The season series between Penn baseball and Lafayette officially goes to the Quakers.
Just two weeks after splitting a four-game series with the Leopards, the Red and Blue defeated their Easton, Pa., rivals, 6-5, on the road.
Playing in their second game in the Liberty Bell Classic — following a 9-4 loss to Villanova last week — the Quakers (11-12) came out in a hurry on Tuesday. Still, although Penn got two men on with one out in the first, junior right-hander Trevor Houck got out of trouble unscathed for Lafayette (9-16).
Such would not be the case in the next two innings.
After senior shortstop Ryan Mincher led off the second with a triple, freshman catcher Matt O’Neill quickly scored him on a sac fly. In the third, junior designated hitter Tim Graul kicked off a two-out rally with a double — his league-best ninth on the year — and scored on the next play after Leopards shortstop Steven Cohen booted a ball hit by freshman first baseman Sean Phelan.
The next at-bat, Phelan crossed the plate on an RBI single from sophomore left fielder Daniel Halevy — who would score himself on a single from O’Neill just a short while later.
“The offense did a good job of getting runs up on the board,” said junior southpaw Adam Bleday, who got the start for the Quakers, allowing one run in five innings for his first win of the year. “And that helped me cruise and pitch to my best performance.
Up comfortably, 4-0, Bleday coasted through the first half of the game. Allowing just three hits and striking out three through four frames, the only blemish on Bleday’s outing was an unearned run in the fifth after a throwing error allowed Cohen to score.
“I pitch to contact, so if they do indeed get hits off me it’s fine,” Bleday noted. “Because I’m a contact pitcher, I’m just going to try and get as many ground balls as I can.”
Junior Jack Hartman stepped onto the rubber in the sixth, replacing Bleday as Penn held the 4-1 advantage. After walking the first batter he faced, a botched pickoff attempt allowed Cohen to get to third, and he subsequently scored on a sacrifice fly to center field.
Defensive troubles have plagued the Quakers of late, and only one of Lafayette’s five runs was earned on the afternoon. Those miscues remain a large concern for Penn coach John Yurkow.
“When you’re playing better teams, if you’re going to continue to make mistakes like that, you’re going to come up short,” he said.
The Leopards threatened again in the seventh, getting runners on second and third with two outs, but Hartman sent senior Jackson Kramer down swinging to get out of trouble.
For good measure, the Quakers plated some insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Freshman Matt Tola laid down a sacrifice bunt with two men on and moved O’Neill and pinch runner Andrew Murnane over for the first out of the inning. O’Neill soon scored on a passed ball, giving the Red and Blue a 5-2 edge. With Murnane now on third, freshman third baseman Matt McGeagh poked one through the left side for an RBI single.
In the bottom of the ninth, a leadoff walk was followed by a base on error as Hartman found himself in quick trouble. A pair of singles scored a run to make it 6-3 and forced Yurkow to bring in freshman closer Jake Nelson with the bases loaded and no outs.
After hitting the first batter he faced to bring in a run, Nelson forced Kramer to pop out to second, getting the first out of the inning. Cohen then hit a sac fly to center for the second out as Penn’s lead shrunk to just one. With runners on second and third and a one-run lead, Nelson worked right fielder Dan Leckie into a 2-2 count before forcing a game-ending ground out to third.
“He made some good pitches when he really needed to, when the pressure was on,” Yurkow noted. “So it was a good sign to see that.”
It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done. And because of it, the Quakers take a four-game winning streak into a four-game road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend.
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