For the second season in a row, the Penn baseball team is proving itself to be one of the strongest squads in the Philadelphia area.
The Red and Blue (13-7) trounced Lafayette, 8-1, in the first round of the Liberty Bell Classic at Lafayette, its fourth win in five straight games against the Leopards (3-19).
Next Tuesday, the Quakers will face Villanova — who they beat 12-5 last Wednesday — in the semifinals. The championship game for the single elimination tournament will be played in Citizens Bank Park.
Senior Spencer Branigan hit an RBI single in the first inning, sending Mike Vilardo home. The Quakers rolled over their momentum from the first inning into the second. Vilardo hit a two-out double to put the team up, 3-0. He was subsequently knocked in on a Deitrich single.
“Coming out and getting a lead was very important today,” coach John Cole said.
Vilardo credited his double, which broke open the Quakers lead, to poor pitch selection by Leopards starter Ari Kaufman.
“They were pitching me really tough,” Vilardo explained. “[Kaufman] tried to bust a fastball on me. I got a nice line drive.”
Vilardo, who transferred from Richmond this year, has gotten off to a strong start for the Quakers. With a .352 batting average and 31 hits, he has quickly become an integral part of the team’s offense.
Starting pitcher Cody Thomson had an excellent game, pitching seven innings, striking out six and allowing just four hits. It was his first win of the season.
“He pitched a hell of a game throwing strikes,” senior Ryan Deitrich said.
“Thomson pitched a gem today,” Cole added.
Lafayette did manage five hits but could make little of them. In the second inning, sophomore catcher Austin Bossart threw out James McCool on an attempted steal of second base. In the fourth inning, junior Brandon Engelhardt and freshman Gary Tesch made consecutive diving catches.
Penn, conversely, had an offensively efficient game, scoring eight runs with eleven hits — though the team did strand nine runners on base.
“We hit with runners in scoring position really well,” Deitrich said. “Every time we got a hit it seemed like we were scoring runs.”
Deitrich managed four hits, as well as a hit-by-pitch in the first inning. He also scored two runs and batted another in. With a massive .459 batting average, Deitrich leads the team in hitting.
But in Vilardo, Deitrich may have found just the player to replace him after he graduates this May.
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