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Senior captain and catcher Matt O'Neill will be a key player behind the dish for Penn baseball as the team prepares to start the 2019 season this weekend. 

Credit: Chase Sutton

While most students will be enjoying the first full week of rest of the semester, Penn baseball is going to have quite the busy break starting March 1. To get their season in full swing, the Quakers will travel to the South for the majority of spring break to play against several highly competitive teams. 

The Red and Blue will begin the break by playing UNC Greensboro from Friday to Sunday in the first games of their season. The Spartans (3-2) are going to be quite the adversary for Penn, as they haven't lost a game at home so far. Last season, the team had a 39-15 record, with 23 of those wins coming at home. Against a tough UNC Greensboro squad, the Quakers — who went 16-25-1 last season — will have to work hard to get off on the right foot this year. 

Following those games, Penn will travel to Duke (6-1) for a two-game series on March 5 and 6. After an impressive season last year, the Blue Devils are off to another great start, with all six wins coming at home. 

Finally, the Quakers will play Winthrop (3-3) in Rock Hill, S.C. to complete the break from March 8 to 10. 

In their opening games of the season, the Red and Blue will use a noticeably different starting lineup from last year.

"You're going to see quite a few of the first-year players contribute right away," coach John Yurkow said. "I expect right you'll see two or three freshman position players in the everyday lineup, at least to start the season."

After a somewhat disappointing season last year, Yurkow has high hopes for the Quakers at the start of this season.

“We had a younger club, younger pitching staff that maybe took its lumps early in the season [with] a lot of freshman and sophomore arms last year," Yurkow said. “The experience that those guys have that they were able to gain last year will make us better this year as the season starts.” 

Yurkow also has a positive outlook on the tough games that the Red and Blue will be playing over the break. 

“By playing tough competition early in the season, it really gets you ready so that when you come back up for the northern schedule, you’ll be equipped to handle those teams and compete at the highest level possible," he said.  

Senior captain and catcher Matt O’Neill thinks that the Quakers' improved cohesion will help them succeed at the start of the season. 

“Everybody will play a part in North Carolina in one way or another. [We need to] make sure everyone's locked in [and] ready to go,” O'Neill said. "We have really, really exceptional chemistry. The freshman class has done a great job of coming in ready to give their all."

The Quakers are starting their season against teams that have been playing throughout February and already have some wins under their belt. Despite the tough competition, they are beginning the year with a lot of spirit and optimism. 

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