As any Phillies fan can attest, good pitching means nothing if a team can’t score runs.
Roy Halladay tossed one of the best postseason pitching performances of last October, but it mattered little as his anemic offense couldn’t muster up a single run. Much to the dismay of the Fightins faithful, the hands-down favorite to win the World Series was eliminated, 1-0, in the first round.
The Penn softball team can empathize. Last season, with a chance at the division title on the line, the Quakers were shut down in a similar fashion by Cornell hurler Elizabeth Dalrymple, and lost their shot at a playoff spot, falling 1-0.
If the Red and Blue want to avoid the same fate as last year’s Phillies, they need to find a way to support their pitching staff and generate runs when it counts.
Freshman ace Alexis Borden has put up Halladay-like numbers in her rookie campaign, posting a league-best 1.43 ERA and a 12-4 record. And like Doc, she’s a horse: she’s gone the distance in 13 of 14 starts.
Not to be forgotten, sophomore standout Mikenzie Voves, the second starter in the rotation, is the Cliff Lee of the staff, posting a 2.59 ERA and a 6-5 overall record. Excluding freshman Jen Retzer, who has not appeared since spring training, the staff has a combined 2.01 ERA through 33 games.
But much like the perennial NL East champs, the 2012 Quakers struggle mightily at the plate.
In this weekend’s 1-0 loss to Dartmouth, Borden was stellar again, allowing just one run on three hits while completing the game. But it was all for naught, as Penn managed only two hits and couldn’t capitalize on either one. In the first inning, Elysse Gorney doubled with one out and the meat of the order due up. But Kayla Dahlerbruch and Brooke Coloma both struck out swinging, leaving Gorney stranded at third.
It’s not that the Quakers can’t hit — the offense has enormous potential. Against Yale on March 31, the Quakers won a 1-0 pitchers’ duel and then came back swinging in the second game, posting a 14-3 mercy-rule victory. Eight of nine starters had hits in Game 2 and the offense capitalized on every one, scoring 14 runs on 11 hits.
The Phillies showed they had the ability to slug it out too when they posted an 11-6 victory in Game 1 of the NLDS. But their downfall was a lack of consistency.
There’s no reason the Quakers shouldn’t put up enough runs to win. The pieces are all there. They don’t have the same Achilles’ heel the Phillies do with aging stars. Junior Coloma can replicate her freshman year numbers of a .317 average, six homers and 29 RBIs, but her line this year falls considerably short: .241, one and 16.
The team is young and they have time, but the clock is ticking. Especially as the season winds down, the bats need to heat up.
The Quakers came out firing and jumped out to a 4-0 start in conference play, but a 1-3 road trip this past weekend proves there is still work to be done.
In their final 12 conference games of the regular season, the Red and Blue will not face any starting pitcher with an ERA under 3.00. But if they win the division and earn a spot in the best-of-three Ivy playoffs, they will likely have to go up against Rachel Brown and Laura Ricciardone, the two Harvard pitchers who held Penn to just four runs in two games Saturday. They’ll have to figure out a way to score against top-notch pitchers to win a series like that.
Hitting isn’t a new problem for Penn, it’s been persistent all year. Coach Leslie King predicted this would be her team’s major challenge nearly a month ago, when the Red and Blue split their stadium opener with St. Joe’s — scoring two runs in two games — prompting King to announce, “We’re pretty much just having batting practice tomorrow.”
Unfortunately for the Quakers, they are running out of “tomorrows.” The Red and Blue don’t want to look back and say what Ryan Howard bluntly said following his heartbreaking groundout that ended his team’s season: “It sucks.”
ANNA STRONG & MIKE WISNIEWSKI are juniors from Haverford, Pa., and Philadelphia, majoring in English and classical studies, respectively. Both can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.