Roundtable: Which Penn spring sport is in the best Ivy title shape?

This past weekend featured a full plate of action for Penn’s spring sports teams. From John Yurkow’s baseball squad picking up its 11th consecutive victory to the men’s lacrosse team staving off a comeback from pesky Brown, there have been plenty of highlights for the Red and Blue over the past few days. With the spring season far from over, some Penn squads are in better positions than others to compete for Ivy titles. But which team is in the best position? Our editors weigh in.

Sports Editor Riley Steele: When Yurkow was hired over the summer to take the reigns of Penn baseball, I don’t think anybody expected this kind of run from the team. In Yurkow’s first season as skipper, it was fair to expect considerable growing pains. And the Quakers experienced quite a few of them, dropping their first six games of the season and returning home from spring break with a 2-9 record. Since then, this team has been red hot. The Red and Blue have won 11 straight and 13 of 14 overall.

The Quakers' strengths were all on display this weekend. Led by Connor Cuff and bolstered by the addition of freshman Jake Cousins, a deep and experienced pitching staff gave up only 13 runs in four games. Rick Brebner bolstered his Ivy League-leading home run total to seven, and Austin Bossart and Mike Vilardo continue to produce for the Quakers. Now that the Red and Blue sit atop the Ivy League with an undefeated conference record, it’s time for the rest of the Ancient Eight to pay attention. Continue reading

Q&A: Penn baseball coach John Yurkow

Penn baseball is off to a blazing 8-0 start in Ivy League play and is riding an 11-game win streak. We caught up with head coach John Yurkow after his squad swept road doubleheaders against Harvard and Dartmouth this past weekend.

Daily Pennsylvanian: You guys are now 8-0 in Ivy play, having won 11 straight [games] . What do you have to say about how well this team is playing and how confident they are?

John Yurkow: They’re playing really well. Twice, we were down on this trip. They were unfazed even though we went down by a few runs. They weren’t worried about it, they came storming right back. There’s just a really good energy in the dugout right now. It’s fun being around them. They’re playing well.

DP: Would you say that the comeback win in game one against Harvard on Saturday gave you some momentum and energy that carried you guys through the weekend?

JY: Absolutely. They’re a pretty good team. They’re well coached and they threw some pretty good arms out there against us. They hopped on us early, but we were able to bounce back pretty quick. Those are signs of a good team. Continue reading

Penn football Spring Game: Offensive breakdown

30120_09212013_footballvlafayetteyuzhongqian252fPenn football’s spring season culminated on Saturday with its annual inter-squad Spring Game. We give you our biggest takeaways from the offensive side of the ball.
With senior quarterbacks Billy Ragone and Ryan Becker departed, the Quakers’ quarterback competition is the biggest positional battle to keep an eye on heading into the 2014 season.
Freshman quarterback Alek Torgereon, who showed flashes of potential against Cornell last season, started the first two series, and was followed by junior Patton Chillura.
The main battle appears to be between Torgersen and Chillura, as the two split that majority of the snaps behind center. The focus was also clearly on the passing games, as handoffs were few and far between, apart from the short yardage situations.
One did not clearly outperform the other, as both QB’s completed roughly a third of their passes for under 60 yards along with a TD and a pick.
Both quarterbacks struggled and looked out of sync with their wideouts early on, as the pair went a combined 0-for-8 with a pick in the first four series.
The early struggles were not too surprising given the lack of experience the two arms have, couple with the wind the was swirling through Franklin Field on Saturday.
The QBs eventually started to find more of a rhythm, and both were able to execute pretty touchdown passes to a tight end – Torgersen a 19-yarder to Mitch King, and Chillura a nine-yard connection to Ryan Kelly.
One piece of good news given the inexperience of Penn’s quarterbacks is that they have a handful of tall, talented weapons to throw to this season.
Sophomore QB Andrew Lisa also got a few snaps, completing a five-yard pass, and scrambling for 20 yards.
Freshman QB Adam Strauss saw the field as well, although his role is still undefined according to coach Al Bagnoli. Strauss did not throw a pass and instead worked on running the ball in short yardage situations.
In his limited amount of action running the ball, junior Kyle Wilcox displayed his ability to both plunge up the middle and scamper outside for chunks of yardage, as the Quakers have come to expect.
Sophomore Mike Elespuru and freshman Ryan Ripp also saw considerable action in the backfield.
Holes proved hard to come by, as both backs averaged under two yards on the day.
The Quakers’ line will certainly be something to keep an eye on, given that it endured some struggles last year, and will need to provide as much help as possible to the Quakers’ inexperience signal callers this year.
Junior flex-back Spencer Kulcsar – who led the Quakers with 110 carries last season – saw minimal time in the backfield, and rather spent his time in the slot at receiver.
Kulcsar corralled a handful of short-to-intermediate passes, and provided one of the day’s highlights when he broke a tackle in the left flat and bolted for a long touchdown.
Looking at the backfield situation, Wilcox will likely be the man, and Elespuru should be expected to see an increase from his 24 carry total last year, especially with Kulcsar playing wide receiver more often, according to Bagnoli.
Wilcox and Elespuru will play critical roles this year, as the experienced backs will likely often be called upon to both establish and extend drives.
With standout seniors Conner Scott and Ty Taylor returning, the receiving corps should be one of Penn’s biggest strengths in 2014. Scott and Taylor saw a handful of snaps, but Saturday was mostly about giving other receiving hopefuls reps.
6-foot-3 junior Cole Stern, who didn’t see any action last year, had himself a nice day in the slot, hauling in two balls for a team high 33 receiving yards.
Fellow junior Danny Gallagher also found himself busy, and posted a team-high three receptions.
Sophomore Christian Stapleton lined up outside on a significant number of snaps, but didn’t find himself in the mix.
Freshman Danny Ferens continued to show potential, making a nice catch over the middle in his limited action.
The one real deviation from the typical gameplan was a jet sweep to freshman Mason Bryant, which went for three yards.
The tight ends had a solid showing on Saturday, catching the only two touchdown passes of the day. Mitchell King’s score was particularly impressive, as he was able to make an adjustment and climb the ladder to haul in a Torgersen pass in the back corner of the end zone.
As indicated in the Spring Game, the Quakers are going to look to take advantage of the size advantage their tight ends give them in the red zone – Ryan Kelly is 6-foot-4,  King is 6-foot-6 and Ryan O’Malley is 6-foot-5.

Rick Brebner named Ivy Player of the Week

Senior outfielder Rick Brebner was named Ivy League Player of the Week for the first time in his career after leading the Quakers to five straight wins over the week ending on April 1st. Facing arms from Villanova, Yale and Brown, Brebner hit .364 with four doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI.

The Langhorne, Pa. native’s biggest game of the week came in the second contest of Penn’s doubleheader versus Yale on Monday, where he went 4-for-5 with four RBI and two runs.

Brebner’s bat remained hot on Wednesday in Penn’s 11-5 win over Lafayette, as he went deep twice, driving in five runs along the way.

Brebner has started every game this year for the Quakers, hitting .321 overall with a team-leading five home runs and .605 slugging percentage. Brebner has thus far displayed the most power in a Penn lineup that has belted 23 bombs, an Ivy League high by a significant margin.

Brebner’s honor represents the second straight week a Penn outfielder has been named Ivy Player of the Week, as sophomore Gary Tesch took home the award the week before.

Breaking down the Final Four contenders

Consider our bracket alive — but just barely so. DPOSTM lost three of its Final Four teams — two in the Elite Eight, another in the Sweet Sixteen — but is still clinging onto its championship prediction of Florida. Let’s take a look back at last week’s craziness and look forward to the culmination of it all.

What We Got Right

Florida advancing easily

As predicted, the Gators emerged from the South regional with relative ease, toying with UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen before holding overmatched Dayton at arms length in the Elite Eight. The catalyst for Florida’s ticket to the Final Four? The electric play of point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who dropped 23 points against the Flyers, while also picking up three steals.

Michigan State toppling Virginia

In one of the tournament’s most thrilling games, the Spartans and Cavaliers went toe-to-toe at Madison Square Garden, with neither team budging an inch. Coach Tom Izzo’s decision to order an intentional miss of a late free throw that gave Virginia one last heave at the basket might have been risky, but his decision to leave the ball in the hands of Branden Dawson wasn’t — the junior guard pulled down 10 rebounds and accounted for almost half his team’s points in the 61-59 Michigan State win. Continue reading

Q&A with former Penn basketball assistant Scott Pera

PeraAfter two years as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Penn basketball under coach Jerome Allen, Scott Pera left last week, moving to a job on Mike Rhoades’ staff at Rice. The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke with Pera about the move and the trajectory of Penn basketball.

Daily Pennsylvanian: What was the reasoning behind the move to Rice and what is your relationship with coach Mike Rhoades?

Scott Pera: Coach Rhoades and I go back 20 years. When coach Rhoades was a college player at Lebanon Valley college, I was the high school coach at Annville High School. They were located about four blocks apart. We were very friendly during his playing days and it grew as we grew older and fortunately life has taken us to the point where we are both Division I assistant coaches all these years later. Each spring we both have our opportunities and maybe try and get head coaching jobs and Mike has been involved in a few [job openings] recently due to his success at VCU. We always talk about coaching together and how it’d be a dream of ours. When he got this, he called and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Continue reading

Three Up, Three Down: Penn softball vs. Temple

Three Up Three DownAfter dropping seven consecutive games and going winless throughout a two-week span, Penn softball rebounded against Yale on Monday. In their first two Ivy contests of the season, the Quakers picked up a pair of 3-0 wins against the Elis. Now, Penn (6-11, 2-0 Ivy) turns its attention back to a nonconference opponent as it prepares to do battle with Big 5 rival Temple (8-14) at Penn Park today. We examine who is up and who is down entering the midweek matinee.

Three Up

Alexis Borden: Entering Wednesday’s first game against the Elis, junior pitcher Alexis Borden featured 2-6 record in her first eight starts of the season. But Borden was downright dominant against Yale, throwing her fifth complete game and first shutout of the year. Borden allowed only two hits in seven innings while striking out four, helping Penn end its seven-game skid.

Home Runs: The Red and Blue have had no trouble getting the ball over the fence this season. Against the Elis on Monday, freshman Alexis Sargentsmacked a solo shot in the first inning of the first contest before going yard again in the second game of the doubleheader. Fellow freshman Leah Allenalso hit a homer in the nightcap against Yale. Continue reading

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Penn Baseball vs. Yale

Good Bad & UglyPenn baseball kicked off its Ivy season in ideal fashion on Monday at Meiklejohn Stadium. The Quakers swept their afternoon doubleheader with Yale, winning by scores of 6-1 and 11-9.

The Good: (Crooked) Numbers on the Boards

The Penn bats appear to be heating up at just the right time. The Red and Blue put up 17 runs and scattered 21 hits off Yale arms in the doubleheader. A handful of Penn players had impressive days at the plate, but none more so than senior left fielder Rick Brebner, who hit huge home runs in each game. Overall, Brebner went 5-9 on the day with seven RBI. The Quakers continued their habit of punishing opposing pitchers with the deep ball, as the squad launched four balls over the fences in the two-game set. The Quakers have now averaged 10 runs per game in their last four contests. Continue reading

2014 Ivy Baseball Outlook

On the doorstep of Ivy League play, we break down the Ancient Eight competition on the diamond.

Lou Gehrig Division (Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, Penn)

The Gehrig Division has won the last three Ivy League titles, and looks like the deeper division this season.

Coming off a convincing 16-4 Ivy title campaign and showing no lack of depth, Columbia is the team to beat in the Ivy League this year.

The Lions have seven returning All-Ivy players, including the daunting pitching duo of seniors Joey Donino and David Speer. Both Donino, a righty, and Speer, a lefty, are top 10 Ivy Prospects per Baseball America. Senior centerfielder Jordan Serena, another top prospect, is a luxury in the outfield and leads the Lions with seven doubles so far this year. Another outfielder, sophomore Rob Paller, has stepped up for Columbia thus far – he’s hitting .308 and is responsible for just under a third of the Lions’ 68 runs.

The Lions went 6-12 in a tough non-conference state that included series’ against the likes of Texas and South Florida. Time will tell if the battle-tested Lions have the might to repeat. Continue reading

Penn basketball freshman Tony Bagtas arrested for burglary

bagtasIt is not a great day for Penn basketball.

On Monday night, freshman Tony Bagtas was arrested on four charges, including two felonies — burglary and criminal trespassing) — and two misdemeanors, theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property. Bagtas was arrested in connection with a burglary in the Quad and has been removed from Riepe College House since the arrest.

It is unclear at this moment how this will affect Bagtas' future with the basketball program. The freshman guard played in 20 games this year, starting six of them, while averaging 2.1 points and two assists per contest.