On a hot streak for the ages with an 11-1 record over its last 12 games, maybe it would’ve been useful for Penn baseball to get a taste of humility in its second Ivy League weekend of the season.
Unfortunately, Yale and Brown gave the Red and Blue a bit more than they were bargaining for.
Taking on the pair of Red Rolfe Division schools on the road, the Quakers weren’t able to extend their magical run, falling in three out of four games culminating in a heartbreaking 10-inning loss to the Elis. As such, Penn (14-13, 4-4 Ivy) falls to .500 in conference play, two losses behind Columbia with twelve games to go.
On the defensive side of the ball, the start of the four-game series looked awfully like the previous two weeks had for the Red and Blue, as yet another dominating pitching performance from Jake Cousins carried the Quakers to a 4-2 win over Yale. The senior ace threw his second consecutive complete game and only allowed seven runners to reach base, which marks his sixth consecutive start with at least six innings pitched and fewer than two runs allowed.
But at the plate, Game 1 in Providence represented something totally new for the Red and Blue. After having only hit six total home runs in its first 23 games, Penn hit four solo shots, including a pair of dingers from junior outfielder Daniel Halevy, unleashing an unprecedented boost of power to take the early lead in the series.
Boosted by three RBI from senior Tim Graul, the Quakers jumped out to a 5-0 second inning lead in the second game against Brown (9-13, 3-5) — but that would unfortunately mark the high point of the weekend for the Red and Blue.
Though starter Adam Bleday did exit with a 5-4 lead, the Red and Blue bullpen melted down by allowing four runs in the bottom of the seventh frame, allowing the Bears to snag a doubleheader split from the jaws of defeat.
Facing the team it entered the weekend tied atop the Ivy League standings with, Penn had an opportunity to respond and make a major statement in a pair of Sunday games at Yale (14-12, 5-1), but the opposite result would unfold as the Bulldogs jumped all over Penn starter Mike Reitcheck.
A balanced Yale offense leading the Ivy League with a stellar average of 6.65 runs per game carried the Elis to a 6-0 lead by the time Reitcheck exited in the sixth, and there was no miracle comeback effort from Penn in a 6-2 loss.
With an opportunity to fight back and earn a series split, the Red and Blue came out on fire in the series finale, seizing a 4-0 lead boosted by a two-run double from Matt McGeagh — representing the 13th consecutive game the sophomore third baseman has hit safely in in what’s been a massive breakout season.
But after Gabe Kleiman helped Penn maintain that edge with a stellar six-inning, one-run performance on the mound, the Quakers fell victim to some late-inning madness once again. Aided by a Graul error, the Bulldogs managed to score three runs off closer Jake Nelson to tie the score at four apiece. Soon after, in the bottom of the tenth, Yale designated hitter Benny Wanger crushed a devastating walk-off double off Nelson to complete the wild comeback and send the stunned Red and Blue home empty-handed.
Though the weekend’s ultimate result was disappointing to the Quakers, Penn is far from out of the mix for its first Ivy title since 1995, standing only a game back of Columbia (8-15, 4-2) and Princeton (9-18, 5-3) in the Gehrig Division. Next up, the Red and Blue have a tough non-conference tilt at Delaware (16-14, 4-5 CAA) before hosting the defending champion Tigers in what could be the most important Ivy series of the year.
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