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Junior catcher Matt O'Neill led the Quakers with seven runs batted in this weekend against Brown.

Credit: Pranay Vemulamada

It wasn’t all bad for the Quakers this weekend.

After dropping the first two games of its series against Brown, Penn baseball managed to pick up a gutsy 9-8 victory on Sunday afternoon. The Red and Blue did not fare well in Saturday’s doubleheader, losing 7-6 in the 10th inning in game one and coming up short in a 4-1 defensive battle in game two.

Both teams came out of the gates ready to hit, as Penn (5-13, 1-2 Ivy) led the first game 5-4 through three innings. Junior catcher Matt O’Neill blasted a three-run home run in the third inning, foreshadowing what would be a great weekend for him. Brown (6-8, 2-1 Ivy) would not go away though, quickly trimming its 5-1 deficit to a 6-5 Penn lead through five innings.

The Quakers retained this 6-5 lead until the ninth frame but could not quite close the deal, as the Bears tied the score and sent the game to extra innings off of an RBI single by sophomore Cameron Deere. In the 10th inning, Brown was again able to capitalize on its opportunities. This time, it was another sophomore, Calvin Farris, who singled to knock in the winning run, as the Bears walked off on Penn.  

Errors were a major problem in the first game on Saturday, as the Red and Blue committed four of them. The sophomore pitching duo of Mitchell Holcomb and Christian Scafidi threw all 10 innings of this game, and because of the errors behind them, only three of Brown’s seven runs were earned.

In the second game, the Quakers' defense was better but it was their offense that could not get going. Brown raced out to a 4-0 lead through five innings, and Penn was unable to answer. The team's only score came in the seventh inning, when O’Neill hit a solo home run. Unfortunately for the Quakers, they were unable to manufacture any more runs and dropped the second game 4-1.

“Obviously when you lose in a walk-off the first game of the series, it can be tough to bounce back,” coach John Yurkow said. “I think that hurt us a little bit in game two. You know, our energy wasn’t great in game two yesterday.”

Despite the pair of losses, one bright spot for Penn was senior pitcher Gabe Kleiman. The ace tossed seven solid innings, giving up just one earned run in the game two loss. 

While Penn came into Sunday’s matchup already having lost the series, the team did everything that it could to avoid the sweep. The early indication was that Brown would be getting another victory, as the Bears put up eight runs in the first inning. 

But even going down 8-1 after one inning, the Quakers hung tough and chipped away at the deficit. They put together a five-run third inning and also scored in the fifth, sixth, and eighth innings. Brown on the other hand, failed to get a run across home plate after its offensive explosion in the first.

Freshman Brendan Bean knocked in the go-ahead run in the eighth, and Penn’s pitching and defense was able to secure the 9-8 victory, despite Brown having runners in scoring position in each of the final two frames. The bullpen committee of Robby Cerulle, Grant Guillory, Mulvihill, and Jacob Sandowitz did a tremendous job of shutting down the Brown offense that previously looked unstoppable.

“It says a ton about our team and what kind of guys we have in our dugout and in that bullpen the way we got off to a slow start, got down to a big deficit early, but we followed right back and made sure we got out of there with one win and really fought back,” O’Neill said. "I was really impressed with our team to be able to bounce back like that.”

On the weekend, O’Neill (.456 BA, seven runs batted in), junior first baseman Sean Phelan (.455 BA, two RBI), and junior third baseman Matt McGeagh (.357 BA, four RBI) led the way for Penn.   

While Sunday’s win gives the Quakers some momentum going forward, the fact of the matter is that they will have to play more consistently than they did this weekend if they want to compete for an Ivy League title, according to Yurkow.

The team’s focus will now shift to Tuesday’s home opener against St. Joseph’s, a game that the Red and Blue can use as preparation ahead of a vital series next weekend against Dartmouth.

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