Ten games in seven days. That’s how Penn softball spent its spring break, as the team kicked off their 2016 season with a week of training and competition in Clearwater, Fla.
The team started off by going 2-3 at the annual Under Armour Invitational — securing wins against Providence and Detroit, while falling to St. Bonaventure, Texas State and Illinois. Following the invitational, the team then stuck around for five more games in the Sunshine State, where they split a doubleheader with Maine, lost to Butler and beat North Kentucky and North Florida to finish the trip with a 5-5 record.
“I think there were a lot of good signs from this trip, and to walk away .500 I think was a good start to our season,” senior captain Lauren Li said. “This team is incredibly determined to win the Ivy League Championship this year after falling short the last few, and I think our games this week really helped us get comfortable and headed in the right direction."
On the mound, junior right-hander Alexis Sargent shouldered the bulk of the pitching load for the Quakers (5-5), starting five games and appearing in a sixth.
After two seasons as the second arm in the team’s rotation behind All-Ivy pitcher Alexis Borden, Sargent was impressive in her new role as the team’s No. 1, notching four wins and a save. The junior finished the trip with a 1.79 earned run average over 27 1/3 innings pitched — and also was fourth on the team in batting average while posting five runs batted in and a .409 on-base percentage.
Penn also got quality innings out of several of its underclassman pitchers. Sophomore Mason Spichiger appeared in four games in relief for the Quakers, including 6 2/3 solid innings as a starter in Penn’s 4-2 win against Detroit. Freshman Joy Lewis also made two starts for the Red and Blue and ended the week with a 3.71 ERA over 5 2/3 innings.
“This might be the strongest freshman class I’ve seen in my time here, and that really give us depth on the mound and in the field that I don’t know we’ve had before.” Li said. “It’s really comforting to know we have freshmen who can jump in and get the job done, in addition to the experienced players we have.”
At the plate, Penn met with varied degrees of success, as is customary in such early season games.
In addition to Sargent, Li and junior Sydney Kranzmann were among the returning starters who looked to be in mid-season form. Kranzmann finished fifth on the team with a .364 batting average and Li had 11 hits over the week, including two home runs, which gave her an incredible slugging percentage of .724. Freshman Sam Pederson also had a terrific opening stretch of games, finishing second on the team with a .471 batting average and knocking in 7 RBI — the most of any player.
On the other side of the coin, last year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year Jurie Joyner struggled in the batter’s box, striking out five times in 26 at bats with only 4 hits to show for it. The sophomore did, however look strong in the field, recording the most put outs on the team while maintain a perfect fielding percentage.
Fielding though looked to be an early season problem for the Quakers, who committed 19 errors compared to their opponents' 10 over the training trip. Last season, Penn registered only 51 errors over 42 games.
“I think that the defensive mistakes we made were probably the most disappointing part of the trip, especially because of how much we have work on it and because of how we think defense is one of the strongest parts of our game,” Li said. “I think it’s definitely going to get better as time goes on though, and we can’t wait to show the rest of the league what our defense can do, because when we are on, its pretty amazing what we can do."
Penn will get a short breather after its whirlwind of games, and will be back in action on Wednesday, where the team will open up a three game homestand starting with a game against Lafayette at Penn Park.
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