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Baseball (beats/is beaten by) St. Joe's at Meiklejohn Stadium. Credit: Pete Lodato

Down 5-4 with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Penn baseball team faced the added pressure of having to put runs on the board before the back end of La Salle’s vaunted bullpen took over.

The worst-case scenario came true when freshman third baseman Rick Brebner grounded out to the Explorers pitcher during the ensuing at-bat, ending the threat and slowing the Quakers’ momentum.

From there, Penn had no answers for La Salle’s relievers and lost in the first round of the Liberty Bell Classic, 6-4, Tuesday.

Particularly frustrating for Penn coach John Cole was that the Quakers (8-10) stranded 13 baserunners and fell into an early 5-0 hole.

“You can’t get behind on them,” Cole explained. “They can shorten the game with those two guys at the end, and we played right into their hands. Plus, we left 13 guys on base — we’ve gotta stop doing that.”

The ‘two guys’ Cole is referring to are La Salle relievers Kevin Christy and Pat Christensen, who pitched 3.2 scoreless innings to close out the game. Christensen’s effectiveness on the mound came as no surprise given the scouting report — he sported a 0.95 earned run average in his previous 13 appearances.

But even before the one-two punch entered the game, the Quakers stranded eight runners in the first four innings.

With Ivy League play set to begin this weekend, it’s clear that hitting with runners in scoring position will be one of the key issues to address moving forward.

For shortstop Derek Vigoa, who started at catcher and launched a solo home run in the fourth, the solution is simple: “What matters is hitting the ball hard.”

Cole had a similar viewpoint, explaining, “You can’t take fast balls, you can’t swing at off-speed pitches. It’s just [having] a tough mentality.”

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