Penn softball hit its stride this week, and not a minute too soon. The Quakers are about to be truly tested by this weekend’s road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth.
In what could be a defining weekend for the defending Ivy Champions, the Red and Blue (7-11, 2-0 Ivy) will take on the Crimson (13-11, 0-0) in a doubleheader on Friday in Cambridge, Mass., before jumping on a bus for two games in Hanover, N.H., against the Big Green (14-13, 4-0) on Saturday.
The Quakers will make the trip north after coming off a successful week at home in which Penn pitched a pair of shutouts against Yale on Monday and also collected a rare nonconference win against Temple on Wednesday.
Most importantly, Penn’s bats have finally woken up this week. The Quakers are averaging 3.33 runs per game this week, after averaging less than a run per game in their 0-7 stretch in mid-March.
However, both Dartmouth and Harvard look like solid obstacles to Penn’s title contention. Dartmouth is coming off a four-game win streak where it swept doubleheaders against Princeton and Cornell. Harvard has also won its last four contests despite seeing its first four Ivy games postponed due to rain.
“We have to play pretty flawlessly this weekend, especially as we are on the road,” coach Leslie King said. “I see them as the two best teams in the North Division, and it is especially important that we execute all parts of our game.”
Penn will also enter the weekend at a disadvantage in terms of games played over its opponents. Due to a shorter spring training schedule and seemingly endless rain cancellations, Penn has played nine fewer games then Dartmouth and six fewer than Harvard. With only 18 games under their belts, the Red and Blue have the second lowest games played total in the Ivy League, while Dartmouth and Harvard have the highest two.
However, King believes that the team has mitigated the effects of the disparity with this last week of competition.
“I feel like we are in a far better place this week than we were last week, because we got some really competitive games in,” she said. “There was a stretch where we weren’t getting a lot of games in, and I think that really impacts your hitting when the girls are not getting to see live pitching.”
Yet while offensively the Quakers may have been playing catch up, Penn will head into this weekend with what has consistently been one of the best pitching staffs in the league.
The Quakers boast the top two pitchers in the league in terms of earned run average in freshman Alexis Sargent and junior Alexis Borden, and have the added benefit of two freshman standouts in Sargent and Courtney Cuzick, both of whom are unknowns to the opposition.
“I think we are very fortunate to have one of the deepest staffs in the conference, and it gives us an advantage in terms of flexibility,” King said. “To have three girls that you can put in there and rely on like that is great for our program.”
With a tough weekend ahead of them, the Quakers are hopeful that they are heating up at just the right time to enter the heart of Ivy play.
“We just need to really keep building on what we have done this past week,” junior outfielder Sydney Turchin said. “We just want to keep it a team effort, focus on winning together and keep moving in the right direction.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.