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A pair of home runs from sophomore catcher Matt O'Neill weren't quite enough to carry Penn baseball to a division title, but the Quakers can still wrap that up with one win in two games on Saturday.

Credit: Pranay Vemulamada

NEW YORK — Could this year be the year?

Thanks to a stellar day of offense — much of it from senior slugger Tim Graul — Penn baseball split a doubleheader at Columbia Friday afternoon. The Red and Blue hung on for a 7-6 nail-biter of a win in game one before falling 12-7 in the nightcap.

The games moved the Quakers’ (22-18 overall) record to 12-6 in Ivy play, meaning that, at the least, Penn will force a one-game playoff with the Lions (16-22, 10-8) for the Ivy League’s Gehrig division title.

A Penn win in either of the two games to be played at Meiklejohn Stadium Saturday would clinch the division and send the Quakers to the Ivy League championship series, in which Penn has not appeared since 2007.

“I haven’t even thought about [the title], Penn coach John Yurkow said. “Our goal every weekend is to come in and win the series.”

The Quakers kicked the weekend off with a bang, putting up five runs in the top of game one’s first inning.

“It was huge. We got them back on their heels a little bit. It’s the reason we won,” Yurkow said.

Though Columbia would eventually fight back to knot the score at six in the sixth inning, Graul knocked a triple — one of his three extra-base hits in the game — and then scored on a wild pitch to put the Quakers up for good.

Penn hurler Jake Cousins — who came into the afternoon with a microscopic 1.74 earned run average — was not his usual dominant self, giving up six runs over six innings. However, the effort was just enough to give the senior his sixth win of the season.

“He didn’t have his best stuff today,” Yurkow admitted. “But he hung in there.”

Senior left Adam Bleday pitched well for the first portion of the second game, blanking the Lion’s over the game’s first four innings. The wheels came off in the fifth, though, as Bleday coughed up four runs in the frame before surrendering three more in the sixth, putting the Red and Blue in a hole they could not escape.

“There was a good bunt, a walk in there that led to a rally,” Yurkow explained. “And then he hung a slider [resulting in a two-run single for Columbia’s Julian Bury].”

The series will head down the New Jersey Turnpike Saturday, as the Quakers will look to get a home win from either junior pitcher Gabe Kleiman or senior captain Mike Reitcheck.

A win in either contest would send the Quakers to the Ivy Championship Series, which will, in all likelihood, take place May 6th to 7th at Yale.

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