For Penn baseball and softball, Ivy League weekends are action-packed marathons of excitement. A lot can change over four games in two days, so any weekday contest is often a welcome break from the chaos of the conference title races.
This Wednesday, both teams are in action again, with baseball (14-13, 4-4 Ivy) traveling to Newark to face Delaware (16-14, 4-5 CAA) and softball (14-12, 5-3 Ivy) making the long journey to Drexel (9-17, 1-8 CAA).
For baseball, the midweek matchup is a chance to rediscover its winning ways. After an 11-1 hot streak, the Quakers dropped three of four last weekend against Yale and Brown. Ultimately, these midweek non-conference games don’t directly affect the Ivy League standings. But what they can do is create momentum and confidence before entering another crucial Ivy weekend.
Delaware should be a good test for Penn. The Blue Hens, led by senior DH Doug Trimble (.393/.439/.528) average more than 7.5 runs a game. Their offensive prowess is coupled with solid – if not superlative – pitching. The matchup is perfect for the Quakers, who are looking for a rebound from their bullpen after two collapses over the weekend.
Pitching depth was supposed to be a strength heading into the season, but seniors Jake Cousins and Mike Reitcheck remain the only pitchers with multiple wins. The back half of the rotation and bullpen were outstanding over the last few weeks, but left something to be desired against the Bears and Bulldogs.
With next weekend’s massive series against defending champion Princeton looming, Penn’s pitchers will look to make a statement against a stellar offensive team in Delaware.
Softball’s matchup with Drexel is more favorable on paper; the Dragons have no real superstars on par with Penn senior Leah Allen, and the home-field advantage is negligible at best. Penn enters the latest edition of the Battle of 33rd Street fresh off a 3-1 weekend that puts the Quakers a game back from division-leading Princeton, whom the Quakers will meet for a four-game series this weekend.
Coach Leslie King has stressed the importance of doing the little things right. The Quakers have looked impressive at times this season, but consistency in the details could still use improvement. While the Quakers are deep, their success has been heavily reliant on their biggest stars, Allen and senior Alexis Sargent.
With the craziness of Ivy weekends, King has used the midweek games as a chance to give younger fringe players a chance to shine while resting Sargent. Last Wednesday, a young lineup featuring eight underclassmen resulted in a blowout loss to Villanova. It remains to be seen if King will continue the same strategy, but if so, Drexel presents a great opportunity for role players to prove themselves. If the Quakers can show that they can play mistake free and win without their stars, the Ivy schedule would suddenly seem a lot less daunting.
Both teams will play their biggest series of the season this weekend when archrival Princeton comes to town. The midweek games are the final tune-up before things get crazy again on the weekend.
Take a deep breath.