Not everything went south for Penn baseball in the weekend’s contests.
The Quakers went 1-2 in their season-opening series against the Northwestern State Demons (4-3), played on the Demons’ turf in Natchitoches, La. Unfortunately for the Quakers, the trip to the warmer climate still did not provide ideal baseball conditions.
The series, originally scheduled to be played over the course of three days, was adjusted due to rainy weather forecasts. The Quakers played one game on Friday night and a doubleheader on Saturday, winning the latter of Saturday's two contests.
Friday’s game was tight, but the Quakers dropped the game in the twelfth inning. Strong pitching by senior Gabe Kleiman and sophomore Mitchell Holcomb limited the Demons to only one run in the first 11 innings. Unfortunately for the Quakers, the Demons' pitching was just as strong, also only allowing one run.
Penn pitcher Cole Sichley came in to relieve Holcomb for the twelfth inning, walking two men before junior John Alan Kendrick replaced him on the mound. The Demons scored, unearned, off a throwing error by Kendrick. The first game went to the Demons, 2-1.
The second game in the series was less down-to-the-wire, with the Demons beating the Quakers 8-2. Sophomore starting pitcher Christian Scafidi earned his first decision of the year, allowing four runs in the loss before being relieved by freshman Brendan Bean. Junior Matt McGeagh hit the Quakers’ first home run of the season in the second inning to tie the score at two. Then, the Demons went on a hitting streak, leaving the Quakers unable to respond for the rest of the game.
After dropping the first two games, the Quakers prevented a full sweep with the help of senior pitcher Jack Hartman. Hartman was credited with the Quakers' only win of the weekend, with a final score of 8-5.
“I was trying to go out there and throw strikes, and let the defense do their job. The other guys did a great job hitting," Hartman explained. "I wasn’t trying to do too much, just stay in the zone and help the team."
The team mentality was apparent in the last game of the weekend, with members from every class getting on board to bring the competitiveness.
“I think overall it was pretty good effort, and I think we had pretty good energy the whole weekend. We got a lot of guys getting a lot of opportunities," junior captain Matt O'Neill said. "A lot of younger guys contributed, which was good. We were able to get a win on the last one, which was nice, going home with that taste in our mouths."
Even after losing three stars to the professional ranks, the Quakers seem to be priding themselves on the depth of their team this year. Efforts by senior Andrew Murnane, juniors Matt McGeagh, Matt O’Neill, and Sean Phelan, sophomore Peter Matt, and freshman Christian Walton contributed to the Quakers’ five-run inning in the fifth, one that broke a 1-1 tie and put Penn in front for the rest of the game.
Looking forward, the Quakers have their sights set on returning to the Ivy League championship, and winning it for the first time in 23 years.
“The Ivy League championship is our first goal, but I think we plan to go a little further than that this year,” says O’Neill. “I’m really excited, I think we had a really good showing this weekend. Even though we only got one, I think it was a good team win. We played really hard all the way through. I’m proud of our whole team, proud of the younger guys for stepping up, and I think it was a good start to the season.”
The Quakers' next competition will be at Wofford College on March 2, starting off a stretch of eight games in ten days in South Carolina over spring break.
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