Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted, would you capture it or just let it slip?
That is the question currently facing Penn baseball, which will travel to Columbia this weekend to play a one-game playoff that will decide the victor of the Lou Gehrig Division. The winner of the game will head on to the Ivy League Championship Series, where it will take on Red Rolfe Division champion Dartmouth.
Penn (22-14, 16-4 Ivy) has been largely dominant in Ivy play thus far, as the pitching of Ronnie Glenn and Connor Cuff has allowed the Quakers to shut down opposing offenses. Meanwhile, the offensive pop provided by Austin Bossart, Connor Betbeze and Mitch Montaldo has beaten up on opposing pitching to the tune of a league-leading .324 team batting average and .524 slugging percentage through the team’s 20 league games.
However, despite its dominance, the Quakers are back in the same position that they were last year, when they lost a similar big game to their foes from the Big Apple. The Lions went on to sweep the Big Green in the championship .
However, coach John Yurkow is confident that his team will find different results that it did last season.
“I think it’s a little bit easier,” he said. “Last year, you had a team that hadn’t played in a meaningful game. The nice thing is, right up until last weekend, it’s been a playoff atmosphere.”
Tied with Columbia in the Gehrig Division coming into last weekend, the Quakers split a four-game set with the Lions. The teams played two doubleheaders, with Penn taking the first matchup in each series before dropping the second game.
Thus, the unofficial best-of-five series will head to a fifth game, that will be settled on Columbia’s home turf in New York.
Despite the lack of home-field advantage, Bossart is insistent that a laid-back mentality is the key for the Quakers this weekend.
“We just need to make sure everyone’s just relaxed and calm going into it, honestly,” he said. “Everyone’s really excited for this game, and they want to go out there and play their best. But being calm is really the biggest thing for us.”
This year, the Quakers have been led on the mound by the two-headed monster of senior hurlers Cuff and Glenn. For a variety of reasons — including Cuff’s abysmal performance allowing three runs in less than an inning against the Lions last Saturday — Glenn will be the one getting the nod for the Red and Blue in Saturday’s all-important showdown.
“It’s a blessing, but it’s just like any other game,” Glenn said. “It’s just an opportunity to go out there and play my game and have fun with it.”
Although Penn has largely dominated their opposition thus far — their .324 average in league play leads the Ancient Eight — their season will come down to a single nine-inning affair, a tilt in which they came out on the wrong side just a year ago.
Still, Yurkow is fully confident that his squad will be completely prepared for the biggest game of its season.
“At this point in the year, it shouldn’t be that hard to get ready to play.”
So, ready or not, the Quakers will be coming to the city that never sleeps this weekend.
And the Red and Blue hope that the past is anything but prologue.
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