Mother Nature and Villanova combined to give Penn softball an awfully rude welcome home on Wednesday.
The Wildcats dominated the Quakers, opening up a huge lead and withstanding a late rally en route to an 8-4 victory. Villanova (14-18) provided plenty of run support for junior pitcher Kate Poppe, who dominated Penn (13-14) for most of the game.
Sophomore Alexis Sargent tossed two scoreless frames to begin the game, but Wildcats’ sophomore Natalia Segovia opened up the scoring with a leadoff homer against Penn reliever Lauren Li in the top of the third. The visitors tacked on two more runs in the inning thanks to some subpar play from the Penn defense, which struggled throughout the game.
Villanova added to its lead in the top of the fifth. Senior Alexis Borden retired the first two hitters she faced, but things unraveled from there. To say they unraveled quickly would be inaccurate, as the inning was halted by a brief rain delay. The Wildcats scored two runs on three hits, two steals, two wild pitches and a walk, extending its lead to 5-0.
Villanova would pounce on Borden with two outs once more in the next inning, scoring three runs to open up an 8-0 lead before freshman Mason Spichiger came in to stop the bleeding.
Penn finally got to Poppe in the home half of the sixth. After two quick outs to start the inning, Li worked a walk. Then, freshman infielder Jurie Joyner sent one over the right-field wall, luring a horde of jacket-clad Quakers out of the dugout and into the cold to celebrate and mob the freshman star once she had finished her trot around the bases.
After Sargent singled and both sophomore Leah Allen and junior Korinne Raby were issued free passes, Poppe was pulled for sophomore Brette Lawrence. With the bases loaded, Lawrence walked the first hitter she faced — Vanessa Weaver — to force in a run, and Allen scored on a wild pitch moments later. By the end of the inning, Villanova’s lead had been cut in half.
But Penn did not score again, and the 8-4 score would hold for the remainder of the game.
“There were definitely some bright spots at the end of this game,” assistant coach Dani Gonzales said of the late-inning push. “Hopefully we can continue the momentum with our bats and take it into this weekend. It shows that we have heart, that we have fight.”
The miserable combination of rain, wind and cold did not provide a pleasant environment for a Penn team that had been hoping for a comfortable mid-week matchup at home following a weekend road trip.
And the Quakers won’t get to stick around for long. They will play their next five games on the road, traveling to Ithaca for a four-game set against Cornell before playing one game hosted by a considerably more local opponent: Drexel.
Penn has now dropped four of its past five games and is now under the .500 mark. If the Red and Blue want to turn their fortunes back around in the coming week, they’ll have to do it in enemy territory.
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