Penn infielder James Mraz went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, but the Quakers were crushed by the hot-hitting Wildcats, 17-5, yesterday at Villanova Ballpark.

An old nemesis came back to bite the Penn baseball team again in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. — the big inning.

The Quakers, who often fell victim to prolonged rallies from opponents last season, allowed Villanova to score seven runs in both the fourth and fifth innings in yesterday’s 17-5 thrashing.

“We lost the freebie battle: hit-by-pitches, base-on-balls, and errors,” coach John Cole said. “When you do that, that’s going to let the game get away from us.”

In the decisive middle innings, the Wildcats pounded whoever Penn (7-6) threw out on the mound.

Cole stuck with his weekday pitching schedule, using a higher number of pitchers to limit the amount of pitches each hurler threw, but four different Quakers allowed multiple runs.

“We had a good pitch plan set,” Cole said. “We executed it for three innings and did not execute it for the next four.”

Two of Cole’s workhorses, Vince Voiro and Todd Roth, combined to handle the first two innings, allowing no baserunners. Freshman Kirk Hayes pitched a scoreless third before allowing two runs to the Wildcats (15-3) in the fourth.

Cole then called on Robbie Seymour to get the team out of the inning, but he could only record one out and was charged with five earned runs. Mike Zuppe and Patrick Brennan each allowed four earned runs in just two and two-thirds combined innings.

“We have some guys who haven’t thrown much, and we tried to get them out there to get some experience,” Cole said. “In mid-week games, you have to rely on a deep staff.”

But yesterday’s outing revealed a hole in the Quakers’ pitching staff. While the starting pitchers have come on strong as of late — posting a sparkling 0.67 earned run average in four games over the weekend — the Red and Blue are still searching for quality middle relievers who can eat up innings, especially during weekday games.

With the starting pitchers carrying the team recently, the Quakers haven’t needed much offense. But yesterday, the hitters went cold as the Wildcats’ potent offense piled it on.

“We didn’t do much offensively until the game was already out of hand,” Cole said.

The batting performance of James Mraz was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal day for the Quakers. The sophomore infielder went 3-for-4 with two runs batted in.

“We just need to be consistent with our approach,” Mraz said of his team’s offense, which came in averaging seven runs per game. “We have all the talent, and we just need to put it to better use.”

Senior Tom Grandieri, who was looking to go out on top against his former team, went 2-for-5 in the game. The Media, Pa., native fell to 1-2 in his career against Villanova, where he spent his freshman year.

“We didn’t play well today, but it’s gone and over,” Cole said. “I have a lot of confidence that this team will bounce back. We laid an egg today, and I think we learned from it.”

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