Under the guidance of first year head coach Matthew Mark the Beavers will take the field in 2013 with a blue collar work ethic and disciplined approach in all facets of the game. While the roster is small in size there is a renewed sense of optimism for the Caltech baseball team.
"We are going to be a hard working team. Regardless of the situation – a game, practice, conditioning – this team is going to be fundamentally sound in every aspect possible," Mark said. "A measure of our success will be based on each player's willingness to get better every day."
Not only is the leadership on the bench changed, there is a handful position changes due to the graduation of four starters from last season's squad.
"During the preseason practices we have tried a lot of different combinations on the field and the players have been willing to learn new skills and adapt to different situations they had not encountered before," Mark said. "The guys on the team are sharp and can process the information well. It is now up to us to execute those changes on game day. We have players ready to lead us during this transition."
One of the players that will help lead by example is catcher/designated hitter Brian Penserini. Last year the native of Carmichael, CA was named to the ABCA all-region team in addition to earning SCIAC first-team honors. He was second in the league in overall batting average (.430) and tied the school record for hits in a season with 40. He led the team in every offensive category. He also threw 32.2 innings off the mound in 11 appearances last year.
Another strong offensive returner is Albie Lavin. The junior was second on the team with a .288 batting average. Lavin scored a team best 13 runs while placing second on the team with 41 total bases. He played a multitude of positions last year but will focus mostly on short stop with appearances on the mound as well.
"Albie and Brian are going to play an extremely vital role in the team's success this season. They both lead by example very well and the rest of the team is receptive to them," Mark said. "Each of them can get better too so I'm looking forward to see how their hard work will pay off."
Three other players bring a fair amount of experience to the team. Mason Freedman will see time as the squad's starting third baseman. Last season he played in 25 games while ranking fourth on the team with a .320 on-base percentage. Blaine Matulevich is the team's second baseman. The senior had played in that spot for 80 percent of Beaver games the last three seasons. Scott Yantek is another senior who will see time in a variety of roles. Penciled in to be the primary right fielder, the left hander will also see time as a relief pitcher.
"They bring a solid level of experience to the squad. Each of their strengths is their defense but they have room to improve. I am pleased with what I have seen from them so far," Mark said. "They want to end their collegiate experience well and if they continue with their hard work, I think they will."
Jeff Kowalski, who saw limited time during his early years with the program, is going to play a variety of roles off the bench while seeing time as a catcher and right fielder. The senior has had a number of solid practices as he adapts to his role.
"Jeff will serve as our back-up catcher but he has the ability to see time at other positions as the situation dictates," Mark said.
A foursome of sophomores will be vital cogs to the Beavers. Derek Kearny will serve as the team's top starter in 2013. Last year he led the team with 32 strikeouts in 50.2 innings of work. He started nine of the 12 games he appeared in. Ryan Casey started a vast of the major of the games in 2012 as the centerfielder but he will roam left field this year. Casey had 12 hits and tied for the team lead in walks (14) during his rookie campaign.
Jerome Skelly enters his sophomore campaign projected to be the team's first baseman. Skelly took most of his groundballs at third base in 2012 but will be shifted to the opposite side of the field this year. The native of Springfield, MA will also be a primary weekend starter. Oliver Curtiss will work into a handful of spots as a utility player. One of the team's hardest workers, Curtiss saw time mostly as a relief pitcher last year.
"The sophomore class brings a lot of diversity. They will be relied on heavily. They can all play a variety of positions and fill different roles," Mark said.
A handful of players are suiting up for the Beavers for the first time in 2013. Daniel Chou, the only true first-year on the team, will play centerfield and serve as one of the primary starting pitchers. An all-league selection at Wissahickon High School outside of Philadelphia, PA, he brings a wealth of baseball knowledge to the team. A pair of upper classman, Thomas Kwok and Will Dooris, will serve as utility players throughout much of the early portion of the season as they work into a regular rotation of work.
"I'm excited to see how each of the new players adapt to college baseball. Each of them does specific things very well and they have progressed nicely during preseason practices," Mark said.
The season gets underway on Jan. 27 with a single game at La Sierra with the home opener being a doubleheader on Feb. 2 against Pacifica.
Penserini and Lavin Chat About the Upcoming Season --