Each year, the start of spring heralds the most glorious time of the year — great weather, fun times as school winds down and, of course, baseball season.
While the Philadelphia Phillies may have 154 games remaining in their regular season, Penn baseball is nearing the peak of Ivy League play with only two series remaining against Princeton and Columbia, respectively.
And the Quakers (15-11, 10-2 Ivy) have positioned themselves nicely to make a run for the conference title.
After a disappointing start to the season — including a spring break trip that saw the Red and Blue go 0-5 against Old Dominion and VCU — the Quakers have rebounded successfully and made their way to the top of the Lou Gehrig Division.
Also at the top of the division is Columbia, likely the only team that stands between the Quakers and their first title since 1995.
The Lions (19-11, 10-2) — who defeated the Red and Blue in a one-game playoff for the division title in 2014 — will look to outdo Penn again this year. However, the Quakers are prepared to focus on the task at hand: taking down Princeton in the four-game series this weekend at home.
“I mean we knew at the end of last year that Columbia was good, but I think Princeton can be tough too,” coach John Yurkow said. “We really try to focus on our opponents — one pitcher at a time, one inning at a time.”
Yurkow and his staff constantly preach this message to the team at practice because they believe watching teams only serves as a distraction.
“It sounds cliché, but we have to be careful this time of year if we are counting wins or looking at what other teams are doing,” he said. “We just have to focus on ourselves and playing fundamental baseball.”
The Tigers (6-24, 3-9) have struggled this year; therefore, Penn will look to win the series in an attempt to distance itself from Columbia, who faces Cornell this weekend. Winning three out of four games can be huge especially coming down the final stretch of Ivy play.
“We just want to win the series,” Yurkow said. “If you do that every weekend in the Ivy League, it puts you in good shape,”
Strong pitching from the Red and Blue up to this point has played a huge factor in its success, and coach Yurkow believes it will continue to do so in the future.
“Our team feels like any time we run one of those four starters out there, we are going to have a really good chance to win the game. We play with a lot of confidence when one of those four guys is on the mound.”
After several stellar pitching performances over the past few weeks, the Quakers will look to follow that up in their games against Princeton. Sophomore pitcher Mike Reitcheck had an especially strong start against Cornell, going eight innings and only allowing two runs on four hits.
In this weekend’s contests, senior Connor Cuff and Reitcheck will start Saturday’s games while senior Ronnie Glenn and sophomore Jake Cousins will take the mound for Sunday’s matchups.
While Reitcheck earned Big 5 Pitcher of the Week for his success against the Big Red, another Penn player — senior first baseman Matt McKinnon — was named Big 5 Player of the Week.
McKinnon has provided quite the spark for the Penn offense as he is currently working on a five-game hitting streak and is batting .359 on the season.
As a tune-up for the weekend’s games, Penn will take on New York Institute of Technology this Wednesday at home.
Looking out on the rest of the season, coach Yurkow says the team remains focused on one goal — an Ivy League Championship.
“The Ivy League Championship is our number one goal. That is what we looked at when we started the season.”
And if the Quakers continue at their current pace, they might just achieve that goal for the first time in 20 years.
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