Penn baseball plays for spot in Liberty Bell Classic

Quakers will look to ride their quality pitching as far as it can go

· April 1, 2013, 6:24 pm

The Phillies aren’t Philadelphia’s only baseball team trying to begin April on a high note.

After a pair of series against Ivy League opponents, the Penn baseball team will hit the field for the fourth consecutive day on Tuesday when the Quakers host Villanova in the semifinals of the Liberty Bell Classic.

This past weekend was an overall success for the Quakers (16-8, 3-1 Ivy). In the team’s Ancient Eight opener on Saturday, the Red and Blue swept their doubleheader against Dartmouth.

Penn carried that momentum from Saturday into its two games on Sunday against defending Ivy League champion Harvard. After the Quakers captured the first game, 4-1, the day’s second game was postponed in the eighth inning due to rain.

Despite being tied heading into the ninth when the game resumed on Monday afternoon, Harvard scored three runs in the frame to hand the Red and Blue their first Ivy loss.

“It’s hard to be happy when you lose the last one,” coach John Cole said. “But looking big picture, beating Dartmouth twice is a good job for us.”

While the Quakers have been playing well of late, Cole also knows that the team has squandered plenty of opportunities heading into Tuesday’s matchup with Villanova (6-19, 0-3 Big East).

“Anytime you can take three out of four, it’s a good weekend,” Cole said. “What is frustrating is that we’ve put ourselves in a position to sweep each of the last three weekends and we haven’t done it.”

Tuesday’s game against the Wildcats should help relieve some of the team’s collective frustration. Penn’s Big 5 rival has dropped three consecutive games and seven of its last eight.

Regardless of their opponents’ record, however, the Quakers’ know that Tuesday’s game will be a challenge, especially since it will be the team’s fourth day in a row on the field.

“Tomorrow will be all about toughness,” Cole said. “We have to forget about the game against Harvard, battle through some issues and fight through some adversity.”

Penn’s young pitching staff has battled successfully for much of the season, especially in Ivy play. In their three wins on Saturday and Sunday, the Red and Blue only allowed five runs combined.

And if the Quakers are going to find success against Villanova and throughout the rest of the 2013 campaign, the team’s momentum will depend on the effectiveness of the starting pitchers.

“I wouldn’t say we have momentum right now because we definitely have some guys on our team who need to fix some things up,” Cole said. “But if the guy on the mound can give us some quality pitching, then we will pick up some momentum and get some confidence back.”

This will be the second time this season that Penn and Villanova face off. The Quakers won the first matchup with the Wildcats, 12-5, when the two teams met on March 20 at Meiklejohn Stadium.
However, much has changed since that last contest.

“The last time we played them, we’d had a few days of rest,” Cole said. “Now that we’ve played on back-to-back days, we have to rely on our leaders to guide us through this tough stretch.

“This is where the captains and the upperclassmen make their grade, and we have to turn it over to them because there’s only so much you can do as a coach to get your guys ready.”

But if Penn can manage to put a nice pitching performance together with a strong offensive outing, a berth in the finals of the Liberty Bell Classic at Citizens Bank Park awaits.

“We need a well-pitched game, bottom line,” Cole said. “That will keep us in the ball game, and then hopefully our offense can win it for us.”

SEE ALSO

Penn baseball proves non-Ivy success no fluke

Penn baseball seeking successful start to Ivy play

Penn baseball tames Leopards with devastating hitting show

Quakers fall short of series sweep against Leopards

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