Spring is often associated with renewal and growth.
While the official start of the season isn’t for another two months, the spring sports season begins anew for Caltech University on Sunday as the baseball team leads off the 2013 campaign with a nonconference tilt at Riverside La Sierra University at noon.
If one program is looking for a rebirth, it’s the baseball team, which went winless (0-33) last season and hasn’t claimed a victory since 2010.
Caltech went out of its region to revive the program in bringing in Pennsylvania native and 28-year-old former catcher Matthew Mark to take over for 30-year veteran John D’Auria.
While the change in atmosphere from the Alleghanies to Southern California hasn’t been too big a culture shock for Mark, coaching at Caltech has provided the new skipper with some unique circumstances.
“I’m pleasantly optimistic. To be honest, I’m working with a roster of 13 guys, which is the smallest I’ve ever had to deal with. That’s made me be creative in practice with what I can simulate,” Mark said. “In one sense, I’ve really had to go back to basics, but the guys have been receptive.”
Even though a win is certainly on Mark’s wish list, there are more pressing needs and immediate goals before victories.
“I want to see us improve and be competitive,” Mark said. “It seems like certain things have either been skipped or weren’t emphasized as much, such as bunting and learning signs and defense. I’m more focused on making sure we get those basics down.”
Fortunately for Mark, he has a solid trio of stalwarts returning in senior catcher/pitcher Brian Penserini, junior third baseman/pitcher Albie Lavin and sophomore pitcher/outfielder Derek Kearney.
In Penserini, Mark inherits an American Baseball Coaches Assn. third- team All-West selection and a SCIAC first-team pick who tied the school single-season record for hits with 40.
Penserini also batted .430, which was second-best in conference, and led the Beavers with 19 RBI and a .624 slugging percentage.
“It’s pretty tough to overlook Brian. He’s one our captains and is sliding into the dish this year,” Mark said. “He didn’t get many swings in the fall, but he’s jumping back into it.”
Lavin played in all 33 games last season and finished with a .288 batting average with 32 hits. On the mound, he fanned 25 batters over 42 2/3 innings.
As for Kearney, the 6-foot-1 hurler started nine games last year with 12 total appearances. Kearney whiffed a team-high 32 batters in 50 2/3 innings.
“What I like most from the team is their desire to learn and work hard,” Mark said. “We’re moving in the right direction and are looking forward to the start of the season.”
WOMEN’S WATER POLO
There certainly was much excitement in the pool early last season for the Beavers, who began the 2012 campaign with a 2-2 mark and on March 7 were ranked 10th in the Collegiate Water Polo Assn. Division III poll.
The ranking was a first in Beavers history.
Unfortunately for Caltech, the good times didn’t last as the team only clinched one additional victory in finishing with a 3-19 record.