Tommy Courtney leads the Penn offense
Tommy Courtney will play a major role for Penn. | Photo: Penn Athletics
The Quakers were one of the first programs to shut down when the pandemic began in March 2020. Things weren't much better last season as travel restrictions imposed by the Ivy League restrained the club to a 14-game slate with contests against La Salle, Villanova, and Delaware. 

Condensed as it was, Penn was the only Ivy program to play a game last season, and that's a significant fact to keep in mind as the 2022 season unfolds. 

"It'll sure be nice to play some baseball," Penn head coach John Yurkow said. "It's been a while, for sure." 

Yurkow, now heading into his ninth season with the Quakers, finds himself in the challenging position of managing a talented roster with a substantial number of players carrying minimal experience at the college level. It's a difficult position to be in, but it'll certainly be a similar story across the conference. 

Luckily for Penn, nearly two dozen players on the current roster played summer ball last year. No, it's not the same as playing an Ivy League schedule, but the in-game experience, at-bats, and innings on the mound are a welcome bonus. 

Yurkow anticipates senior shortstop Craig Larsen and senior outfielder Tommy Courtney playing a significant role in the lineup. Larsen burst on the scene with an outstanding freshman season in 2019, hitting .322 with six homers and 44 RBIs. Courtney is arguably the best defensive outfielder in the region and has a career .297 average to go along with 11 stolen bases over 63 games. 

Larsen and Courtney are also team captains, joined by senior catcher Andrew Hernandez and senior hurlers Kevin Eaise and Joe Miller. 

"These guys have dealt with so much adversity over the last couple of years, and I couldn't be more proud of how they handled it," Yurkow said. "This is all about what they did to guide the program through leadership and showing the younger guys how to do things. I don't think it's common to have five captains, but these guys deserve it." 

As for on the mound, Eaise and Miller figure to be the arms to lead the pitching staff. Eaise posted a 2.42 ERA over five appearances last season and held opponents to a .189 batting average. Miller struggled last year and posted a 9.00 ERA over five appearances but turned things around over the summer and was dominant with the Savannah Bananas of the Coastal Plain League, collecting 71 strikeouts and a 6-0 record over ten appearances while being named CPL Pitcher of the Year. 

"A lot of our guys played summer ball, plus we had an 11-week fall season," Yurkow said. "What I started to see was that this junior class has really started to turn a corner. Especially our offensive guys. I think they are going to be a major key for us this season." 

One of those juniors to keep an eye on is backstop Jackson Appel. The Houston native hit .273 in six games for the Quakers last year but excelled over the summer and was an All-Star in the Future Collegiate Baseball League, hitting .345 with the Pittsfield Suns while being named Defensive Player of the Year. 

Corner infielder Ben Miller also starred on the summer circuit, hitting .317 with seven dingers for the Holly Springs Salamanders of the Coastal Plains League. He led the club with 21 runs created and 23 RBIs. 

Wyatt Henseler (Emmaus) is another bat to keep tabs on. The sophomore hit .365 in the 14-game season last year and drove in 17 RBI's. 

Penn opens the season on February 25 in College Station with a three-game set against Texas A&M. The Quakers then have a nine-game swing in South Carolina with contests against Wofford, College of Charleston, and Winthrop before opening the home portion of the schedule on March 16 against Monmouth.

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