Coming off of a late-inning loss to Villanova on Wednesday, Penn baseball will look to rebound in its first Ivy action of the year.
Penn (7-11) will open up Ivy play by hosting Brown and Yale for a pair of weekend doubleheaders at Meiklejohn Stadium. Last season, the Quakers swept both teams en route to a 16-4 conference record.
“These games mean a little bit more now once you get into conference play,” coach John Yurkow said. “Hopefully our focus is a little bit better and we play a well-rounded game this weekend, we’re going to need to.”
The Quakers have had an up-and-down season up to this point. The team started the season 2-7, but has since gone 5-4, and they had a similar start to the season in 2015 when they challenged for the Gehrig Division title.
The Quakers will look to continue the dominant Ivy play that has been characteristic of Yurkow’s tenure as head coach. Penn is 31-9 in conference play in Yurkow’s two seasons at the helm.
“We’re a ways in now, and I think some of the younger bats are a little bit underdeveloped in terms of their approach, but it’s a new season starting Saturday,” junior catcher Tim Graul said.
“So it really doesn’t matter starting at this point. We’re going to go into practice, wipe everything, and just go in with a fresh slate.”
Brown (6-10) will be up first for the Quakers on Saturday and pose a tough pitching test. The Bears boast a pair of starting pitchers — Christian Taugner and Austin French — with sub-2.00 ERAs on the season.
Meanwhile, Yale has another excellent pitcher of its own in Scott Politz, who ranks fourth in the league with 26 strikeouts.
“Everybody’s going to be a little bit different as far as how their roster is comprised and the style of ball they play, but we’ve played these teams in years past, and we kind of know what to expect a little bit,” Yurkow added.
“Yale and Brown both had a couple of decent arms, we’re going to have to pitch well and get some situational hits when we need them.”
On Penn’s side, getting those situational hits may come down to the recent hot streak of Graul, who is the reigning Ivy League player of the week after knocking in 10 runs. After two seasons behind former Penn star Austin Bossart, Graul is finally getting the chance to shine in his junior year.
“I’ve just felt good up there all year, honestly. I’ve just felt comfortable. I’ve been waiting for awhile now, backing up Bo for two years, so it’s kind of been my shot,” Graul said.
“Coming up, I feel comfortable, I feel good at the plate. My swing feels right, so I’ve just been trying to carry that mentality through.”
With the Ivy League season starting this weekend, there’s no better time to feel comfortable.
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