For Penn baseball, the season has only just begun.
The Quakers began their season in the Lone Star state on Friday and Saturday, losing all three of their games against Dallas Baptist by scores of 5-4, 19-2 and 8-7, respectively.
Penn (0-3) played its first games in the coach John Yurkow era, who took over for John Cole during the summer. While his team couldn’t pick up its first win, Yurkow was happy with the performance from the weekend as Penn got back in the swing of things.
“I looked at [the series] as an opportunity to go on the road and play a very good program and just see where we were as a team,” he said. “It was the first time we had been outside. We hadn’t been on a baseball field for all of January and February.”
The Red and Blue started out game one of their series against the Patriots (7-2) on the right foot, getting a lead early in the game on a home run from junior third baseman Mitch Montaldo.
And the Quakers soon built on that lead, taking a 4-1 lead into the eighth inning as junior starting pitcher Connor Cuff gave up just one unearned run in six strong innings, striking out seven Patriots in the process.
But Penn came undone at the end. The Quakers were up, 4-3, and just one strike away in the ninth inning, but with the bases loaded and two outs, sophomore closer Mitch Holtz gave up a chopper up the middle that got through the infield, giving Dallas Baptist a walk-off win.
“We had them Friday night,” Yurkow said. “You go into the ninth inning and you are up one run and we wound up walking the leadoff guy. And you know how that usually turns out when you walk the leadoff guy.
“We were one strike away on multiple occasions and if maybe we could have gotten that out, the whole weekend could have changed.”
When play resumed on Saturday, the team hadn’t fully gotten over the close loss, and the Patriots took advantage. Dallas Baptist blew out Penn in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, scoring four runs off of each of the first four Red and Blue pitchers.
“I think there was a little bit of a hangover effect [in the second game of the weekend],” Yurkow said. “We came out a little flat.
“Dan Gauteiri, who was a great pitcher for us last year, wasn’t as sharp as he’s been in the preseason. And we made a mental mistake or two and the game got away from us.”
The final game of the weekend was much closer, with Penn taking the early advantage once again. Junior pitcher Ronnie Glenn started the game after pitching exclusively out of relief last season.
“I thought Ronnie threw well,” Yurkow said. “The first four innings, they didn’t touch him. He had really good command of his offspeed pitches and mixed in a pretty good changeup.
“[Starting him] is something we knew we were going to do all the way back in fall ball. He is a big strong kid and I think it is a good role for him.”
However, Glenn struggled at the end of his outing, as Yurkow went to the bullpen early with this weekend being each starter’s first outing.
Junior Jeff McGarry ended up taking the loss in the third game with Dallas Baptist rallying from down a few runs in the final innings.
But McGarry also impressed at the plate this weekend, playing first base in Penn’s first two games and designated hitter before pitching in the final game. In his first career at-bats, McGarry picked up two hits, including an RBI double in the first game of the weeknd.
“I talked to him early in the year and he is probably the best all-around athletes on the team,” Yurkow said. “He did a great job in the fall and his arm is 100 percent healthy.”
Despite the three losses, Yurkow was willing to chalk this weekend up as a learning experience for the squad.
“I thought we did a decent job,” he said. “Some guys struggled a bit but you are putting some kids into some situations where [for the freshmen] it’s there first time in a Division I college baseball game.”
The final game of what was supposed to be a four-game set with Dallas Baptist was cancelled so Penn could get back to Philadelphia before the winter storm.
The Quakers will resume play over spring break, travelling to Maryland, Delaware and Virginia for a total eight games on the road.