After a grueling weekend road trip that saw Penn softball incur four straight losses — two of which went came in extra innings — the Quakers were happy to head back to Philadelphia. Indeed, the Red and Blue made the most of home-field advantage Wednesday with a 4-2 win over neighboring Drexel in Penn Park’s friendly confines.
Penn (14-16, 2-6 Ivy) bounced back from narrow defeats to Ivy League foes Dartmouth and Harvard and earned the victory due to strong all-around play. Senior captain Lauren Li pitched with poise and registered her second win of the season. Li, who entered Wednesday’s match with a 6.56 earned run average and a team-high 17 walks, allowed just two runs in five innings while punching out three batters, a feat which more than doubled her total strikeout count for the season.
“It’s been kind of a frustrating season for me on the mound this year. I’ve been working really hard on it,” Li said. “I really like how both Mason [Spichiger] and I came out and threw really strong today.”
Her efforts were supplemented by an impressive offensive showing from the top of the lineup. The Quakers struck first in the second inning off of back-to-back singles by junior Leah Allen and sophomore Jurie Joyner. It initially looked as if Penn would leave runners stranded after a failed steal attempt by Joyner, but Korinne Raby was hit by a pitch and another single from junior Cedar Slovacek brought home the first run of the day. Slovacek would cross the plate herself on a passed ball by Drexel sophomore Tara Konopka, who accrued her 13th loss of the season.
Drexel (16-22), however, did not go down without a fight. In the last frame of Li’s outing, the Dragons managed to string together back-to-back singles of their own. Junior Paula Ueno, currently ranked second in hits among Colonial Athletic Association players, provided an RBI base hit, as did Kai Uyesaka. A walk issued by Li aided Drexel’s cause and the game entered the bottom of the fifth with the score tied.
The stalemate wouldn’t last for long, though, as Penn quickly broke through on hits by freshman Sam Pederson and senior Kanani Datan. Datan, a bright spot during the Quakers’ four-game losing streak, continued her hot hitting through Wednesday, ending the day 2-for-3. Meanwhile, Joyner excelled in her role as a designated hitter, driving in two of the Quakers’ four runs. Spichiger sealed the deal for the Red and Blue, picking up a save with two solid innings, allowing just one run.
Penn will be hoping that its mid-week win over Drexel will create some momentum going into the weekend. The team will travel to New Jersey and take on Ancient Eight rival Princeton in what will be a crucial matchup in determining the championship aspirations of the two teams. The Tigers (11-21, 4-4) currently sit atop the conference’s South Division, and the South’s top seed will take on its counterpart from the North in the Ivy League Championship Series. Despite its losing Ivy record, Penn is still very much in the hunt for the South Division crown.
“We still have a division to go. We still feel like we haven’t particularly peaked. We’re still cleaning some things up,” Penn coach Leslie King said. “It’s really important that we win this series. If we can take three games, that would put us in a tie with them. We know the importance of this weekend and we feel like we’ve got the experience of being in this position before.”
With a shot at a division and conference title on the line, the Quakers must learn to exorcise their road demons. If they do, the journey home will be all the more enjoyable.
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