NEW YORK CITY — Done.
Penn baseball’s 2015 season came to an abrupt end on Saturday, as, for the second consecutive year, the Quakers dropped a one-game playoff to Columbia, 4-2.
With the win, the Lions are Lou Gehrig division champions and will move on to face Dartmouth in the Ivy League Championship series. With the loss, the Red and Blue will face another offseason of lamenting what might have been.
“Addressing your team after your season just ended is never a fun thing,” coach John Yurkow said. “We just came up a little short.”
Ronnie Glenn got the start for the Quakers, but he struggled with his command and velocity and lasted just 1.1 innings. Columbia’s first batter of the game, centerfielder Jordan Serena, launched a home run to left field to give the Lions a very quick 1-0 lead. Columbia tacked on another run in the frame to take a 2-0 lead after just one inning.
“He just didn’t look like he had as much zip on his fastball today,” Yurkow said. “When you’re in a game like this, if a guy struggles, you just gotta go to the next guy.”
That next guy was sophomore Mike Reitcheck. The southpaw – typically a starter but pitching out of the bullpen in the winner-take-all game – kept the Lions’ bats at bay while the Quakers got RBI groundouts from Connor Betbeze and Austin Bossart to tie things at two in the third.
Reitcheck gave up just two hits over 5.0 innings, showing the command that helped him to a 1.71 ERA — best in the Ivy League — this season.
“He’s a really tough kid,” Yurkow said of Reitcheck. “When he got out there, we gained some confidence and were in the game for a while.”
However, with the game still tied 2-2 in the seventh, Columbia catcher Logan Boyher, the ninth man in the lineup, launched a solo blast to center field to give the Lions a 3-2 lead they would never relinquish.
Third baseman David Vandercook added an insurance run the following inning with an opposite field blast, the Lion’s third solo shot of the day.
Aside from the small hiccup in the third inning, Columbia’s pitching was superb. Starter George Thanopoulos needed just 84 pitches to cruise through seven innings, striking out seven. Kevin Roy notched a two-inning save, retiring each of the six batters he faced.
For the Quakers’ fans, the last week’s events have been all too familiar. In a near-perfect reenactment of last season, the Quakers split the final four games of the regular season with the Lions before being stymied in the one-game playoff.
Yurkow was ambivalent about how to characterize the season, given the fact that the team won 16 Ivy games — a team record — but faltered when it mattered most.
“It’s hard for me to [judge the success of season] right now. Our main goal was to win an Ivy Championship, and we came up short.”
The Quakers will be hurt by the loss of their outstanding senior class, which was headlined by pitchers Glenn and Connor Cuff as well as offensive stalwarts Austin Bossart and Mitch Montaldo, the latter of whom led the Ancient Eight this season with 10 home runs.
Despite the losses, the Red and Blue will return several key pieces; Reitcheck will be returning to anchor the rotation while hitters Matt Greskoff and Ryan Mincher will be back for their senior campaigns.
So, even though Saturday’s loss was a tough pill to swallow, the Quakers can only look forward, not backwards.
After all, there’s always next year.
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