This weekend, the Quakers will be given a familiar duty, yet of a more difficult sort than usual.
Visiting Princeton (10-20, 5-7 Ivy) for a four game series, the Red and Blue (20-12, 11-1) will need to focus on the task at hand despite a looming showdown with second-place Columbia just a week away.
Up two games on the defending Ivy champion Lions and facing the skidding Tigers, it is Penn’s division to lose.
While Princeton has lost eight of its last nine, the young squad cannot be overlooked.
The Tigers have a small but potentially significant amount of momentum after snapping their losing streak on Wednesday with a late rally against Harvard.
Several signs are pointing in the right direction for the Tigers as well.
After failing to deliver big hits in tight games for much of the conference season, the Tigers saw freshman bats come up big in the late innings in their recent nightcap with Harvard.
On the other end, Princeton’s arms delivered solid outings against the Crimson — allowing six runs over two games — after being shelled by Columbia the previous weekend for 33 runs in four contests.
Senior lefty Michael Fagan , the Ivy Leader in strikeouts, will give the Tigers their best chance to win this weekend in the series opener, which he typically starts.
After opening their recent series with Cornell with a 9-0 defeat, the Quakers have plenty of incentive to come out in attack mode early Saturday afternoon, starting with junior Dan Gautieri taking the mound.
Gautieri struggled his last time out against Cornell but will look to rebound and regain the success he had early on in Ivy play, having given up just six runs in his previous 21 innings.
The rest of Princeton’s starting staff is comprised of underclassmen who have struggled to find a rhythm and shut down opponents.
If the Quakers jump on Princeton’s young guns early, it could be a long series for the Tigers.
Penn’s offense is coming off a strong performance against Division II University of the Sciences , scoring 16 runs in a big outburst. While Princeton’s staff is markedly better than the one the Red and Blue faced on Wednesday, the offense will still have a major impact this weekend.
The Tigers’ offense, which has struggled to score for stretches this season, is led by senior Alec Keller and sophomore Danny Hoy .
Keller is hitting .364 with 14 RBI, while Hoy holds a .301 batting average and leads the team with three homers.
The Quakers' pitching staff, with its league-best depth and backed by a stellar defense, should be able to keep the Princeton offense in check as long as it keeps the ball in the park.
But we’ll see what happens when the two teams take the field in N.J.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.