Penn baseball hosted a familiar midweek foe on Tuesday — with an all-too-familiar result that followed.
In the opening contest of the Liberty Bell Classic, Villanova came over to Meiklejohn Stadium after beating the Quakers, 6-1, on March 16. Once again, the Red and Blue found themselves on the wrong side of history, falling 9-4.
It was the Wildcats (8-19) who got on the board first. JP Radvany launched a solo shot in the top of the second, but Penn (7-11) responded in the bottom half of the inning as freshman catcher Matt O’Neill hit one out of the park to knot things up.
Three batters later, senior shortstop Ryan Mincher thought he had hit a two-out, two-run blast to make it 3-1 — but the home plate umpire had a different opinion. After his deep drive down the left field line was called foul, Mincher struck out looking, preventing the Quakers from breaking the game wide open early.
“We know the bats are there to respond,” reigning Ivy League Player of the Week Tim Graul said. “We’ve just got to be better with the timing. We’ve just got to keep getting people on at the right time, get some big hits. We’re very confident that this team is going to do well and this team is going to do whatever we want to do.”
Play quieted down for the next few innings, with no runs scoring in the third or fourth although Villanova threatened with two on and one out in the fourth. Senior Mitch Holtz navigated the trouble in his final frame on the mound, and an inning later his squad seized the lead.
After Mincher scored off of a double by senior Gary Tesch, Tesch himself crossed home on a wild pitch from Villanova sophomore Ryan Doty. The inning ended with the Red and Blue up, 3-1, as Graul was thrown out after a beautiful diving stop by Wildcat third baseman Kevin Jewitt.
Following a scoreless sixth and seventh frames, freshman Grant Guillory got into early trouble — walking two men between striking out Jewitt. Senior first baseman Max Beermann stepped up next for Villanova — and gave the Wildcats a 4-3 lead with a three-run homer. Guillory walked the next man up and the day was over for him after that; Elijah Connell was brought in to stabilize the affair.
Connell hit the only man he faced, forcing Yurkow to turn to junior Nick Pedalino as his third pitcher of the inning. But Pedalino immediately surrendered a single of his own followed by a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3. The inning finally came to an end as O’Neill gunned down the Wildcats’ Zander Retamar as he tried to steal second.
The Red and Blue had a chance to take back the lead in the bottom half of the frame, loading the bases with one out. Freshman Matt McGeah then brought home a run after being hit by a pitch, but a Mincher and sophomore Andrew Murnane struck out looking to send the game to the ninth with Villanova up, 5-4.
“I thought we took some decent at-bats today,” Penn coach John Yurkow said. “But again, when it counted, I thought there were some times where we had some opportunities to drive some balls with runners in scoring positions and we’re just struggling to rise to the occasion when we needed to.”
Working the ninth, Pedalino conceded four more runs, including a three-run homer with no outs that sealed the evening’s outcome. The Quakers couldn’t get any more across the plate, finishing off the final contest before the start of Ivy play this weekend.
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