Penn baseball is getting its spring cleaning done early this year.
Facing Brown, the Quakers stepped onto the field Tuesday looking for their second consecutive sweep of an Ivy doubleheader. They got exactly what they wanted, downing the Bears with two 3-2 victories at Meiklejohn Stadium.
Although Penn’s bats weren’t as lively as they were on Monday against Yale, the Red and Blue (10-10, 4-0 Ivy) used impressive outings from veteran arms and freshmen alike to stay undefeated in Ivy League play and extend a six-game winning streak.
“We were able to win some close games, which earlier in the year we were struggling with,” Penn coach John Yurkow said. “That’s the thing that I’m really excited about.”
Junior righty Connor Cuff nearly went the distance in the first game and improved to 2-1 on the season, giving up two runs on six hits along the way.
Junior Jeff McGarry hit a solo shot in the bottom of the first to give Penn an early 1-0 lead and continue his tear at the plate.
The Bears (4-10, 0-4) threatened to score in the second, but Cuff was able to strand two.
The Red and Blue’s bats would stay quiet until the fifth, when they strung together four hits to extend the lead to three runs.
McGarry started the action with a two-out double, and was quickly driven in by a Matt McKinnon rope down the right field line. Second baseman Michael Vilardo was the next to help the cause, singling up the middle to drive in another run.
Cuff went three straight innings without giving up a hit after the second, but was finally touched for a run in the fifth.
The veteran starter gave up another run off a single early in the seventh, which prompted Yurkow to call upon freshman Mike Reitcheck to close out the contest with two runners on base.
The switch paid off, as Reitcheck fanned two straight batters to solidify a 3-2 victory in game one.
The second game featured another pitching duel, this time between Penn lefty Jack Hartman and Brown righty Lucas Whitehill.
Hartman, a freshman, was in control during his six innings on the mound, allowing just one run on two hits.
Penn once again got on the board early in the second contest. Senior outfielder Rick Brebner drove in Brandon Engelhardt on a fielder’s choice and McGarry plated catcher Austin Bossart on a sacrifice fly to give Penn a 2-0 lead after one.
“When you’re playing at home, and you can get out to an early lead when you have good arms on the mound, that’s a big confidence boost,” Yurkow said.
With Whitehill showing signs of fatigue, the Penn bats took advantage and added some insurance in the bottom of the eighth.
With one out in the frame, Ryan Mincher and Mitch Montaldo reached on walks, and leadoff man Engelhardt punched a line drive into left to score Mincher and extend the lead to two.
Reitcheck came in to close the final inning once again, but his job proved to be more difficult this time around.
Yurkow paid a visit to the mound when Reitcheck walked J.J Franco to load the bases in the ninth after surrendering a run, but he kept his faith in his younger closer.
It came down to a 2-2 count, but Reitcheck located an inside pitch to strike out Brown centerfielder Robert Henry, securing another 3-2 win and his third save of the season.
“He made some big pitches when he needed to,” Yurkow said. “And that’s what it’s all about.
“Four wins in the league, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
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