2011 William Penn Baseball Preview

 

William Penn University Athletics

2010 record: 25-19 (14-10 MCC, 4th)
Starters returning/lost: 4/5 (7/2 pitchers)
Letterwinners returning/lost: 17/11

Notable returners:
Eric Krause                   Sr.        San Diego, Calif.
(MCC Pitcher of the Year, 8-1, 2.76 ERA, 75 IP, 87 K, 9 BB)
Kyle Humphrey              Sr.        Boise, Idaho
(First-team all-MCC, .427 BA, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 42 R)
Jerry Hernandez            Sr.        Moreno Valley, Calif.
(First-team all-MCC, .424 BA, 1 HR, 46 R, 36 RBI)
Chris Freedman             Sr.        Walnut, Calif.
(First-team all-MCC, 4-6, 3.23 ERA, 75 1/3 IP, 43 K, 23 BB)

Notable losses:

Eddie Sobczak
(Two-time all-conference)
Nick Golich
(All-conference)

Notable newcomers:

Evelio Ahumada            Jr.        Hacienda Heights, Calif.
A.J. Fields                    Jr.        Galesburg, Ill.
Darren Gay                   Jr.        El Cajon, Calif.
Dennis Neal                  Jr.        San Leandro, Calif.

Some big sticks will be combined with a potentially wicked pitching staff as the Penn baseball team looks to get back on top in 2011.

Mike Laird enters his 29th season as skipper of the Statesmen program and is now a member of the 800-win club (809-369-3 at WPU) after leading his squad to a 25-19 record last season (14-10 MCC).

“Although we had a decent season by many standards, our ability to finish some close games was compromised by our lack of pitching depth,” Laird said.  “This, coupled with late-season injuries to three key starters, resulted in us dropping some late-inning contests we would have normally won.  This being said, I am optimistic about our chances this year.”

Laird has plenty of reason to be optimistic as four first-team all-Midwest Collegiate Conference performers return, including MCC Pitcher of the Year Eric Krause (Sr., San Diego, Calif., Southwestern CC).  Joining Krause is pitcher Chris Freedman (Sr., Walnut, Calif., Citrus CC), first baseman Kyle Humphrey (Sr., Boise, Idaho, Skagit Valley CC), and third baseman Jerry Hernandez (Sr., Moreno Valley, Calif. Chaffey CC).  The foursome provide arguably the best nucleus of returners of any program in the MCC.

With Penn’s struggles on the mound in 2010, the coaching staff spent the offseason recruiting pitchers and feels that one of Penn’s strengths will now be its depth in the arms race.

“Many new pitchers have joined us to help bolster the staff both in the starting rotation and out of the pen,” Laird said.  “Some pitchers that were forced into action last season will have difficulty getting back on the hill this year due to the competition.  We feel really good about our 2011 staff.”

Pitcher

Krause looks to again guide Penn after going 8-1 last year with a 2.76 Earned Run Average.  His control was possibly the best asset of his game as he struck out 87 batters with just nine walks.

“Eric was the top pitcher in the MCC last year and I hope he can duplicate those performances this year,” Laird said.  “He has a great fastball with an outstanding breaking ball.”

Freedman combines with Krause to provide a tremendous 1-2 punch.  He was just 4-6 last year, but had a strong 3.23 ERA in a team-leading 75 1/3 innings of work.

“Chris was a workhorse for us last year and should play a significant role with our staff in 2011,” Laird said.  “He could see some time out of the bullpen as well.”

Jorge Quezada (So., San Ysidro, Calif., Castle Park HS) tops a big group that also saw action in 2010 and will provide Penn with returning depth on the mound.

“Jorge will see a lot of action this year as a starter and as a reliever,” Laird said.  “He has really good stuff and gained great experience last year so he will help out immensely.”

Bobby Bunch (Sr., Albuquerque, N.M., Bacone) and Jesus Sanchez (Sr., Los Angeles, Calif., Citrus CC) should also figure into that mix, while Jonathan Davis (Jr., San Diego, Calif., Southwestern CC) and Justin Swailes (So., Mount Pleasant, Mount Pleasant HS) grew as redshirts in 2010.

“Bobby will be returning from a season-ending injury,” Laird said.  “If Jesus can get better control of his pitches, he will be an asset.  Jonathan should be a key reliever for us this year.  He is very tough on left-handed hitters.  The key to Justin’s success will be his location.”

Dennis Neal (Jr., San Leandro, Calif., Laney CC) headlines a talented incoming pitching class, while David Ness (Jr., Purcellville, Va., Frederick CC) has also impressed the coaching staff.

“Dennis has a lot of raw talent and could be a dominating pitcher for us,” Laird said.  “David has great size and a strong arm.  He has outstanding potential and will emerge as a solid starter.”

Fellow newcomers Steve Enriquez (Jr., Castro Valley, Calif., Laney CC), Darren Gay (Jr., El Cajon, Calif., San Diego Mesa CC), Devin Lange (Jr., Tucson, Ariz., Paradise Valley CC), Brad McGuire (So., Covina, Calif., Citrus CC), and David Perez (Jr., Walnut, Calif., Citrus CC) will vie for outings as well.

“All of these individuals have the potential to eat up some innings for us,” Laird said.

Catcher

A.J. Fields (Jr., Galesburg, Ill., Arkansas-Little Rock) looks to make a splash behind the plate in his first year in the navy and gold.

The newcomer will battle with returners Mike Myers (So., Yelm, Wash., Rainier HS) and Richard Romero (Sr., Bakersfield, Calif., West Hills CC) as well as newcomers Chase Breid (Jr., Madison, Mo., Indian Hills CC) and Danny Walsh (Jr., Crystal Lake, Ill., McHenry County CC).

“A.J. is a strong player with potential to drive in runs,” Laird said.  “Mike has been hampered with arm injuries that have slowed his progress, while Richard has an outstanding arm.  Chase works hard and pushes his teammates, and Dan is a solid player with some power.”

First Base

Humphrey returns to man first base after powering his team in 2010.  He led the Statesmen in batting average (.427), doubles (18), home runs (14), and RBIs (56) last season, to name just a few categories.

“Kyle is the best power hitter in the MCC and has a chance to play at the next level,” Laird said.

Newcomer Garrett Ramsey (Jr., Eureka, Kan., Highland CC) will provide depth behind Humphrey.

“Garrett is a good lefty stick that could help us in pinch-hit situations,” Laird said.

Second Base

Evelio Ahumada (Jr., Hacienda Heights, Calif., Citrus CC) appears to be the frontrunner at second base after redshirting during the 2010 campaign.

“Evelio is a solid all-around player who handles the bat well and could play several different positions for us,” Laird said.

Tony Mancuso (Jr., Covina, Calif., Citrus CC) is strong at both ends of the game and will likely see a lot of action in several different areas for the Statesmen.

“Tony is a good hitter with some pop,” Laird said.  “He is capable of driving in runs and can play three infield positions well.”

Returner Dakota Johnston (Jr., Eddyville, Eddyville-Blakesburg HS) and newcomer Nick Kirby (Jr., Palmdale, Calif., Antelope Valley CC) will add depth for Penn.

“Dakota is a great team player who has really improved since joining our program,” Laird said.  “Nick handles short game offensive situations well and as his defense improves, so will the amount of playing time he receives.”

Shortstop

Miguel Castillon (Sr., Simi Valley, Calif., LA Mission CC) is back at shortstop and if healthy, he could be a tremendous two-hole hitter for the Statesmen.  The senior fought through some injuries to post a strong 2010 season, hitting .381 with two home runs, 28 runs, and 14 RBIs.

“Miguel should be our infield leader this spring,” Laird said.  “He handles the bat very well.”

Third Base

Hernandez headlines a deep hot corner after posting a .424 clip with one home run, a team-best 46 runs scored, and 36 RBIs.

“Jerry is an outstanding hitter who is also strong defensively at third base,” Laird said.  “He has great bat control and will be batting right in front of Kyle Humphrey for a great 3-4 combo.”

Brad Chin (Jr., San Rafael, Calif., San Rafael HS) has been working out at several infield positions during the preseason, but is most likely to back up Hernandez.  In 25 games a year ago, the junior hit .208 with one home run (a pinch-hit grand slam), 13 RBIs, and six runs.

Rey Garcia (Fr., Baldwin Park, Calif., Sierra Vista HS) will supply depth as well.

“Rey works hard and is a good team guy,” Laird said.  “He could move up the ladder as he improves.”

Outfield

The Statesmen outfield will benefit from the return of two 2010 starters with Cory Randall (Jr., What Cheer, Tri-County HS) in left and Aaron Laird (Jr., Oskaloosa, Oskaloosa HS) in right.  Newcomer Stanley Muller (Jr., Tucson, Ariz., Cochise CC) has the inside track on the center field slot.

“Cory has good quickness and handled the bat well last season,” Laird said.  “Aaron picked up valuable experience last year and after getting much stronger, he has the potential for power.”

“Stanley has good range in the outfield and is being looked at to be our leadoff hitter,” Laird added.

Dirck Jackman (Sr., San Jose, Calif., Mission CC) and Daniel Wehr (Jr., Sigourney, Sigourney HS) again don the Statesmen uniforms and will serve as backups, as will Colt Brumbaugh (Fr., Keswick, Tri-County HS) and Dante Frazier (Fr., Des Moines, North HS).

“Dirck has improved at the plate and could see more time as he improves on defense,” Laird said.  “Daniel has a strong arm and good speed, which will be utilized in pinch-running situations.  Colt and Dante will see some action as their skills develop.”

Designated Hitter

Chin, Mancuso, and Chris Witrado (Sr., Fresno, Calif., West Hills CC) are the top choices at designated hitter as their plate presence will make it difficult to keep them out of the lineup.

“Brad and Tony are very good offensive and defensive players so they will see time somewhere,” Laird said.  “Chris has a good swing and that will earn him some at-bats during the year.”

Schedule

Good weather willing, the 2011 season will open on February 18-19 with a trip to Kansas to face Friends and Morningside.

The Statesmen then head south for their annual spring break trip to Florida and are slated to play 12 games in seven days.  The team also has perennial NAIA power Bellevue (Neb.) on its schedule late in the year.

Conference

Penn is picked to finish in the same spot as last year–fourth–with co-defending champion and MCC Tournament champion Grand View a narrow favorite over Iowa Wesleyan, while Viterbo and St. Ambrose are figured into the title talk as well.

“The MCC race will again be a very close one with every team being quite capable of winning on any given day,” Laird said.  “I think we can be right in the race if we remain focused and take one game at a time.”

“The leadership from our upperclassmen has been much stronger thus far compared to last season and the team chemistry has been good so we feel good entering this spring.”

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