If this past weekend’s results on the baseball diamond are a sign of things to come for Penn baseball, John Cole’s squad could be looking at its first bid for a Gehrig Division crown since 2007 and a run at its first Ivy League title since 1995.
In a remarkably successful weekend series against Dartmouth and Harvard, the Red and Blue managed to take three out of four close games en route to winning the annual season series against the Big Green and Crimson for just the third time in the past 10 years.
The doubleheader sweep of Dartmouth is especially nothing to sneeze at, since the Big Green have won the past five Rolfe Division titles and had registered a 7-3 record against the Quakers over that five-year span.
Opening Ancient Eight play at Meiklejohn Stadium, Penn came out looking to make a statement — wanting to “legitimize the success [they’ve] had against non-Ivy League teams,” pitcher Connor Cuff said — and that’s exactly what they did.
Against a Big Green squad that leads the Ivy League by a wide margin in batting average (.312), on-base percentage (.374) and slugging (.457), Penn pitchers Jeff McGarry, John Beasley and Cuff tossed 16 innings and allowed just four runs. Just last year, the Quakers surrendered 17 runs while being swept in both games of a doubleheader.
Penn’s pitching has been at the forefront of its success all season. Despite losing graduate Vince Voiro, who was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the 15th round of last summer’s MLB amateur draft, the Quakers’ hurlers have improved dramatically from a year ago and the starting staff of McGarry, Cuff and Dan Gautieri boasts an ERA of 2.78.
But the Red and Blue haven’t slacked at the plate either. Last season they finished near the bottom of the Ivy League in every category, but this year they find themselves second in average (.286), OBP (.360) and slugging. They’ve also stolen 47 bases at an amazing 85 percent success rate.
Yet Penn finds itself in the clearly more difficult division of Cornell, Princeton and Columbia. While those schools are a combined 30-41 on the year thus far, the Rolfe Division sits overall at 26-52, a statistic that includes Dartmouth’s brilliant 15-3 mark.
Penn will have just two games apiece against non-divisional foes Yale and Brown, while a dozen contests await versus the tougher group.
The upcoming Ivy weekend series at the Bulldogs and Bears will obviously be critical, since Cornell and Princeton combined to go 6-2 against the Quakers a year ago.
Another three out of four would give Penn just its second 6-2 conference start in the last decade and one hell of a jump in the championship race.
MIKE WISNIEWSKI is a senior classical studies major from Philadelphia and a former sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.