Penn baseball isn’t the only team with a pivotal series with postseason hopes on the line this weekend.
After stumbling in their midweek matchup with Monmouth, Penn softball returns to Ivy League play for its final conference action of the regular season when it takes on Columbia in a home-and-home four-game series this weekend.
Despite dropping its past two contests, including the series finale against Princeton last Sunday, Penn (15-18, 10-5 Ivy) has played fairly well as of late. Before their loss to the Tigers on April 20, the Quakers had won eight of 10, including seven of nine in the Ancient Eight.
And while Penn would certainly have liked to cap off its series against Princeton with a sweep as well as a win against Monmouth on Wednesday, the Quakers know that their ultimate goal of winning the Ivy League’s South Division is still in play.
Due in large part to their strong play throughout the past several weeks, the Red and Blue have positioned themselves nicely in the South Division. Penn has a 2.5 game lead on the Lions (21-19, 8-8), while Princeton and Cornell remain 3.5 and 4.5 games back, respectively.
Though the Quakers have some breathing room at the top of the South Division standings, they are by no means a lock to take part in the Ivy League Championship Series on May 3.
Due in large part to a variety of weather delays and postponed games, the Big Red still have two games to play with Harvard, while Penn also may be forced to make up the remainder of its second game with the Crimson from April 4.
And while two wins against the Lions are likely to give the Quakers enough of a cushion to clinch the South Division, three wins this upcoming weekend will put Penn into the postseason yet again.
With that in mind, the plan is simple for the Quakers: take care of business against Columbia, and nothing else will matter.
This weekend’s series starts off with two games at Penn Park on Friday before shifting to New York for an additional doubleheader on Saturday.
And though Penn’s success this season has been well-documented, the Lions have been also playing well of late.
Columbia, winners of four of its past five entering Friday’s first two games, is one of the Ivy League’s most fearsome offensive teams. The Lions are third in the conference with 177 runs scored this year, only eight behind offensive-leader Dartmouth.
Kayla Noonan’s squad’s .292 batting average also ranks second in the Ivy League, a mere .001 behind the Big Green. Columbia has consistently been led by junior Kayla Shimoda’s .331 batting average — eighth-best in the Ivy League — and 22 RBI this season.
The Quakers have a pretty stellar offensive weapon of their own in freshman outfielder Leah Allen. The Woodbine, Md., native is not only leading the Ivy League with a .411 batting average, but has also smacked 11 homers to go along with 34 RBI, both of which also top the conference.
As Penn prepares for its four-game set with the Lions, the defending Ivy League champion Quakers are likely to rely on their offensive firepower as well as their solid pitching staff, led by junior Alexis Borden and freshman Alexis Sargent.
And if the Quakers can stick to what they’ve done well throughout 2014, they should be on their way to the postseason by Saturday night.