The Penn baseball team knew it had to take some risks.
After being blown out, 12-2, in the first game of a doubleheader against Brown on Monday afternoon, the Quakers needed to catch their opponent off balance.
With the second game tied at five in the bottom of the eighth, coach John Cole made some unconventional moves.
With a man on first and no outs, he signaled for two of the next three batters to bunt — both were thrown out at first, but each did their job of advancing the runners.
Sophomore outfielder Brandon Engelhardt stepped to the plate with two outs and men on second and third. He singled to right, bringing home two runs, the deciding scores of the game. Freshman righty Dan Gautieri retired the Bears in order in the top of the ninth, giving Penn its third Ivy League win, 7-5.
“I probably got some weird looks there,” Cole said. “I really wanted to get the game to Engelhardt. He’s a tough kid and I just had a feeling he would win the game and he came through.”
“It was a greatly executed inning,” Engelhardt added. “We got guys on early, two great bunts, and I just happened to be the guy up in the right situation.”
But it wasn’t an easy victory for the Red and Blue (11-10, 3-1 Ivy). Though they scored two runs in the first inning off a balk and a sacrifice fly, the Bears came right back to take the lead, 3-2, in the third. Penn tied the game at three, but the Bears (4-16, 2-2) again responded to take a 5-3 lead in the fourth.
Down, 5-4, in the bottom of the sixth, Cole foreshadowed his eighth inning decision. After a leadoff single, he opted for back-to-back bunts (the first bunter beat the throw at first). The strategy worked. With runners at second and third and one out, freshman Matt McKinnon got an RBI groundout to tie the game at five.
“The more you do that they don’t expect, the more they think. And the more you think in baseball, the worse you play,” Engelhardt said. “We went out there, stayed calm, and created chaos.”
It was a busy day for Penn’s rookie pitchers.
Freshman Sam Horn got the second start for Penn, giving up five earned runs in 3.1 innings pitched.
Fellow rookie Ronnie Glenn relieved him with 3.2 shutout innings, striking out four.
Connor Cuff got the nod in the first game. He entered the game with a 3.63 earned run average but struggled mightily against the Bears.
After three scoreless innings, Cuff gave up seven runs — six earned — in the fourth inning alone.
His relief couldn’t do much better. Freshman Stephen Silvestri gave up two earned runs, while senior Patrick Brennan gave up one — all still in the fourth inning.“You can’t let a team have the big-run inning, and we did,” Cole said. “We beat ourselves and they started hitting the ball and it snowballed and we couldn’t stop it. The game got away from us.”
By the time Penn came up to bat in the bottom of the fourth, it had dug itself into a 10-0 hole.
“Our first goal is just to win the game,” Engelhardt said. “The second goal is to put everything on the line, put your heart out there, and I feel like in the first game we didn’t really do that. In the second game, everybody got dirty, made stuff happen.”
After sweeping Yale on Sunday and splitting with Brown yesterday, the Quakers sit at 3-1 in the Ivy League, tied for the lead in the Lou Gehrig Division.
It will be another quick turnaround for the Quakers as they head to La Salle (15-12) Tuesday for the semifinal game of the Liberty Bell Classic.
Cole said the Explorers’ greatest strength is their bullpen.
“They do a good job late in the game. They’re aggressive,” he said. “So we just have to do a good job of getting out early and limiting the freebies.”
If the Quakers beat the Explorers, they will head to the final of the Classic, held at Citizens Bank Park on April 17.
“That would be an amazing experience — probably a once in a lifetime opportunity — so everybody has that in their mind as a major goal,” Engelhardt said.
“We gotta get over there and play in the big park one day,” Cole said. “The guys are looking forward to it. I think we’ll be ready tomorrow, I really do.”