Contrary to the sport’s name, Penn softball balled awfully hard this weekend.
The Red and Blue took three out of four games in a home-and-home matchup with Columbia, which — coupled with a pair of losses by Princeton — clinched the Ivy League South Division title for the Quakers. Having wrapped up the division, Penn will now square off with Dartmouth in the Ivy League Championship Series for the third consecutive season.
The Red and Blue’s weekend started Saturday afternoon when they squared off with the Lions in the Big Apple. In the first game of the doubleheader, senior Alexis Borden twirled a complete-game gem, shutting out Columbia for all seven innings in a 9-0 Quakers win.
But the Lions struck back in the second game of the series, using senior outfielder Mackensy Lakian’s two-run double to fuel a 5-3 victory.
Penn sophomore outfielder Leah Allen went five-for-eight with a home run over the two games. After a slow start to her 2015 campaign, Allen is now hitting .298 on the season with five dingers.
Coming into the weekend, the Quakers needed some combination of four wins of its own and losses by Princeton to clinch the division. After Penn split with Columbia and Princeton split with Cornell in Ithaca on Saturday, the Quakers’ magic number was reduced to two coming into the final day of the regular season.
On Sunday at Penn Park, the Red and Blue trailed 2-0 going into the bottom of the fifth inning of the first game. However, sophomore shortstop and No. 9 hitter Sydney Kranzmann picked the perfect moment to hit her first career home run, knocking a two-run blast over the fence to tie the game at two.
“It was a good time for her to have her first career home run, that’s for sure,” coach Leslie King said. “It was huge. We were struggling to put anything across the board, and for her to come up with that was a big morale boost.”
The following frame, the Red and Blue scored a run on a fielder’s choice to take a 3-2 lead they would never relinquish. Shortly before the final out was recorded in Philadelphia, Cornell defeated Princeton 7-5 in Ithaca. With the win and the Tigers’ loss, the Quakers secured their fourth consecutive South Division crown.
“I actually didn’t hear [that Princeton had lost] until after the game,” King said. “We were focusing on what we had to do.”
Though the postseason picture had been settled, there was still a second game to be played. In Sunday’s second tilt, the Quakers rallied back from a 7-2 deficit and held on in the final inning to win their final regular season game, 9-8.
Despite the substantially decreased importance of the second game, King was proud of her team’s fighting spirit.
“We’re not going to lay down,” King said. “We’re going to play every inning like it’s our last.”
Nearly lost in all of Sunday’s drama was the fact that the Quakers’ seniors played their final career home games. Following the second game of the doubleheader, each of the four Penn seniors were honored in a touching ceremony.
“This senior class has done so much for the program,” King said. “All the credit to them. They had great careers here.”
With the pomp and circumstance of Senior Day in the rearview mirror, the Quakers will shift their sights to Dartmouth, who finished 15-4 in Ivy play and will get the benefit of hosting the all-important three-game set.
Despite the daunting opponent and lack of a home-field advantage, King is not fazed by her squad’s next challenge.
“I really don’t see us as an underdog. We split with them down here [in two games on March 27],” she said. “They have a better record than us, but on the day of the game, the records don’t mean anything. It’s just all about who plays well that day.”
Next weekend, all bets will be off. May the best team win.
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