The journey to the bright lights was cut short for Penn baseball Tuesday evening.
The Quakers (16-9) fell to Villanova (7-19) at Meiklejohn Stadium, 5-4, in the penultimate round of the Liberty Bell Classic.
With the win, the Wildcats will go on to play the next round of the tournament at Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Even with added motivation to get the ‘W,’ the Red and Blue stumbled out of the gate in the contest, quickly going down, 4-0, in the first three innings. The third inning in particular was quite damaging for Penn, as the pitching staff got roughed up for three runs. The Quakers’ hurlers fortified after the third inning, though, as they only gave up only one run the rest of the way.
“We didn’t make plays in the third inning,” coach John Cole said.
“We had four plays that were makeable and we didn’t make them. We didn’t get an error for them, but we didn’t make the play and that
opened up the door a little bit.”
While the pitchers started to gain control, the Red and Blue offense got to work, clawing back with a couple of runs in the home half of the third. Over the next three innings, the only run scored by either team came when ’Nova junior Connor Jones grounded into a fielder’s choice that brought in a run. This proved to be the difference-maker, putting the Wildcats up, 5-2.
Even though the Quakers’ bats were relatively quiet in this one, they were on the verge of mounting a late-game rally to push past their rivals. In the seventh inning, sophomore Austin Bossart started things off with a textbook leadoff bunt that led to a throwing error at first base. Several batters later, sophomore Connor Betbeze brought Bossart home with an RBI single.
In the eighth, a leadoff double from senior Ryan Deitrich — the team leader in on-base percentage and batting average — started the action. He was later driven in on a sacrifice fly from sophomore designated hitter Joey Greco to pull the Quakers within one run.
After sophomore pitcher Ronnie Glenn worked the Quakers out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the ninth, the team seemed poised to complete the comeback. However, it never happened, as a runner was stranded at second when Betbeze struck out to end the game.
One notable performance in this game was from Bossart, who collected one hit and threw out three runners on attempted steals. He also showed his speed on his leadoff bunt in the bottom of the seventh. Bossart felt as if the Quakers’ defensive performance helped keep them in the game.
“I feel like it does help to not have a running game against you, so it limits what other teams can do to you, and it gives the pitchers a little more confidence as well,” he said.
The loss was difficult for the Quakers to swallow, so they will look to bounce back against Brown on April 6th.
“We’d better get right back off the mat,” Cole said. “We’ve got a big four game series on the road and nobody’s going to feel sorry for us.”