that’s already making huge contributions to the Quakers. The other two freshmen players joining him on the field are fellow infielders Tommy Pellis and Peter Matt. Neither Pellis nor Matt has had the same kind of early success as Adams, but both have played in the majority of the Quakers first 10 games and neither is truly struggling.
The young position players having an immediate impact are part of a larger trend for the Quakers in the last few seasons. Last year, the Red and Blue started up to six freshmen. This is drastically different from the pitching staff, which relies heavily on veteran seniors. For the young Quaker pitchers, this means playing time is scarce.
The trio of freshmen infielders on the other hand, have cracked the lineup, giving the Quakers incredible flexibility. Adams has played games at both second base and shortstop, Matt at left field and designated hitter and Pellis at both DH and short. This allows Yurkow the flexibility to mix and match across the field according to matchups.
This flexibility was what led to Adam’s current spot at second base. Pellis’ ability to bat well as a DH allowed Adams to take over on the field. The solution has been working, so Yurkow is sticking with it.
“That’s how it works, you give guys an opportunity, and if they do well you have to stick with them.” Yurkow said.
The freshmen seem comfortable with their coach’s tinkering. Both Pellis and Adams mentioned their flexibility as important elements of their games. They appreciate that as freshmen, they have to adapt to the veteran team around them and to contribute wherever they can.
That’s not to say that the freshmen aren’t expected to produce in a big way. For his part, Pellis was picked to win the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award by Baseball America in the preseason. He has shown flashes of that potential, but like most of the Quakers outside of Adams, his bat has been slow to reawaken from its winter slumber.
“There’s a lot of season left. We’ve had guys get off to not so great starts and still wind up hitting .360 and being all-league players.” Yurkow said. “[Pellis] is a really hard worker, and it’s just a matter of him really trying to lock things down from a mechanical standpoint and have good at-bats.”
The freshmen will also benefit from a strong group of veteran leaders.
“I think a lot of older guys have been very helpful on the mental side of the game.” Adams said. “Just with keeping my mind at an even level, and instead of being nervous just having the mindset that you’re better than the guy you’re [facing].”
It’s a long season, but freshmen are leading the Quakers so far, at least on the lineup card.