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A loss to Princeton this weekend could eliminate the Penn baseball team from recapturing an Ivy crown. It has been the Achilles' heel for Penn baseball all year. If a team has poor pitching, it is not likely to win. Despite possessing one of the most potent offenses in the Ivy League and breaking the club's season home run record with six games remaining, the Quakers' (12-18-1, 8-8 Ivy League) chance at an Ivy League title has diminished significantly. The main reason for Penn's predicament seems to be the inability of their hurlers to get batters out. As the Red and Blue travels to Princeton for four games this weekend, only a variety of strange occurrences could earn them the Gehrig Division crown. There is bad blood between the two teams, as the Tigers swept Penn four straight on the final weekend for the Ivy title in 1996 and beat the Quakers in a tiebreaker game last season. "We definitely have a vendetta against that team," Penn centerfielder Drew Corradini said. We still have some bad memories from two years ago when we pretty much had the league title in our hands and they swept us." In order to take the division, Penn must either sweep the Tigers (16-9, 8-4) or take three of four from the division leader -- with a series of other events out of the Quakers' control also occurring. If the Quakers win all four from Princeton, the Tigers must then lose at least one more, to second-place Cornell, and the Big Red must drop four of its final eight. If Penn beats Princeton three out of four, Princeton must drop three games to Cornell, and Cornell, which split four games with Penn last weekend, must lose its four games to Gehrig cellar-dweller Columbia, plus one to the Tigers. Whichever way one looks at this scenario, the Quakers' playoff chances are slim. But Penn is not mathematically out of the picture. "It always comes down to this weekend, and hopefully, the third time is the charm," Penn senior designated hitter Mark Nagata said. "Two years ago, Princeton swept us. Now, it's our turn." Last season, the Quakers and Tigers finished tied atop the division at 10-10. Princeton defeated Penn in a one-game playoff. This season, however, a 10-10 record will not be enough to make the playoffs. "Cornell and Princeton still have to play each other four times, so with a reasonably good weekend, we're still in it," Penn coach Bob Seddon said. "With us having split with Cornell, Cornell is in the hunt, and when you have three teams in it, it makes it a little tougher to win." It also makes it a little tougher to win when your pitching staff's combined Earned Run Average is above seven. The Quakers staff's ERA was not helped by its most recent outing, a loss to Army in which Penn pitchers allowed 16 runs. In New Jersey, Penn will be facing a Tigers staff that has much better numbers from the mound. "Their ERA is around 4.0, ours is in the middle sevens. We've walked 160 kids, and they've walked maybe 80," Seddon said. "Everything that we've done, they're half that." Despite Penn's pitching difficulties, the staff is not expected to have a weekend reminiscent of the Army game, as the Quakers' top two pitchers -- neither of whom pitched against the Cadets -- are expected to start in two of the games. Staff ace and team captain Armen Simonian will start the first game Saturday, while Sean McDonald, who threw a no-hitter against Cornell last weekend, is likely to start the first game Sunday. Seddon, however, is still concerned about McDonald's health. Strep throat prevented McDonald from making the trip to West Point Wednesday and he still has not worked out since. Seddon is undecided about the starters for the second games each day. "We gave all our top guns the rest they needed," Penn centerfielder Drew Corradini said. "Hopefully they will be back this weekend and the younger guys are going to step it up." Whoever takes the mound for the Quakers this weekend will not have an easy task. Although the Tigers are not as productive as the Quakers from the plate, they do have several batsmen who can cause trouble. Leading the way for Princeton is centerfielder Mike Hazen. Hazen, who was named to last week's Ivy League Honor Roll after hitting .571 with nine RBI in five games, is currently hitting at a .404 clip. The Quakers' pitchers must also pitch carefully to shortstop Justin Griffin (.376, 32 hits) and first baseman Matt Evans (.356, 36 hits) if they are to be successful. Although pitching has been Penn's main concern, the Quakers' potent offense must also learn to step up at the right times, according to Seddon. "We have to get more timely hitting. We need a home run with a guy on, we need a two-out single," Seddon said. "We would have won all four games last weekend if we had just gotten a hit." In order to get those timely hits, the Quakers will most likely have to get them off Princeton's top pitchers. Although he does not know who will be starting each game, Seddon does know which pitchers to expect from the Tigers.

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