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Though junior first baseman Sean Phelan went 2 for 4 with an RBI, it wasn't enough to lead Penn baseball to a win in the first round of the Liberty Bell Classic.

Credit: File Photo

Games that need extra innings in baseball are relatively common. But games that need extra days are something else.

Such was the case for Penn baseball in the opening round of the Liberty Bell Classic, as darkness on Tuesday night forced the Quakers’ contest against Saint Joseph’s into a delay. But in a 10-inning, two-day thriller, the Red and Blue came up short of advancing to the tournament semifinals, falling victim to a three-run 10th-inning home run by Hawks freshman Cole Stetzar in a 7-4 loss.

“We had a couple of opportunities where we didn’t really execute where we could have. Had some opportunities to push some runs across, and we just didn’t do it,” coach John Yurkow said. “And it’s a tough loss, because we did have chances to win it yesterday.”

With the Quakers (5-14, 1-2 Ivy) getting a break from Ivy League play, the team strayed from its usual pitching rotation, instead going with a much younger and much more diverse group of hurlers. For the contest, six different pitchers threw for Penn, none for more than three innings.

The first two were both freshmen. Rookie Brendan Bean got the start for Penn, while Cole Sichley followed immediately after. Both showed glimpses of excellence — Bean only allowed one baserunner in 1.1 innings, and Sichley struck out four in only 2.1 innings of work — but St. Joe’s (9-11, 0-3 Atlantic 10) had its own freshman standout pitcher in Brian Edgington, who limited Penn to three hits and only one run in five innings of work.

“I thought they [Bean and Sichley] both did a decent job; they’re young kids, so the more you get them out there, the more comfortable they get,” Yurkow said. “In these [Ivy] weekends, we’re playing three nine-inning games now, so guys are gonna get opportunities in the bullpen, and it’s good to see guys getting better each time out.”

With the Hawks leading 4-1 bottom of the seventh, though, the St. Joe’s bullpen wasn’t able to build on Edgington’s stellar day, allowing the Quakers to score pair of runs on a walk then a balk. 

Two innings later, with Penn down to its final two outs, yet another rookie came through for the Red and Blue. Freshman Eduardo Malinowski delivered a clutch-game tying single to send the game to extra innings — and as it turned out, due to Saint Joe’s’ field lacking lights, an extra day.

“He’s off to a pretty good start; he’s an aggressive kid, he’s got a really good skill set, he’s got a little pop in his bat and he can run,” Yurkow said of Malinowski. “Hopefully he can keep it up, because hitting north of .300 as a freshman is tough.”

Unfortunately, day two didn’t provide quite the same thrills for the Quakers. Only minutes after the teams took to the field, Stetzar delivered a two-out, three-run bomb off Penn sophomore Jacob Sadowitz in the top of the 10th, extending Penn’s streak of being the only local school to have never won the tournament.

“[The 20-hour delay] is one of those things I’ve never experienced before. I thought we were ready to play, and they just put a couple good swings on balls,” Yurkow said. “Before you know it, you’re down three runs in the tenth inning, so it definitely had a different feel to it.” 

The Quakers will have to respond quickly in a series that matters a lot more this weekend. After falling to 1-2 in Ivy play last weekend at Brown, Penn gets a shot to move back to .500 in a home three-game set against Dartmouth (3-12, 0-0).

Assuming the weather holds up and these games stand as scheduled, they will finally be the Red and Blue’s first home games of the season.

“We really need to win this series, and I think that’d be a big boost for us to get back into the thick of things,” Yurkow said. “Hopefully finally [being at home] adds a little more excitement to things, guys have a little bit more energy playing in front of our fans.”

So while Penn has the right to be irked at Wednesday’s elimination, there is one silver lining. The team is still alive for a championship that has a lot more value, and there’s not much more room for error if the Red and Blue want to get there.