That's how it must have felt to be Penn baseball after the team's away game against Villanova on Wednesday. Despite starting strong — the Quakers held a 4-0 lead through five innings — the Red and Blue faltered late and ended up losing by a score of 5-4. The loss against the Wildcats (6-19) marks only the fourth time this season that Penn (11-7) has been limited to fewer than five runs.
“It was a tough loss. [I'm] feeling pretty bitter about it; we started off pretty hot, had some great pitching, but as a team, we were not able to close it out. So it is definitely a tough loss,” sophomore left fielder Eduardo Malinowski said.
The Red and Blue looked like they might run away with a victory early on, scoring in the top of the second inning when Malinowski hit his fifth triple of the season to right-center field and was then able to score after sophomore catcher Jackson Petersen grounded out to first base. Penn would end the second inning up by a score of 1-0.
In the top of the fourth, three more runs were added to the tally, giving the Quakers a four-run lead. Petersen hit a double down the left field foul line that allowed both Malinowski and freshman designated hitter Andrew Hernandez to score. On the very next at-bat, senior third baseman Matt McGeagh hit an RBI single to right field to bring Petersen home.
Villanova was having difficulties on offense in the early innings. Penn freshman pitcher Joe Miller recorded his third start of the season and played spectacularly, allowing zero hits in the three frames and striking out seven batters. Miller was replaced with fellow freshman Kevin Eaise in the bottom of the fourth. He was successful on the mound as well, pitching three innings, striking out three batters, and allowing only one run.
Villanova was able to cut into the Penn lead with a run of its own in the bottom of the sixth, making the score 4-1. In the next two innings, Villanova was able to rally with four more unanswered runs to take a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth that they would not relinquish.
Notably for Penn, freshman second baseman Craig Larsen continued his hitting frenzy, bringing his hitting streak to 11 games with a double in the third inning.
After Wednesday's tight loss, the Red and Blue will now look to bounce back and pick up some key Ivy League wins. Over the weekend, the team will compete in its second conference series of the season against Brown (4-15, 1-2) at Meiklejohn Stadium.
“We are really going to get back after it tomorrow [and] have a good couple practices going into this weekend against Brown. [We're] just trying to get this loss behind us and get back to playing how we normally do,” Malinowski said.
Malinowski said that the team will look to support each other as they look to make the loss to the Wildcats a mere blip on the radar.
The Bears are also coming off a tough 15-2 loss against Bryant, so both teams will be looking to get back in the win column.
The Red and Blue will be looking to come up with their first series win in conference play after Harvard defeated the Quakers in two of three games last weekend. A key for the Quakers in this series will be continuing their explosive play on offense, as they will need to successfully execute at the plate like they have for most of the season.
Penn will look to rebound against Brown this weekend, with Saturday’s doubleheader set to start at 11 a.m.