Score first. Score fast. Score before La Salle has an opportunity to rely on its formidable bullpen to keep a lead late in the game.
This is the strategy Penn baseball coach John Cole hopes will lead the Quakers (18-11) to victory against the Explorers (12-17) Wednesday.
“They have a very good bullpen at the end of the game like us. We need to get a lead and take their bullpen out of the equation,” Cole said. “Every time we’ve beat La Salle, we’ve kept their bullpen out. Every time we’ve lost to them, we let them get a lead and go with their bullpen.”
The Explorer’s strategy has proven to be successful recently, as their rotation of five pitchers led them to a 9-6 victory over Lafayette. La Salle has now won three of its last four games.
Penn has so far had a strong, albeit imperfect season. The team already has more wins than it did during the entire 2012 campaign, a 17-23 struggle that many would like to forget.
At 5-3 in the Ivy League, the Quakers are tied for second in the Lou Gehrig Division with Cornell and Princeton, only a game behind Columbia.
However, the three losses have been to Yale, Brown and Harvard — the teams with the three worst records in the Ancient Eight. In fact, Brown’s 9-0 thumping of the Quakers on Saturday was the Bears’ first conference win of the season.
Senior Ryan Deitrich has been a major boost for the Quakers’ offense. Hitting at a .450 clip, Deitrich has the third-highest batting average in the NCAA, and his impact on the Quakers has been felt all over.
“Deitrich’s having a great year. He’s really been doing a lot of things really well,” Cole said. “He’s been our catalyst. He’s having a tremendous season all around.”
For Deitrich, success has has come for simple reasons.
“There’s not really a secret to it. I’m just trying to come out here and have a good at-bat,” Deitrich said. “I’m trying to get the pitch I want to hit and get the bat on it.”
With a .537 slugging percentage and 20 runs on the season, freshman transfer Mike Vilardo has also been a major boost to the team’s ability to score runs.
Junior Cody Thomson will be the starting pitcher. Thomson started the season with two losses, and currently has a 7.45 ERA. However, against Lafayette, Thomson had an excellent game, striking out six and allowing four hits.
“We need a consistent outing to get us deep into the game,” Cole said.
The team will play Princeton in four games this weekend, a series that will give the team a chance to take the lead in the Ivy League.
Wednesday’s game against La Salle is significant for another reason: it is the last time this year that Penn will play against a Big Five rival. It is also the penultimate nonconference game.
“It’s a good tune-up for us. We’ve got Princeton this weekend, which is a huge series for us,” Deitrich said.
“But you can’t really look past La Salle. They’re a decent club.”
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