With the Ivy League South crown already in hand, the only goal left for Penn softball against Columbia at Penn Park on Saturday was to secure home-field advantage.
Penn dispatched the Lions, 2-1 and 12-4, respectively, providing an emotionally charged ending to the season for the Quakers (28-17, 16-4 Ivy) and their first home-field advantage in program history.
The Quakers will host either Dartmouth or Harvard at home next weekend. And since the instillation of division play by the Ivy League in 2007, no home team has ever lost the championship.
The first game against Columbia (22-26, 8-12) was a pitcher’s battle, with Penn sophomore pitcher Alexis Borden dueling Lions freshman pitcher Emily Kenyon. Both pitchers notched six strikeouts and allowed only three earned runs between them.
Penn sought to fire up the bats early to avoid inconsistencies that have crept into its game throughout the season. With a single by sophomore outfielder Sydney Turchin and an RBI single by senior outfielder Brooke Coloma, the Quakers took the lead, 1-0.
The Red and Blue faced confident hitters out of the Lions bullpen, not afraid to attack Borden’s pitches. Their confidence paid off in the third when Penn fell victim to a solo home run by sophomore catcher Liz Caggiano pressuring the Quakers at a 1-1 tie.
This matchup meant a lot to Penn not only because it was senior day, but because of its implications in the Championship Series. A loss meant a potential road trip to Dartmouth or Harvard.
The Quakers took the struggling win-hungry Lions to extra innings, a situation that Penn faltered in versus Haverford earlier this season.
But this time, Penn’s defense consistently stepped up, including four impressive catches by Turchin in the left outfield. In the bottom of the ninth, senior catcher Jessica Arneson cracked an in-field homer to seal the deal, vaulting the Quakers to a 2-1 victory over Columbia.
“I thought their pitcher did a very nice job, her curve ball was working very well,” King said. “She was on her game today, it was a pitcher’s battle and we were fortunate enough to come out on top,”
Senior Lindsay Mann pitched the second installment of the doubleheader. She and Penn’s other seven seniors marched into battle to finally secure home field advantage for the Quakers.
In the bottom of the first inning, Penn’s batters exploded out of the gate. Junior catcher Elysse Gorney and senior second baseman Samantha Erosa got into scoring position allowing Coloma to crack an RBI single to immediately put a tally against the Lions. A grand slam homer by junior first baseman Georgia Guttadauro following a senior outfielder Jessica Melendez single saw the Quakers cripple the Lions chances with a 5-0 lead.
“We’ve lucked out that we’ve had such great leadership,” junior first baseman Georgia Guttadauro said. “To work together and have each other kinda push each other has definitely helped us. Our team chemistry [shows that] I don’t think anything can stop this team.”
Then in the third, Guttadauro contributed another RBI single to her impressive stat sheet for the day. One of the Quakers’ most vocal leaders, senior shortstop Stephanie Caso, smacked a two-RBI double into center field increasing the lead, 9-0.
The Lions would not go down without a fight, posting four runs to close the gap to 9-4. Mann was taken out and replaced by freshman pitcher Lauren Li, who closed the inning out handily.
The Quakers staved off another chance at a Columbia comeback, executing in tight situations and making incredible plays like Bridget Ellsworth diving catch in left outfield.
Melendez hit a two-RBI double and an error on a Guttadauro at-bat lead to Turchin stealing home to cap off the victory, 12-4.
“We had some holes in the pitching staff from last year that me and the underclassmen had to step up and fill, that I think as a staff we did well,” Mann said.
The Quakers have demonstrated an impressive body of work, setting records, making history, and capturing an Ivy South title.
“We’ve said since we lost the championship series last year, we were gonna be back,” King said. “I really hesitate to take any credit because the seven seniors have really put the team on their back and carried them this season. They’ve refused to be denied this opportunity,”
The Quakers now look to capture the first Ivy-league title since 1981 next week at Penn Park versus the TBD Ivy North champions.
“There’s still a lot of softball to be played,” King said with tears in her eyes after the game. “I think we can stack up against anybody in the conference and I’m really excited about the opportunity next week.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.