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Junior catcher Matt O'Neill played the hero against Villanova, with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 11th inning.

Credit: Chase Sutton

The Quakers just love playing extra baseball.

Ahead of this weekend’s series at Harvard, Penn baseball beat Villanova 2-1 after a walk-off single from junior catcher Matt O’Neill in the bottom of the 11th inning. This marks the third consecutive game in which Penn (7-15-1, 2-3-1 Ivy) has played 11 innings of baseball.

Although the Red and Blue won Wednesday’s game off of a clutch base hit, this contest was truly a pitcher’s duel. 

Freshman first baseman Brendan Bean made his first career start on the mound, and he did not disappoint. The left-hander from North Wildwood, N. J. pitched three perfect innings in his debut, giving up no runs, no hits, and no walks. He also struck out seven of the nine batters he faced in what was a spectacular performance.

The bullpen had a tough act to follow, but like Bean, the rest of Penn's pitchers were on their A game. In all, eight different pitchers took the hill for the Red and Blue. All told, the group allowed just one run, which was unearned, striking out 18 batters in the process.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Head Coach John Jurkow

“Anytime you get that many guys in a game making all those contributions, you know all those arms, it’s always a good thing,” coach John Yurkow said. “You know, we’re gonna need them down the stretch, and we’re starting to get some guys in these roles where we can match-up a little bit, which you’re gonna need to do when there are nine inning games all the time.” 

As solid as the pitching rotation was on Wednesday afternoon, the Quakers couldn’t get their own bats going for much of the game. Villanova’s starting pitcher, Jonathan Rosero, put in six solid innings of work, allowing just one run, which came in the fourth inning when senior designated hitter Daniel Halevy drove in sophomore second baseman Chris Adams to take a 1-0 lead.

The next Penn run came off of O’Neill’s walk-off in the 11th, which plated freshman left fielder Eduardo Malinowski to win the ballgame.

Two and a half innings before that, the Quakers were just a strike away from ending the game and shutting out the Wildcats in the ninth frame. Villanova (5-15) loaded the bases with a single, an error, a sacrifice bunt, and a walk. Penn’s left-handed pitcher Jacob Sadowitz had a 2-2 count with two outs against Villanova’s Chris Rotondo, and the Wildcats’ freshman infielder hit an infield single to tie the game.

Just like last weekend, though, the Red and Blue thrived in extra innings and notched the walk-off win, this time on Villanova’s own home field.

While this was a consolation game in the Liberty Bell Classic, it could prove to be a nice confidence builder as Penn heads into the heart of its conference schedule.

Harvard (9-13, 1-2) awaits the Quakers, as the two squads will square off in a three-game set in Cambridge this weekend.

The Crimson won one of three games at Columbia this past weekend after going 8-11 in non-conference play to start the season. Outfielders Ben Skinner and Austin Black have been the most consistent hitters for Harvard so far this season. Skinner, a junior, has a .317 batting average and a .429 on-base percentage. The senior Black is hitting .317 with a .462 slugging percentage and two home runs.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Mitchell Holcomb

The battle between these two hitters, along with the rest of the Harvard batting order, and Penn’s pitching rotation will be a compelling one. Penn will likely start senior Gabe Kleiman and sophomore Mitchell Holcomb in the first two games, while also relying on a bullpen that was terrific in Wednesday’s victory.

“[The series] is gonna come down to starting pitching,” Yurkow said. “We need to get some quality starts; obviously, we’ll be on the road…[Harvard] is playing okay this year. They’ve got a couple of pretty good arms, and they have some guys that can swing it.”

Both Harvard and Penn sit at the middle to bottom of the Ivy League pack. Thus, even though it is relatively early in the season, this series is an important one in terms of gaining ground on Yale and Columbia, who are at the top of the Ivy standings.

So far this year, the Quakers have been inconsistent. They’ve shown flashes of greatness both at the plate and in the field, and on Wednesday, the pitching staff had perhaps its best performance of season. Now would be a great time for the them to put it all together.