The Quakers had the fight, but it wasn’t quite enough.
Penn baseball came into this weekend’s series against Columbia having to win at least two of the three games in order to keep its hopes for a spot in the Ivy League Championship Series (ILCS) alive. Despite putting themselves in a position to win a pair of games, the Quakers came up just short in this feat.
Columbia and Penn split Saturday’s doubleheader, in what was an up-and-down afternoon, to say the least. Penn won the first matchup, 3-2, while the Lions quickly got their revenge with a 20-4 thrashing of the Quakers. Sunday’s finale was a tight one, in which Columbia pulled away in the late innings and took an 8-6 victory.
The first game of the set featured a pitcher’s duel between Penn’s senior ace Gabe Kleiman and Columbia sophomore Jordan Chriss. The Columbia lefty put together an efficient performance, giving up just three runs in 8.1 innings. Kleiman was even better, however, as he threw a complete game masterpiece. The left-hander allowed two runs on five hits, while striking out a career-high 12 batters.
The few runs that were scored proved to be vital. Each team’s junior first baseman, Sean Phelan for Penn (13-24-1, 7-10-1 Ivy) and Chandler Bengtson for Columbia (16-24, 11-7 Ivy), hit a solo home run to make the score 1-1 through two innings.
Penn jumped out to a 2-1 lead with a third-inning RBI single from freshman second baseman/left fielder Eddie Malinowski, which plated fellow freshman left fielder Christian Walton. The Quakers tacked on to this lead, as junior catcher Matt O’Neill drove in sophomore shortstop/second baseman Chris Adams in the seventh frame. This two-run cushion is what allowed Kleiman to give up a solo home run in the ninth and still escape with a 3-2 victory.
The momentum from the first game certainly didn’t carry over into game two. Entering the bottom of the sixth, the Quakers found themselves trailing 6-4. The offense was aided by sophomore right fielder Peter Matt’s two-RBI single in the first inning and junior third baseman Matt McGeagh’s pair of RBIs, one of which came off of a solo shot in the sixth inning.
From there, however, Columbia’s bats got hot and would not cool down. The Lions scored 14 unanswered runs in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings to run away with the ballgame.
Penn was able to regroup for Sunday’s single-game finale, an affair that proved to be a game of momentum shifts. The Red and Blue drew first blood with McGeagh’s RBI single off of the glove of Columbia’s diving third baseman.
Penn sophomore starting pitcher and reigning Big Five Pitcher of the Week Mitchell Holcomb was pitching a shutout until the Lions finally got to him in the fifth inning, scoring five runs in that frame. This time, however, the Quakers had an answer for Columbia’s bats. The Penn offense put together its own five run inning in the sixth, highlighted by RBIs from Malinowski, Phelan, Matt, and senior center fielder Andrew Murnane.
Down 6-5 entering the bottom half of the sixth, the Lions showed why they are near the top of the Ivy standings. In this frame, Columbia sophomore designated hitter Liam McGill knotted the game at six apiece with a double down the left field line to plate junior left fielder Ben Porter. Two innings later, Porter got an RBI single of his own and was again knocked in by McGill to give the Lions an 8-6 lead.
Penn made it interesting in the ninth, getting two runners into scoring position, but the team couldn’t capitalize on this opportunity and fell 8-6 to lose the series.
The Red and Blue will get a week off before taking on Villanova on May 9. After that game, Penn will face Yale in the final series of the season. The Quakers will certainly be looking to get revenge against the Elis after they lost to them in the ILCS last year.
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