The Penn baseball team has committed five errors, allowed 15 runs and stranded 11 runners on base in three separate games this year, revealing its struggles in every aspect of the game.
It has also scored nine or more on three occasions, held opponents to three or fewer runs in three straight games and committed just three errors in its last series against Lafayatte, proving the team’s potential to excel in each area.
In short, after all these highlights and lowlights, Tuesday’s 3 p.m. meeting with Villanova is the last chance for the Quakers to bring all aspects together at once before the Ivy season.
“We haven’t had all three stages work at the same time,” coach John Cole said. “We haven’t pitched well, fielded well and hit well all in the same game.”
Penn baseball’s matchup at Meiklejohn Stadium is the final nonconference matchup for the Quakers, and it is the team’s final opportunity to do something it has yet to do all season: hit in the clutch, pitch consistently and field flawlessly all in the same game.
The Red and Blue are on a promising stretch. Wednesday, the Quakers (7-9) beat the Wildcats (14-11) for the first time since 2009. After falling behind in the second inning, the Quakers pulled even in the sixth when catcher Austin Bossart knocked in shortstop Derek Vioga. The Red and Blue would go on to win, 6-3, behind freshman pitcher Connor Cuff’s four frames of one-run relief.
However, as the league slate draws closer, the Quakers must begin to win more convincingly.
At the beginning of the season, errors were a major problem. In total, the Quakers have committed 34 errors in their 16 games thus far.
In their season opener against Stetson on March 2, the Red and Blue gave up four runs in the first inning — only one of which was earned.
When fielding wasn’t the problem, pitchers suddenly choked. Five of the pitchers on the Quakers’ rotation have earned run averages above 9.00.
In their 8-5 loss to Charleston Southern on March 17, sophomore Matt Gotschall — who had a respectable 4.76 ERA last year — uncharacteristically gave up five runs in as many innings. Senior Mike Zuppe gave up two runs in one inning and Gautieri gave up a run in one inning of spot duty.
Cole said that he will be trying out a couple of different pitchers against Villanova to see what the best strategy is moving into Ivy portion of Penn’s schedule.
Recently, the offense has sputtered too. In a loss to Temple on March 14, the Quakers had runners in scoring position in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings but could not convert them into runs and ultimately fell, 11-9, in 11 frames.
Even in the first game of the doubleheader Saturday against Lafayette, Penn had an opportunity to come back in the seventh inning. Back-to-back one-out doubles moved the Quakers to within one run, but they couldn’t find a way to tie the game and they ultimately fell.
After losing the first game, the Quakers managed to win the series rubber match, 9-8, in extra innings to steal the weekend series from the Leopards.
“I don’t think we’re satisfied with the split on Saturday,” Cole said. “I think we’re a little disappointed we didn’t come through late in the first game.”
There isn’t much more time to get their recipe working, as the Quakers host a pair of doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday against Brown and Yale to begin their Ivy season.
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