Baseball’s escursione in Italia and other year-end sports news.
By Noel Hynd
The varsity baseball squad took its show on the road to Italy for two weeks in May and June, playing seven games against a collection of local teams. This is not as strange as it sounds. Baseball has been catching on in Italy over the last several years. And do I need to remind you where Joe DiMaggio’s family was from?
However, the locals still have a bit of work to do, judging from the 5-1-1 record amassed by the Quaker nine. The team ended the trip with an 18-0 win over the Torreos of Rimini, including six home runs—three by catcher Jeff Gregorio, a junior, who finished the game with six RBIs; a grand-slam by freshman Andrew McCreery; and two more homers by junior Ron Rolph and sophomore Dan Fitzgerald. It was the first at-bat of the season for Fitzgerald, a pitcher.
Previously, the team had posted victories against Anzio, Rome, Florence and Goda. In the 10-3 victory against Goda, sophomore Bill Collins went two-for-three with a double and three RBIs, while junior Chris May collected two hits and an RBI. Freshman Paul Grumet allowed one run in three innings of work, while teammate Mark Lacerenza, a sophomore, allowed two runs on three hits in four strong innings, striking out four.
The tie came against the San Marino Expos. The score was 6-6 when the evening contest was called because of cold weather in the eighth inning. Freshman Stephen Glass went two-for-two with a double and a run scored, while Gregorio hit a three-run blast in the Quakers’ five-run third inning. Starter Ben Krantz allowed five runs in four innings before being relieved by sophomore Mike Mattern, who allowed only one run in four innings while fanning eight.
The team’s only defeat came in the second game of the tour—an 8-3 loss to the Nettuno Indians.
One of my favorite Penn squads is women’s soccer, which, game-per-game, always puts on an excellent show. The only problem seems to be that successful people—players and coaches—move through the program all too quickly.
Darren Ambrose, an assistant coach at Florida State this past season under one-time Penn head coach Patrick Baker, was named as the new head coach of the women’s soccer program. The fourth coach in the program’s history, Ambrose replaces Andy Nelson, who was named to the top spot at Stanford University in March.
“I am honored to have been chosen to lead the Penn program, one which I believe is on the verge of becoming a national power,” said Ambrose. “I hope to continue the success of past coaches Patrick Baker and Andy Nelson. I am truly excited about this opportunity.”
At Florida State, Ambrose was directly responsible for goalkeeper training, monitoring the academic progress of the student athletes and managing summer camp activities, in addition to administrative duties. Before joining Baker’s staff, Ambrose enjoyed three successful years as the men’s and women’s assistant coach at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. During his tenure at Rhodes, the two programs had a combined record of 77-33-3, captured a Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Championship, made two NCAA tournament appearances and posted three second-place finishes in the SCAC.
Ambrose inherits a Penn squad that just might do that “national power” thing. Last year’s club went undefeated (7-0) at Rhodes Field (all shutouts) en route to a 13-4-1 overall record. The team finished the year ranked 11th in the country in shutouts, with 10, and 12th in goals-against average (0.70). Penn lost to James Madison, 1-0, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, its first-ever NCAA appearance.
After recording a 4-2 record at the No. 1 doubles spot in Ivy League competition, junior Lenka Beranova and sophomore Rochelle Raiss were named to the First Team All-Ivy League women’s tennis team. Beranova, who played all seven matches in Ivy action at the No. 1 singles position, was named to the second team All-Ivy for singles, joining teammates Anastasia Pozdniakova and Shubha Srinivasan. Srinivasan compiled an overall record of 20-14 on the season, including a 5-2 mark in Ivy play, while senior co-captain Pozdniakova, a three-time First Team All-Ivy honoree, finished the season 19-17 overall, raising her total to an impressive 107 career singles victories. The Quakers finished the season 5-2 in Ivy League play and 13-10 overall.
Men’s tennis had its share of stardom. Penn sophomore Fanda Stejskal, an all-Ivy First Team selection who finished the season 20-14 overall, became the first men’s tennis player since 1973 to qualify for the NCAA Men’s Tennis Singles Championships. Unfortunately, Stejskal fell 6-2, 6-4 to Johann Jooste of Baylor University in the first round. Stejskal overcame a nervous first set and took a 3-1 lead in the second set before Jooste, Baylor’s top singles player, rallied to win. Ironically, Stejskal and Jooste were teammates at Baylor in the fall of 1998 before Stejskal transferred to Penn.
If you admire consistency, you might lift a summer highball to the Penn men’s heavyweight crew, who defeated Cornell on the Cayuga Lake Inlet in May to win a sixth straight Madeira Cup. Penn has claimed the Cup 15 of the last 16 years and 38 times overall. (That would make for a lot of highballs.)
The Quakers took the early lead and finished in a zippy 5:50.2, while the Big Red lumbered home in a lethargic 5:52.7. What WERE they doing with those extra two and a half seconds?
Also worthy of note: The women’s squash team won both national and Ivy League championships and Runa Reta was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year … Brett Matter was National Champion, Ivy League and EIWA Wrestler of the Year … Gymnastics was Ivy Classic Champions and sophomore Lauren Hittner was the ECAC Gymnast of the Year … In men’s tennis, Ryan Harwood was ITA Region I Rookie of the Year… In varsity track, senior Sean MacMillan has qualified for the Olympic Trials … Women’s basketball coach Kelly Greenberg was the Big 5 Coach of the Year and guided the squad to its best record in school history. Their star player, junior Diana Caramanico, was Ivy League and Big 5 Player of the Year, honorable-mention All America, and USA Basketball Jones Cup tryout … In men’s hoops, senior Michael Jordan became four-time First Team All-Ivy player and Ivy League Player of the Year, freshman Ugonna Onyekwe was Ivy League Rookie of the Year, and—let’s not forget—men’s basketball notched another Ivy crown with a 14-0 league record … Sophomore Kenneth Goh was the Ivy Champion in the 100-yard breaststroke … In baseball, senior Glen Ambrosius became Penn’s all-time leader in career hits … Sophomore Gavin Hoffman and senior Kris Ryan set several season records for football in 1999.
Speaking of football, the 2000 season opens at Lafayette on September 16—which, now that I think of it, is not too far off.
Noel Hynd C’70 writes on sports for the Gazette.