A new Ivy League format could be the start of something new for Penn Baseball.
For the 2018 season, Ivy League baseball has created a new schedule format, much simplified from its original organization. The divisional system has been disbanded, replaced by a single, conference-wide pool of teams.
The new 2018 schedule format is similar to the way other Ivy League sports compete. Each team will play every other Ivy team in a three-game series, with one doubleheader on a Saturday, followed by one game on Sunday. Therefore, each team will play 21 league games. Come season’s end on May 19-20, the top two teams in the Ivy League will play in the Ivy Championship Series in a best-of-three contest.
Previously, the divisions divided the Ivy teams into two groups of four. The Red Rolfe (North) Division consisted of Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard, and Yale, while the Lou Gehrig (South) Division included Penn, Columbia, Cornell, and Princeton. Each one of the Ancient Eight would play four games against teams in their own division, while only playing two games against teams in the other. Due to doubleheaders, some of these games would be played in seven innings and some would be in nine. Overall, each team would play 20 Ivy League competitions.
The two division winners would play each other in the best-of-three Ivy League Championship Series.
Under the previous format in 2017, the Quakers won the Gehrig Division playoff in a single game against Columbia. Unfortunately for the Red and Blue, they went on to quickly drop the first two games of the Ivy Championship in a matchup against Yale.
“I think it’s good for the league. When you look at the big picture, you want the best team in the Ivy league to represent the Ivy league in the NCAA tournament," coach John Yurkow said. "If you definitely have the two best teams playing in the championship, there’s a greater chance that that will happen."
Penn hopes to top the standings and avenge its 2017 championship series loss to Yale. With the changes in scheduling, the Quakers feel that their ability to succeed on the diamond will be complemented by increasing success in the classroom.
“Personally I’m a fan of changing to three games. Last year, with four games, two double headers, by the end of the weekend your body was pretty destroyed. It’ll be easier on a level to focus and on a physical level for your body,” junior first baseman Sean Phelan said.
Both players and coaches agree that there will be increased potential for academics with upcoming Ivy play. The Ivy League prides itself on the dual role of its student-athletes, and the new Ivy League format allows Penn baseball to better cope with their schoolwork in season.
“It really frees up your weekend, it can get kind of tough with playing four games, with homework and things you need to get done. It’s not like teachers are going to give you passes on that kind of stuff," sophomore pitcher Mitchell Holcomb said.
“From a student athlete standpoint, as far as quality of life is better for everybody. A good example is if you’re away and only playing a single game, we’re getting our guys back to campus at a reasonable hour … [to] help prepare themselves to have a good week in the classroom as well," Yurkow said.
Defending champion Yale is the current favorite to win the Ivy League this year according to preseason polls. Penn is projected to finish fourth, behind Dartmouth and Columbia.
Wednesday, March 21 should have been the Quakers’ first home game of the year, set against Lehigh University, but has been postponed indefinitely due to inclement weather. The Red and Blue will simultaneously open Ivy play and host their first home game against Brown on Saturday, March 24 at 11:30 am.
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