softball

Lauren Li will look to provide offensive pop against Columbia.

Photo: Guyrandy Jean-GIlles

It’s familiar territory for Penn softball. Win this weekend, and there will be playoff softball at Penn Park again this year. Lose, and the season may well be over.

The Quakers (19-17, 10-6 Ivy) currently hold a two-game advantage over second-place Princeton in the Ivy League South Division. Penn will face its final divisional opponent, Columbia (15-25, 6-10), with the hope of securing a fourth consecutive trip to the Ivy League Championship Series in May.

While there are scenarios through which the Quakers could still advance even with a losing weekend, the Red and Blue will look to clinch the division outright with a series victory over the Lions.

Penn will travel to New York on Saturday to play the first two games of the four-game series before returning to Philadelphia on Sunday to finish the contest on its home field in Penn Park.

As they have all season, the Quakers pitching staff will likely rely on senior Alexis Borden to carry a large share of the work in this crucial series. Borden — who leads the Ivy League in strikeouts and is fourth in the Ancient Eight in wins — has continued her outstanding career at Penn. This week she even earned her third Ivy League Pitcher of the Week nod after throwing a complete game shutout and notching 14 strikeouts against Princeton.

However, the Quakers will have to contend with a very talented Columbia pitching staff, led by sophomore left-hander Tonia Wu. Wu stands at fifth in the league in strikeouts and earned run average and has pitched exactly the same number of innings as Borden at 124.2.

Luckily for Penn, its own squad is not lacking in quality hitting.

The Red and Blue currently hold three of the top five RBI spots in the league rankings, with freshman Jurie Joyner, junior Lauren Li and sophomore Alexis Sargent placing first, second and fifth, respectively. Joyner and Li also hold the second and third spots on the Ancient Eight’s batting average chart, while Joyner slots in at number three in home runs.

As a team, the Quakers also boast the league’s third best run and batting average totals. After scoring 18 runs in its four games series against the Tigers last week, Penn’s offense looks primed to continue putting runs on the board. While Columbia’s offense has not racked up as impressive of offensive statistics as their Philadelphia rivals, the Light Blue have had consistent production at the plate with three players batting over .300. The Lions have been efficient while running the bases as well, with the third-most stolen bases in the Ivies.

The series this weekend will by no means be an easy test for Penn. But fortunately for the Quakers, the team controls their own destiny — an element that should instill some confidence in the team’s play. And if the Quaker’s take care of business this weekend, then an Ivy title is only two more wins away.

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