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Penn softball pitcher Becky Ranta picked up her second win of the season on the last day of the Quakers' Florida trip in a 7-3 victory over Liberty. (Will Burhop/DP File Photo)

While many students were in Florida, sipping drinks garnished with little umbrellas last week, the Penn softball team was down in the Sunshine State working the diamond. The Quakers traveled to Florida to compete in the Rebel Spring Games and the University of South Florida Tournament. But Penn got few breaks and went 4-10 -- including nine consecutive losses -- to start its season. The Red and Blue kicked off their vacation in style on March 10 in Orlando, edging Providence 1-0. Clarisa Apostol bunted, scoring sophomore Crista Farrell from second in the sixth. Sophomore ace Becky Ranta was the winning pitcher. Later that day, however, Siena knocked off the Quakers, 6-4. Penn was hurt by a sixth inning, three-run Siena rally. Against the Saints, Penn was dealt a crushing blow when an apparent Heidi Albrecht pinch-hit, two-run homer was called off because she had not been announced at the plate. Albrecht, the Quakers' catcher, was not cheated on day two of the tournament, though. She smashed a two-run round-triple that was part of a four-run Penn first inning against Butler. Unfortunately, no other Quakers crossed the plate in what became a 12-4 defeat. Penn rebounded in the back end of their twinbill, as freshman pitcher Nicki Borgstadt notched her fist collegiate victory. She was aided by a four-run fourth that saw Albrecht, Dani Landolt, Veronica Richardson, and Farrell cross the plate. The Red and Blue were winless for the remainder of the tournament, dropping four games in two days. Maine defeated Penn, 8-5 after a sixth inning Quakers comeback stalled. Later that day, Dayton shut down Penn's bats 3-0. On the last day of tournament play, Albrecht tagged her second homer of the season against Wisconsin-Green Bay to get the Quakers off to an early lead. The lead was fleeting, though, as Phoenix took advantage of fielding miscues on the way to a 7-3 victory. In their final game of the Rebel Spring Games against Indiana University at Purdue University Indianapolis, Penn again jumped out to an early lead on Lisa McNeeley's two-run single. Penn was not able to put up any additional runs as IUPUI cruised to a 13-2 win. "We didn't play to our potential, especially in Orlando," Farrell said. "A lot of us hit better [at the USF Tournament], we played better defense, and we played more as a team." Penn moved on to the USF Tournament in Tampa on Wednesday, and was shutout 4-0 by Texas Tech in the opening game. The Quakers' bats woke up in the day's second game, as Richardson and junior Jamie Pallas notched RBIs in a three-run second inning. Penn again failed to close out a win, though, and was edged by Canisius, 6-5, in the final inning. On the second day of USF play, Penn sophomore Deb Kowalchuk homered and scored two runs against University of Illinois-Chicago, but Penn lost, 5-3. "It was just my day," Kowalchuk said. "The pitcher was hittable and I think we all hit well, but it was a close game." The Quakers claimed their first win of the tournament with a dominating 8-0 victory over St. Francis. Borgstadt won her second game of the season for Penn and combined with fellow freshman Alexandra Martini for the shutout. Penn won its second straight on the last day of tournament play, 7-3, against Liberty. Penn avenged its come-from-behind losses earlier in week, cycling through the lineup on the way back from a 3-0 deficit. Farrell and Apostol drove in the tying and go-ahead runs for Penn, and Albrecht scored three times. On the mound, Ranta was dominating on her way to her second win, and Borgstadt finished up for the save. Penn lost to Canisius again to finish the tournament with a 2-4 record. "We were all disappointed in the overall outcome," Kowalchuk said. "But the second tournament was much stronger competition-wise, and we played better."

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