Home is where the wins are — or at least that’s what the Penn softball team is hoping.
After the Quakers finished last season 18-3 at Penn Park, they’ve had a rude awakening on the road to open up the 2013 campaign, emerging from two competitive Florida tournaments and a bout on the road with St. Joe’s sporting a 4-10 record.
However, the Red and Blue will finally return to Penn Park for a homestand that begins Friday with a doubleheader against the Patriot League’s Lafayette. The matchup is an opportunity for the Quakers to build some confidence at the plate, where the squad has struggled.
“Obviously, Penn Park is a fabulous venue, and we take a lot of pride in that,” coach Leslie King said. “We’re hoping that will give us our hitting karma and kind of turn things around.”
The team finished last season with an overall batting average of .276 and six starters hitting .280 or better. Entering their showdown with the Leopards, the Quakers’ team average is just .212, and only senior Brooke Coloma sits above the .280 mark at .323.
Part of the Quakers’ low production can be attributed to their offense, not rusty gears from the offseason. But another factor is the target on their back created by last year’s 33-17 record, which has caused teams to pitch their top starters against the Red and Blue.
“Based on our strong record from last year, no one was going to throw their number three or four pitcher at us,” King said. “We got everybody’s ace, pretty much, and that’s part of being a good team. We have to learn to step up to that.”
Lafayette is also coming off a rocky start to its season in virtually all facets of the game. Just two of the Leopards are hitting over .200 and not a single Lafayette pitcher possesses an ERA under 4.00.
Regardless, King anticipates the Quakers will have to work hard to win Friday.
“No one’s handing us anything,” King said. “That’s something that we’ve learned really quickly, that we’ve got to go out and work hard for everything we get.”
Though her 2-6 record doesn’t show it, sophomore ace Alexis Borden has ensured the Red and Blue’s pitching staff stays competitive, leading the way with a 2.10 ERA and an Ivy League best 50 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched. Additionally, Penn has added the talents of rookie Lauren Li to the circle, who has given up nine earned runs in 15.1 innings of work.
Mostly due to a lack of run support, Borden has logged as many losses in the first two weeks of the season as she did all of last year. When it comes to struggles at the plate, veterans in particular have floundered.
Last season, juniors Kayla Dahlerbruch and Georgia Guttadauro provided power at the plate for the Quakers, slugging six and four home runs, respectively. But this year, they’ve been limited to no homers through 14 games and batting averages of just .156 and .095, respectively.
King is hoping a couple of players can catch fire at home against Lafayette and jumpstart the squad’s offense.
“Hitting’s a contagious thing,” King said. “And we all feel pretty strongly that it’s just going to take one or two people to break through and the rest of the team will follow.”
A previous version of this article used a photo inaccurately identified as Alexis Borden.