The Penn softball team’s offense hit a groove this weekend in its four-game series against Princeton, but the Quakers remain two games behind first-place glory.
Penn (23-14, 8-4 Ivy) showed it could back up stellar pitching with dominant offense, as the Quakers took three of four on the road, outscoring Princeton, 20-6.
“We really pulled everything together,” junior outfielder Jessica Melendez said. “We were able to start the bats up which is something we’ve been struggling with a little bit in the past and we were able to back up our pitching a lot more than we have been. It was a great team effort all around.”
The Red and Blue got off to a slow start in the first game against Tigers’ ace Liza Kuhn, the current Ivy League Pitcher of the Week, as a pitchers’ duel held both teams scoreless through six.
However, junior Brooke Coloma’s two-run homerun broke open the floodgates in the seventh inning, starting an eight-run rally that would be indicative of the Quakers’ strong offensive performance throughout the entire series.
“[Kuhn] did a very nice job and it took us a little while to make some adjustments in the batter’s box,” coach Leslie King said. “I think that’s the first time we’ve [gone] back-to-back-to-back like that and it was nice to get that momentum offensively.”
The middle of the lineup brought much of the energy for Penn, with sophomore Kayla Dahlerbruch, Coloma and Melendez combining for 10 runs batted in over the four-game series.
“Our three, four, five hitters produced a lot this weekend and I think everybody else in the lineup fed off of that,” King said.
Pitching also continued to be one of the Quakers’ strongest assets as freshman Alexis Borden notched all three wins of the series for Penn.
Borden’s outings included two nearly spotless consecutive performances in both games of the doubleheader on Sunday, where she gave up just two earned runs in two complete games.
“She pitched well against [Princeton] in the first game of the day and she was getting into their heads a little bit,” King said.
The Tigers couldn’t get around Borden’s change-up, which led to 21 strikeouts over her three outings.
“She was really on a roll and it was in our best interest to keep her in,” King said. “I was going to throw her for as long as I could and she ended up throwing the whole seven in the second game.”
Sophomore Mikenzie Voves, who took the Quakers’ only loss of the series, was warmed up and ready to come in throughout the second game on Sunday, but Borden’s seamless seven innings needed no relief as she blew through Princeton’s lineup for the second time that day.
The offense helped Borden early in the final game of the series, as Melendez led the Red and Blue to an early lead in the first inning.
“In practice all week we worked a lot on situational hitting,” Melendez said. “I knew what pitch I was looking for.”
With a 3-1 count, two outs and runners in scoring position, Melendez homered to left-center field, her seventh home run of the season, to give the Quakers a three-run lead.
“She threw a fatty and I just went with it,” Melendez said.
Now that the Quakers stand in sole possession of second place in the South Division, their next goal will be to takedown first place Cornell. The Big Red also went 3-1 on the weekend against Columbia to keep Penn two games back.
“We know that Cornell’s a great team and they’re going to come to compete,” Melendez said. “But we’ve been waiting for this for quite some time now and we have some good momentum coming from this weekend.”
With a four-game series coming up against the Big Red this weekend, the Quakers’ make-or-break moment is just around the corner.