Nonconference games have just not been kind to Penn softball this season.
In what was the team’s final game before the all important Ivy League Championship Series, Penn, fell to Big Five rival Villanova, on a rainy Tuesday afternoon, 4-0.
The struggling Wildcats(18-31) put on an impressive defensive display behind sophomore pitcher Kate Poppe , who threw six solid innings and allowed the Quakers (18-20-1) to pick up only four hits on the afternoon. This marked the first time Penn had failed to get a run since the Quakers were shut out, 9-0, in five innings against Cornell on April 12.
The game did not start off in especially auspicious fashion for Penn. After sophomore Kanani Datan stole second base with one out, Poppe proceeded to strike out the next two batters she faced, leaving Datan stranded in scoring position. The Quakers would leave 10 runners on base over the course of the game.
The Wildcats picked up their first two runs of the game in the bottom of the first inning against freshman pitcher Courtney Cuzick . With runners on second and third and two outs, the Quakers committed two fielding errors on a ball hit by freshman Natalia Segovia which allowed both Villanova runners to score. Cuzick would give up her first earned run of the game in the bottom of the second when freshman Lauren Herschberg hit an RBI single to right field, which brought in the third Wildcats run of the afternoon.
The Quakers had their chances to rally, though.
Junior Sydney Turchin led off the bottom of the third by singling up the middle, which Datan followed up by singling to left. The Quakers then loaded the bases with no outs when senior Elysse Gorney drew a walk. However, Poppe was able to work out of the jam and strand all three runners after forcing freshman Leah Allen to hit into a fielder’s choice and striking out the next two batters.
The Quakers would get their final two hits of the day in the bottom of the sixth inning, but were again unable to turn those baserunners into runs, as Penn left the bases loaded for the second time.
Offensively it was not the type of day Penn was looking for in order to gear themselves up for the Ivy League Championship Series against Dartmouth, which begins Saturday. The Quakers struck out a total of 11 times on Tuesday.
On the upside, Penn did give several of its pitchers some valuable time on the mound, which could become crucial to the Quakers’ success in the upcoming series. In addition to Cuzick, freshman Alexis Sargent pitched two shutout innings and sophomore Lauren Li added two innings of her own, allowing one run and on hit.
While Penn would have liked to enter this weekend’s game in Hanover with a win, the Quakers are unlikely to allow this loss to linger in their minds for too long. With an Ivy League title to defend, it’s hard to imagine that the team’s thoughts are focused on anything other than Dartmouth.