Junior outfielder Leah Allen strides from the dugout to the batter’s box as pounding bass echoes through the relatively empty stands at Penn Park. It’s the top of the third inning in the first of two games against Lafayette on a Wednesday night. “I’m the flyest in the world,” calls out O.T. Genasis from the speakers.
As Allen settles in at the plate, toes twisting in the red dirt, three expectant Quakers stand itching on the edge of their bases. Then comes the pitch. Next, a monster hit that sails clear over the chain-link fence at Penn Park, and with that, the Red and Blue (7-5) jump out to a 4-0 lead over Lafayette (4-7) that will never be relinquished.
Penn took the first game of the doubleheader against the Leopards handily, 4-0, with Allen earning all of her team’s RBI with her grand slam. Allen’s shot brought in freshman Sam Pedersen, senior Kanani Datan and senior Lauren Li, and Li paced the team with two hits in three at-bats.
The second game opened in similar fashion to the first, with Allen ripping a hit past Lafayette’s outfielders for a two-run triple to put the Quakers up 2-0.
“I wasn’t hitting well in Florida, so it was definitely a big confidence booster coming back in here,” said Allen, the 2014 Ivy League Rookie of the Year. “It felt good.”
With another home run on Wednesday, Allen’s 19 homers sits at third highest in program history, just one out of second and five shy of the all-time record. If Allen continues on this clip, she is primed to break the Penn record by her graduation in 2017.
Although Penn was able to get into a batting groove early, the rest of the game would take place in fits and starts. First, lightning in the area delayed the game for 30 minutes, abruptly halting all action on the field.
“I felt like we really had a lot of momentum going when the weather did kick in, so that I think worked to our disadvantage,” coach Leslie King said.
When play resumed at 7:00 pm, it was almost as if Penn was starting over from square one. In almost every subsequent inning, Penn stranded a runner on base, failing to convert its six hits into runs.
Just when it seemed like Penn had its second win of the night in the bag, the Leopards struck back. First baseman Allison Brown opened up the top of the seventh inning with a soaring home run over the left field fence to make the score 2-1. The Lafayette bats would stay hot as the next four more batters came to the plate, bringing about a tight situation for the Quakers with a runner on first and third with two outs.
With one out standing between her team and a win, King took that moment to intervene. She gathered her players on the pitcher’s mound to refocus and brought sophomore pitcher Mason Spichiger back in to replace Li.
“I just told them we’ve been here before. It’s just one out,” King said. “I had a lot of confidence in them.”
Just two strikes and a cleanly fielded fly ball by sophomore third-baseman Molly Oretsky later and the Quakers would seal their sweep of the Leopards with a 2-1 victory in the second game.
Despite the wins, the Red and Blue were not satisfied with their performance.
“We all get really anxious when we hit,” Allen explained. “I think we just need to slow everything down and just take it pitch by pitch.”
King concurred, noting further points of improvement on offense.
“We are certainly not where we want to be,” King said. “We left a lot of runners on base tonight, and we have to do a better job of moving runners along when they’re on base.”
The Quakers are in action next on Saturday against Army. In the three short days before their next competition, Penn will work to gain confidence in the areas of weakness on offense.
While Penn may be a team that can notch wins at the moment, they have not yet reached their full potential. Because, according to King, “We certainly have not arrived.”
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