Penn baseball is going south for the winter.
A week after heading to Florida for a nine-game road trip during “spring” break, the recent weather has forced the Quakers (2-7) to abandon their first home series of the year and relocate to warmer climates.
On Wednesday, Penn was set to host its home opener against crosstown rivals Villanova. Instead, with Meikeljohn Stadium blanketed with snow, the game was postponed, and is likely to be rescheduled sometime next month. The home opener is now scheduled to be against Lehigh next Wednesday.
The weather also forced Penn to alter its weekend plans. Instead of a four game home series against Marist, the Quakers are going south to meet the Red Foxes (6-6) for a three-game series at neutral sites in North Carolina and Maryland.
Despite the loss of home-field advantage and one of the four games, coach John Yurkow seemed thankful that the games are happening at all.
“There were quite a few schools in the northeast trying to do the same thing”, he said. “The guys are excited. There are teams that won’t get to play at all, so we’re fortunate that we can get these three games in.”
A smaller effect of the recent weather is that Penn baseball, along with the other spring sports, has been forced to practice indoors under sub-optimal conditions. That said, the Quakers don’t intend on letting the weather limit them any more than it already has.
“We just need to remain focused.” Yurkow said. “[We need to] keep working on things and making the improvements we need to make individually and get set up to have a good weekend.”
The Red and Blue started the season on a six-game losing streak, including being swept by both North Florida and Valparaiso. They finished the Florida trip with a series win against Fairfield featuring an 8-0 complete game shut-out by senior pitcher Mike Reitcheck. The southpaw’s four-hit effort earned him both the Ivy League and Big 5 Pitcher of the Week awards.
The final series marked an offensive explosion for the Quakers as well. After scoring only eight runs in the opening six games, Penn battered Fairfield to the tune of 19 runs over the course of their three-game series.
“In the middle of [last] week, we got some hits but left a lot of runners in scoring position, but finally we started to put things together against Fairfield.” Yurkow said. “I like the makeup of the team, I think the pieces are there. We’re well rested and we just need to continue to take good at-bats.”
The Quakers face a Marist team that has had slightly more success in the young season. The Red Foxes have averaged more runs per game and less runs allowed than the Quakers so far. Marist is led offensively by junior third baseman Andrew Rouse, who has already won two MAAC Player of the Week awards this season. The leadoff man leads Marist in both batting average and on-base percentage.
The Quakers seem to be coming into form at just the right time as they prepare for conference play. The offense hasn’t been firing on all cylinders, but the Fairfield series showed a glimpse of what Penn is capable of. Meanwhile, the pitching staff features a rotation full of reliable veterans and a bullpen that seems more than capable of stepping in when it matters most. With the season – if not the weather – heating up, this weekend gives the first real glimpse into the Quakers’ fate this spring.
The projected starters for Penn on the mound are seniors Jake Cousins (1-1) and Reitcheck (1-0) for games one and two on Saturday, and senior Adam Bleday (0-1) on Sunday for game three.
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