For the Red and Blue, the daily grind of the baseball season starts now.
Using non-conference play to adequately prepare for Ivy play is the goal of every member of the Ancient Eight at present. And that’s exactly what this weekend is designed to do for Penn.
The Quakers (5-5) will play George Washington in two doubleheaders this weekend, with the first two games on the road Saturday, while the second doubleheader will take place at Meiklejohn Stadium — Penn’s first home games of the year.
With the Ivy season consisting of five consecutive weekends with two doubleheaders, the Red and Blue are using their matchups with the Colonels (3-11) as a preliminary test for a young squad not used to four games in two days.
“We set it up that way to prepare your pitching staff and players for the long Ivy weekends,” coach John Cole said. “You have to prepare both mentally and physically for the long days.”
The weekend routine will be particularly important for Penn’s pitching staff.
With the starting rotation having very few starts between them to begin the year, each player’s performance against George Washington will go a long way in determining how ready they are for the Ivy season.
“It is an unproven staff and we are just hoping they grow up together,” Cole said. “If they are the right kids makeup wise, which we believe they are, they will get better quickly.”
The rotation will face a struggling Colonials team that has just three wins in fourteen games, as their starting lineup has produced a meager .203 batting average. In fact, George Washington began the week with the second-worst batting average in the entire NCAA.
Additionally, the team has combined to commit 30 fielding errors, good for last in the Atlantic 10. Yet Penn is not overlooking this weekend’s competition against the Colonials.
“A lot of the northern teams struggle early because of going down south,” Cole said. “So you can throw [George Washington’s record] right out.
“They took three of four from Cornell, our defending champion, so they must be doing something right.”
The Quakers’ starting lineup is anchored by two seniors — right fielder Ryan Deitrich and first baseman Spencer Branigan. Deitrich leads the team in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, while Branigan has hits in eight of Penn’s 10 games.
“We’re getting just enough offense to win ballgames lately,” Cole said.
While the Quakers have been able to pick up wins early in the season, Cole is using Penn’s games against the Colonials as an early barometer for how the Quakers will hold up with over two dozen games in the next month and a half.
“It is a short season for us, with a lot of games compacted, so you just hope that your athletes are in good enough shape to carry you,” Cole said.
_The print version of this article incorrectly identified George Washington’s nickname as the Colonels. _