Over the past couple weeks, the Penn baseball team has had, to borrow from the immortal axiom of last year's Spring Fling headliner, woes in different area codes.
Since last playing at Meiklejohn Stadium over two weeks back, the Quakers have dropped a doubleheader to Brown in the "401" of Providence, R.I., another twin-bill in Yale's "203" phone zone in New Haven, Conn., and three of four games last weekend in the "607" of Cornell's Ithaca, N.Y., home.
But with a midweek tune-up today at 3 p.m. at La Salle's Hank DeVincent Field, the Red and Blue (11-18, 1-11 Ivy) hope to continue one of the few positive trends of the season thus far: their success against teams from Philadelphia's own "215."
"We hear so much about these teams, just being local," junior pitcher Reid Terry said. "It's fun to get a chance to beat them."
In March, Penn compiled double-digit runs in each of its wins against Temple and Villanova. Last spring, by contrast, the Wildcats - who ventured to Meiklejohn three weeks ago from their not-quite-Philadelphia lair in the "610" - shellacked the Quakers by 14 runs.
Still, if recent history is any indication, La Salle (13-17, 2-9 Atlantic-10) will be a tough assignment. The Explorers have held the Red and Blue to just five runs (and no wins) in two games since 2007.
"They're a very aggressive team swinging the bat," Penn coach John Cole said. "You've got to be able to get your off-speed stuff over."
A string of agonizing losses may be even tougher to get over. After freshman Chris McNulty led the Quakers to their first Ivy triumph - and a Saturday split - with a complete-game effort at Cornell last weekend, the Big Red escaped with two walk-off wins Sunday, leaving Penn as the Ancient Eight's cellar-dweller by a full four games.
"Winning one out of four games is not a successful weekend," said sophomore hurler Paul Cusick, who leads the squad's scuffling starting staff with four wins and a 5.26 earned run average.
"We're all internalizing it pretty much, and really getting down on ourselves. But at the same time, we've got to stay up and expect to win."
According to Cole, the mood in the locker room is "resilient," despite the brutal start to the conference slate.
Still, dropping eight games in which they've held leads has to take its emotional toll on the Quakers.
"They know the record is not who they are," Cole said. "They know that. Unfortunately, it is what it is . [and] you've got to finish games. You've got to finish them."
Indeed, with nine of their remaining 11 games being played within the Keystone State borders, the Red and Blue can only hope that the friendly confines of the "215" will bring them closer to the 5-0-0 mark.
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