It involved a lot of late-inning action, but Penn baseball walked away with the weekend split against Dartmouth and Harvard, losing the first game in each of the back-to-back doubleheaders before taking the second.
It appeared as though the weekend’s inaugural tilt would be a rough one for the Red and Blue (13-14, 5-3 Ivy).
Sophomore right-hander Billy Lescher gave up a one-out triple to Dartmouth’s Kyle Holbrook, followed quickly by a pair of singles — the first of which scored Holbrook.
With the Big Green (9-17, 2-3) threatening to break the game open, however, Lescher settled down, retiring the next two batters and allowing only three more hits the rest of the game.
Down a run, sophomore Daniel Halevy led things off for Penn in the second. After watching the first pitch go by for a ball, the sophomore got a hold of the 1-0 pitch, launching the ball over the left field fence to tie things up.
Heading into the bottom of the seventh in a 1-1 tie, Lescher gave up a leadoff single to senior Nick Ruppert, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. When the next batter, catcher Adam Gauthier, walked, Ruppert deftly stole third, putting the winning run just 90 feet from home.
Lescher intentionally walked Feinstein to load the bases with one out, trying to create a force out at home.
He wouldn’t be able to get it, as Holbrook’s pop-up to second was just deep enough for Ruppert to score, securing the 2-1 victory despite Lescher’s strong performance.
“Every time out, I think he’s been a little bit better,” Penn coach John Yurkow said of his budding ace. “To be honest, he pitched good enough to win that game.”
Penn showed off its short memory that afternoon — when play resumed the Quakers’ offensive struggles were all in the past.
Mincher’s three-run blast in the first put the Quakers up early, and they never looked back.
“We had a couple nice two-out hits from Sean Phelan and Daniel Halevy,” Mincher said. “And I was just trying to put a nice swing on the ball and trying to find the barrel and trying to score a run.”
Led by 3-for-4 performances from Mincher and junior catcher Tim Graul — who scored three runs apiece — the Red and Blue exploded for 11 runs on 14 hits, including three homers. Junior southpaw Gabe Kleiman gave up just four hits over six scoreless innings as senior Mitch Holtz ceded Dartmouth’s sole run on an RBI groundout in the seventh in the 11-1 rout.
Momentum in hand, Penn headed down to Cambridge, ready to take on a Harvard squad just 1-5 in conference play. Once again, however, an early lead proved insufficient for the Quakers.
After an RBI single from Tesch in the second and a run-scoring ground out for O’Neill in the third, junior lefty Mike Reitcheck seemed to have the game well in hand for the Red and Blue.
Through four innings, the Crystal Lake, Ill., native had given up one hit while throwing a scoreless game, but the Crimson (9-17, 2-6) finally got to him in the fifth. With runners on first and second and two out, Ben Skinner got a hold of an RBI single to right, getting Harvard on the board.
An error by freshman Matt Tola the next batter allowed Skinner and Connor Quinn to score a pair of unearned runs and give the Crimson a 3-2 lead.
Penn managed to get a man on in the sixth and seventh, but could do nothing with it, falling by that single run in the day’s first contest.
Game two brought more pain for the Red and Blue. Although RBI singles from Tesch and Mincher gave the Quakers a 2-0 lead in the third, Harvard scored three in the fourth off of junior Adam Bleday.
An RBI double from Mincher in the fifth handed the lead back to Penn, 4-3, but once again, the Crimson mustered a response. With junior Jake Cousins working in relief for the Quakers, Harvard loaded up the bases with no one out.
A fielder’s choice forced an out at home before Cousins walked in a run. Skinner then hit a sacrifice fly to Tesch in center, giving the lead back to the hosts, 5-4, before Cousins forced a fly out to Matt Greskoff in right.
It seemed like it was all over for the Quakers with two out and a runner on third in the ninth.
Down to their final strike, Mincher tied the game back up for the Quakers, launching a double to the wall in left to score O’Neill and make it 5-5.
With the Crimson unable to score in the ninth, the game dragged through a scoreless 10th before freshman Chris Rabasco hit home Grant Guillory in the 11th with an RBI single for his first career hit to give Penn the 6-5 lead.
“We had a nice performance from Bleday and we handed it over to Cousins and he gave us a chance to win the game,” Mincher said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Harvard managed to get a man on in the 11th, but couldn’t tie it up, as Penn finally won the marathon game and secured the weekend split. Yurkow put the significance of the win bluntly.
“Well, I can tell you this, the bus ride home is a lot better than it would have been if we would have lost that game.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.