Consider the stakes raised.
After collecting a sweep of Yale and a split with Brown over the weekend, Penn softball has faced every opponent in the North Division and already has its eyes on the South Division title. Though intradivisional play does not begin until next weekend, the Quakers (14-12, 5-3 Ivy) currently are just one game behind Princeton and tied with Columbia.
Penn’s 3-1 weekend record was key to moving up in the divisional standings considering that both the Tigers and Lions started their conference play with spotless records through four games. According to senior pitcher Alexis Sargent, the team was well aware of what was at stake heading into their northern road trip.
“We knew that we had to play the best we could, so there was a lot of motivation on that end,” she said.
In order to make winning manageable, coach Leslie King encouraged her team to shift its perspective away from the end results.
“We had a couple little goals: one of them was to do all of the little things right, because the little things add up to make a win,” Sargent explained. “The other was winning every inning.”
On Friday’s doubleheader against Yale (9-21, 4-4), the Quakers did just that. In the first meeting of the day, a 4-1 win for the visiting team, Penn played through three scoreless innings before taking control in the top of the fourth. Junior Molly Oretsky launched a home run deep over the centerfield fence to drive in junior Jurie Joyner and freshman Clare Sebastianelli and give Penn a three-run lead.
Though the Bulldogs responded with a lone home run in the bottom of the fifth, Penn’s Oretsky would add one more run for good measure in the seventh off of an RBI-triple from senior Leah Allen.
On the defensive side of the ball, Sargent struck out four batters en route to her seventh complete game and eighth win of the season.
The second act, an 8-6 win, was a similar story. Once again, the Quakers got hot in the fourth inning, this time to overcome a 4-2 lead amassed by the Bulldogs. Though sophomore Sarah Cwiertnia anchored the offsense with three RBI, the win was very much a team effort with six different players scoring.
“I think one thing that is true this season that hasn’t necessarily been true in past seasons is that each and every one of our players is contributing to the win – it’s not just a few people that are hitting the ball and one star pitcher,” Sargent said. “I think that’s what a championship team does.”
On Saturday against Brown (11-19, 3-5), each of Penn’s five runs in Game 1 came from a different player, while Oretsky continued her streak of solid play and picked up two RBI. Sargent, whose 2.23 E.R.A. heading into the weekend led the Ivy League, pitched another complete game for the Quakers.
In game two, Sargent handed the over her duties on the mound to a trio of her teammates: junior Mason Spichiger, senior Courtney Cuzick and freshman Jennifer Bran. Despite striking out a combined five batters, the Bears hitting lit up as the afternoon went on and batted in seven runs to Penn’s three.
After a successful weekend on the road, Sargent and her teammates are cautiously optimistic. The Quakers will face Drexel in a mid-week non-conference matchup on Wednesday before opening South Division play with back-to-back doubleheaders against Princeton on Saturday and Sunday.
“The fun part is the games count twice as much because a win for us is a loss for them,” she said. “I think we’ll really play out with intensity that will be palpable on the field.”