One game at a time, one base at a time.
Penn softball used strong pitching and small-ball offense on Wednesday afternoon to sweep Philadelphia rival La Salle, defeating the Explorers by scores of 3-0 and 5-0.
In the first game, strong pitching and good early offense gave the Quakers (9-8) an early lead that they would hold for the entire game. Freshman starting pitcher Julia Longo set the tone for the Red and Blue in the first inning, striking out La Salle (5-12) leadoff hitter and junior shortstop Emily Conway on just four pitches. A diving catch on a foul ball by sophomore catcher Sarah Ketring would finish off the 1-2-3 inning and give the Quakers their first at-bats of the game.
In the bottom of the first, Penn was able to get to La Salle sophomore starter Morgan Orlowski early and often with a two-out single up the middle by senior designated hitter Sarah Cwiertnia and a walk by sophomore third baseman Lucy Yang. The Quakers would string together three more two-out singles, the last of which was a bloop single into right by junior left fielder Clare Sebastianelli that would drive home two.
“Scoring early in the game is really helpful, it just takes a lot off the pitchers shoulders. It's nice knowing that the offense is going to be there to support us and if we give up a run it's not the end of the world,” Longo said.
The Quakers would continue the singles streak in the second, as a pair of hits from freshmen Julia Schneider and Emma Nedley gave them runners on first and second. After two wild pitches, Schneider came around to score to give the Red and Blue a 3-0 lead.
“We are a very station-to-station team, so it’s crucial that we are able to hit the ball on the ground and move runners,” Cwiertnia said.
On the hill, Longo continued her dominance, allowing just one hit and striking out three in four innings of work. After she was done, the Quakers turned to junior Jennifer Brann who was equally effective, finishing off Penn’s shutout with three lockdown innings and two punchouts. Perhaps the cool afternoon breeze took some of the pop out of each team's bats; La Salle would finish with just two hits to the Quakers eight, and all 10 hits were singles.
“I was really effective moving in and out on them,” Longo said. “My screwball is probably one of my most effective pitches, so early in the game I was able to jam them inside. By the second and third inning, they started backing of the plate, so I needed to use my curveball.”
The second game was much of the same with both teams putting runners on base. However, they both failed to generate any real scoring chances. With Penn sophomore starter Abigail Abramson trading zeros with La Salle freshman pitcher Cailey Joyce, the game was scoreless entering the bottom of the fourth.
La Salle removed Joyce from the game, and the Quakers once again worked to manufacture runs against the new pitcher, senior Marlo Roadcap. Three walks loaded the bases for freshman shortstop Ashley Waco with just one out. Waco would bounce a swinging bunt up the first-base line, and Explorers sophomore first baseman Ashley Mendenhall played for the inning-ending double play by attempting to tag Waco before throwing home.
However, sophomore Kayla Ketring, who was serving as a pinch runner, raced home to beat the throw. Penn soon tacked on two more runs as Schneider roped a two-RBI single to right, extending the lead to 3-0.
“Early in the game, we did a really good job of having quality at-bats and putting the ball in play. Even when people did get out, they were hard hit balls,” Cwiertnia said. “Eventually the ball will start to fall in a spot where nobody is.”
With the bats finally heating up, Penn got back to business against Joyce, who re-entered the game for La Salle in the fifth. A double by Nedley, followed by a single from senior second baseman Sam Pederson, put two on for Kayla Ketring. The sophomore lined a shot that bounced just inches fair and would find the left field corner, driving in both runs with a two-RBI double. With the way Penn had been pitching all day, this knock would be the one to finish off the Explorers.
The Quakers' pitchers would finish the double-header with 14 shutout innings, striking out 11 and surrendering just eight hits.
“The pitching sets the tone,” Cwiertnia said. “It gets us in the mentality of how the game is going to go, and I think they did a really good job today.”
The team will look to keep up the strong performances on the mound as it prepares for Harvard at home this weekend.