Hood and Scafidi lead a Penn program aiming for more than an Ivy League title
John Yurkow has spent more than a decade at Penn and is entering his seventh season as head coach. During his tenure, he's watched some impressive players move through the program with over 40 All-Ivy selections dating back to 2013.

That's all to say, Yurkow knows a quality baseball player when he sees one, so it comes on good authority when he offers an opinion.

"I've never had a team as talented as this as a head coach, from top to bottom," Yurkow said. "We've got some guys that are really good players that may not play this year because they're going to have to wait their turn. The roster is that good."

The Quakers are stacked offensively, returning five All-Ivy honorees from a year ago, including sophomore shortstop Josh Hood who was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year. The Vineland native led the Quakers with eight homers and 25 extra-base hits while hitting .331 on the year.

"He's an ultra-talented kid and one of the better hitters I've coached," Yurkow said. "He's got natural power, but he's also very good with two strikes and putting the ball in play. What I told him is to just not put too much pressure on yourself this year, just enjoy it."

As a team, the Quakers hit .334 last season, the second-highest mark among all Division I programs in the country. The club also posted a .422 on-base percentage, the third-best figure in the nation. The club graduated a pair of stars in Matt O'Neill and Sean Phelan, but junior Eduardo Malinowski returns aiming to build on an outstanding season in which he hit .354 and posted a 1.004 OPS. Senior Peter Matt (.328/.391/.456), and sophomores Tommy Courtney (.316/.396/.439) and Craig Larsen (.322/.402/.517) also return, providing an incredible amount of depth to what is one of the strongest Philly-area lineups in recent memory.

"I think our offense this year is going to be a bit more dynamic," Yurkow said. "We brought a lot of kids in that are athletic, and we need to find a way to replace our two big pieces [O'Neill and Phelan], but I like what we have and do expect the offense to be really good again this year."

The pitching staff is also worthy of praise, starting with reigning Ivy League Pitcher of the Year Christian Scafidi. The senior right-hander appeared in 10 contests last year, nine as starts. He posted a career-low 2.62 ERA over 68 2/3 innings and collected 59 strikeouts, the fifth-most in the Ivy League.

Behind Scafidi in the starting rotation will be fellow senior Mitchell Holcomb and sophomore Joe Miller. Holcomb, a right-hander, finished 6-1 last season while posting a 3.76 ERA to go along with 51 strikeouts. Miller, a southpaw, pitched to a 4.76 ERA and finished fourth on the staff with 41 strikeouts while making 13 appearances, including seven starts.

"It's interesting though," Yurkow said, speaking of the Penn rotation. "There's three other guys that are training right now as starting pitchers in Kevin Eaise, Brendan Bean, and Josh Sidney. All are going to be really good arms for us this year. The depth should be there."

The added rotation depth allows for senior John Alan Kendrick - who made six starts last year while posting a 3.22 ERA - to slide back to an important role in the bullpen.

"Having an experienced guy like that back there, where he can come in in tough situations, or throw some innings in long relief, it's a good thing for us," Yurkow said.

The Quakers open the 2020 campaign with a trip down south with contests against Kennesaw State, Florida International, Florida Atlantic, and Stetson. The club opens the home portion of the schedule on Saturday, March 21, with an Ivy League doubleheader against Dartmouth.

"Our goal is to take home the Ivy League championship, but I also believe this team is good enough to go compete in a regional and win, it's that good," Yurkow said. "We'll be tested out of the gate and go from there."
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

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