baseball

Mitch Montaldo was strong at the dish for the Quakers but committed a key error in the field.

Photo: Michele Ozer

The road has not been kind to Penn baseball thus far this season, and a return home was not the antidote that the Red and Blue had hoped for.

The Quakers fell, 9-4, to Villanova on Wednesday in their 2015 home opener and first game in the Liberty Bell Classic. The loss puts Penn at 1-8 on the season, having dropped seven consecutive contests since its 7-4 win over Stetson on March 1.

While the game was competitive early, the Quakers were derailed in a nightmare fifth inning that saw seven Villanova runners cross the plate, turning a 1-1 game into an 8-1 blowout in a matter of three outs.

Through four innings, sophomore starting pitcher Mitchell Hammonds had six strikeouts for the Red and Blue and allowed only one hit, a fourth-inning solo home run by leftfielder Adam Goss. In the fifth, though, he allowed the first three Wildcats to bat to reach base, with two scoring, before coach John Yurkow pulled him for senior relief pitcher Dan Gautieri. The right-hander walked Villanova catcher Zander Retamar before logging the inning’s first out on a failed bunt attempt.

Gautieri proceeded to walk centerfielder Donovan May, which loaded the bases for Villanova with one out. Then, he forced a potential double-play ball from Goss, on which the Quakers forced the out at second base before a throwing error by second baseman Ryan Mincher allowed a second Villanova run to score on the play, making the score 5-1.

With four runs already in the inning, Gautieri walked the next two batters before Yurkow relieved him for junior right-hander Mitch Holtz. The Red and Blue got out of the inning only after three more runs scored, two because of an error from senior shortstop Mitch Montaldo. In total, the fifth inning alone had five walks and two infield errors.

“We haven’t done a good job just minimizing,” Yurkow said. “I can live with it if we’re getting hit, and teams are scoring, but it’s frustrating. Right now, they way we’re playing, I’m not worried about the opponent because we’re beating ourselves.”

The Quakers had the chance to close the gap later in the game, but failed to string together more than one.

In the bottom of the sixth, Montaldo reached base on a leadoff walk and advanced two bases thanks to balks by Villanova’s Kagan Richardson before scoring on an RBI single from junior right fielder Adam Greskoff.

In the eighth, Montaldo again led off, this time with a single to left field. Greskoff singled, followed by a walk from senior third baseman Jeff McGarry that loaded the bases for the Red and Blue with no outs.

Sophomore catcher Tim Graul, slotted as the designated hitter, hit a long fly ball to left field that lost steam at the warning track and was instead a long sacrifice fly.

The Quakers look forward to a long stretch of games in Philadelphia, with their next 10 games happening in the city. Nine of the 10 will be at Meiklejohn Stadium, with the exception of March 24’s contest against Saint Joseph’s at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Phillies. Yurkow believes this stretch might help his team get back on its feet.

“We’re built to play at Meiklejohn, so I’m hoping that favors us over the next few weeks,” Yurkow said. “[And] we were in the same situation last year, and we rallied.”

The homestand begins with a four-game set against Lafayette this weekend.

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