Chance for Penn baseball to punch Big Red in the face

Penn goes on the road to face a lefty-heavy Cornell pitching staff as Ivy season wanes

· April 18, 2013, 9:25 pm   ·  Updated April 18, 2013, 10:54 pm

Patrick Hulce | DP

In 35 games this season, senior first baseman Spencer Branigan is second on the team in batting average, hitting .342, including 14 doubles. Cornell’s southpaws will be a challenge for the lefty.


At 3 p.m. on Thursday, the Penn baseball assistant coaches looked awkward as they practiced their left-handed throws.

After all, Cornell’s rotation features three dangerous left-handers, and the team needs to practice for them, even if their left-handed warmup was merely in jest.

The Quakers (21-14, 6-6 Ivy) are preparing for a four-game away series versus the Big Red (18-13, 6-6 Ivy) this weekend.

They’re already looking forward to facing Cornell’s talented lefties.

“We’re going to see three left-handed starters,” coach John Cole said. “So we have to do a good job being disciplined, driving balls through the middle and not giving away at-bats.”

Senior first baseman Spencer Branigan, a lefty himself, said Cornell’s pitchers are “a personal challenge” for him.

However, he added, “This year, my numbers against lefties are definitely better than before.”

As for Cornell’s hitters, Cole said, “You always gotta be aware of Cruz, the big boy in the middle. He’s got a lot of home runs.”

He was referring to Chris Cruz, Cornell’s junior outfielder, who was injured at the beginning of the season, but has been strong since returning, sporting a .408 slugging percentage.

Although the Red and Blue will play four games in two days, Cole wants to stray away from worrying about the series as a whole, taking it one game at a time.

“If you win four games, it’s a heck of a weekend on the road. I’m not even thinking about game two, three or four,” he said. “Our focus is gonna be one pitch at a time.”

Perhaps a good omen for their road trip is the fact that Penn’s away record, 14-7, has greatly outperformed their home record, an even 7-7.

Branigan said when the Quakers are away, “we have a little more drive, and we really want to stick it to the other team. A lot of home teams in our league are more relaxed. You get to sleep in.”

Senior outfielder Ryan Deitrich echoed this sentiment. “When you’re the away team, you have the chance to come out in the first inning and really punch them in the face,” he said. He added that being the away team is a great way to build confidence early.

The Quakers only have eight games remaining, four this weekend and four next weekend, but the seniors are not looking back now.
Penn finishes the season against Columbia next weekend, but “it’s not even on my radar,” Cole said.

“I haven’t been thinking about it at all,” Branigan said. “I’ll look back at the end of the year, but right now I’m just trying to win games.”

Cole lauded this mindset from his seniors.

“If a senior thinks that way, he puts too much pressure on himself. You go out and play one pitch at a time and enjoy it. [It’s not] a race to the finish line. Don’t think you have to do something special,” he said.

He added that the team plays far better when it’s relaxed.

Deitrich said the Quakers were “obviously … disappointed” about the result against Princeton. “We can’t let that end our season,” he said, especially with his career winding down.

“I just want to take it in, one last time.”

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