The window is still open, but it might be closing fast.
With Penn softball’s two star players, centerfielder Leah Allen and pitcher Alexis Sargent, both graduating in May, this year might represent Penn’s last opportunity to utilize two program greats and capture an Ivy championship.
Penn’s last Ivy title came in the 2013 season — the season right before this current crop of seniors joined the team. Since then, the Red and Blue have captured two division titles, but fell both times in the Ivy Championship Series. Last year, the team finished second in the Ivy South Division, and did not even get a chance to play for the title.
“I wouldn’t say urgency would be the right word; there’s a lot of determination,” coach Leslie King said about this season. “There’s not a sense that it’s a now-or-never thing. We have a lot of quality throughout our lineup and all of the classes that are there.”
Allen, who has been named first team All-Ivy twice in her career, holds program records for both home runs and stolen bases, and will presumably also take the RBI record by the end of the year. She boasts a career batting average of .339, and has been a constant in the heart of the Red and Blue’s lineup over the past three seasons.
Sargent, the team’s star pitcher, is also in the record books, albeit not at the top quite yet. She currently sits fourth in program history with a 2.44 ERA and 227 strikeouts, although with fewer innings pitched than many others on those lists. She is also a formidable hitter, with a career average of .301 and 81 RBIs.
Both Allen and Sargent factor strongly into the Quakers’ game plan for the season. Sargent has already appeared in more than half of the team’s games as a pitcher, and leads the team in innings pitched and ERA. Meanwhile, Allen has been dominant at the plate, leading the team with a .417 average.
“Sargent and Leah have been tremendous leaders for this team for four years and they have been two of the finest players to come through this program,” King said.
While the team does have several other younger, established sluggers, the same cannot be said about the pitching staff. Eight of the 12 games this year have been started by seniors, and of the three returning players with experience in the circle, two are seniors. In addition to Sargent and her sparkling 2.51 ERA this season, classmate Courtney Cuzick has pitched well for the Red and Blue, posting a 2.80 ERA in four appearances.
Aside from those two seniors, Penn has just two other pitchers on the roster. While junior Mason Spichiger and freshman Jennifer Brann both have experience from the circle, neither have shouldered the bulk of the work like Sargent has. Having someone like Sargent for the younger players to learn from can help sustain success from Penn’s pitching staff.
Despite the individual successes of the two star players, the Quakers have not been able to break through to get that elusive Ivy Championship, and you can bet that the players know this.
“It would mean the world to me,” Sargent commented on potentially winning the Ivy Championship. “I mean, we’ve been fighting for this for four years now, and I know Leah and I and the rest of the seniors, that’s the one thing we want to bring home right now.”
With Allen, Sargent and the rest of the senior class having only one season left, Penn has only one shot left at getting them an Ivy title. But if they have anything to say about it, they might just cash in on that opportunity.