Penn softball knew its new stadium would provide a significant home field advantage, but even the team could not envision a start like this.
On their opening weekend in Ivy League play, the Quakers swept Brown and Yale, jumping to the top of the standings and improving their home record to 10-2.
Last season, Penn opened Ivy play at 2-2.
“Last year was tough, so to get four wins to open up the conference season puts us in a really good position going forward,” coach Leslie King said.
Penn (19-10, 4-0 Ivy) opened the weekend on Friday afternoon with a 7-4 win over Brown (5-13, 2-2). Freshman ace Alexis Borden threw her 10th complete game on the season, allowing seven hits and three earned runs while striking out a season-high 12 batters.
Offensively, junior centerfielder Jessica Melendez had a productive day for the Quakers, knocking in four runs on a three-run homer in the first inning and a solo shot over the left field fence in the third.
“It just feels really good to be playing as well as we are at this point in the season,” Melendez said. “I feel like we’re right where we need to be.”
In the second game against the Bears, sophomore right-hander Mikenzie Voves took the circle.
Brown took an early 1-0 lead, retiring the Quakers in order after the first inning. But Penn answered in the bottom of the fourth. Sophomore third baseman Kayla Dahlerbruch walked, junior rightfielder Brooke Coloma singled and then Melendez delivered her third homerun of the day deep to right field, giving the Quakers a 3-1 lead.
Penn tacked on another run later in the inning, but the lead would not last for long. The Bears battled back, tying the game in the sixth. Despite a leadoff single from sophomore Elysse Gorney in the bottom of the seventh, Penn couldn’t capitalize, and the game went into extras.
In the extra frames, it was Dahlerbruch who would be the hero, ending the game with a walkoff single — smashing a line drive off the third baseman’s glove — allowing freshman Sydney Turchin to score.
Saturday, Penn Park would not treat Yale any better. The first game was a brutal pitchers’ duel between Borden and Bulldogs ace Chelsea Dunham, which the Quakers won, 1-0.
Borden held the Elis (7-15, 1-3) hitless until the fifth inning. In total, Yale would only get three hits and one walk off the freshman as she tossed her fifth complete-game shutout on the season. The lone run of the game was a solo shot from Dahlerbruch, her fifth of the season. The homer was not only the winning run, but it also moved the sophomore into 10th place on the all-time list of homeruns in a single season.
After struggling to bring in runs in the first game, the Quakers started the second game with a burst of aggression at the plate. Penn scored six runs before Yale pitcher Kristen Leung could get out of the first frame.
History was made when Coloma recorded the first grand slam at Penn Park, her first homer of the year.
By the top of the fourth, the Quakers built up a 14-0 advantage. The Bulldogs finally got on the board in the fifth, but with Penn leading by 11 after four and a half innings, the game was called due to the mercy rule.
“Brooke’s grand slam really got us going and the team just rallied behind her after that,” King said. “It shows that our hitters are really hitting their stride, which is right where we want to be right now.”
Next weekend, the Quakers face a tough New England road trip, traveling to Dartmouth on Friday and defending Ivy champs Harvard on Saturday. Both days will feature doubleheaders.
“There’s definitely still work to be done, but I think we’ve put ourselves in a really good position to take on Harvard and Dartmouth,” Melendez said. “I think we can keep it going.”