Brutal, just brutal. There’s no other way to describe it.
Penn baseball fell on walk-offs twice in a two out of three series defeat against Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y. this weekend. The cold and gloomy weather throughout the weekend foreshadowed the Quakers’ downfall.
The Red and Blue (21-16, 9-9 Ivy) seemed to be in trouble early in game one of the doubleheader, as they quickly coughed up a two-run lead in the first two innings. Junior starting pitcher Christian Scafidi settled down after that, however, giving up three hits to the Big Red (11-22, 6-12) the rest of the way for a complete game gem, the first of his career.
The bats didn’t let Scafidi’s strong performance go to waste, putting up six unanswered runs for a comfortable 6-2 victory. Freshman center fielder Tommy Courtney had a three-hit game and scored three times, as well, thanks to senior designated hitter Sean Phelan’s two hits and two runs batted in.
Phelan has been a consistent presence for the Quakers all season as he inches closer to the end of an impressive four-year career. The stalwart first baseman, who has been a starter since his freshman year, broke the program record for appearances with his 162nd and 163rd in Saturday’s doubleheader.
While Scafidi's pitching stood out, it has been the offense that has defined the Quakers’ success all season. In the top of the seventh in game one, a single up the middle from senior catcher Matt O’Neill broke the single-season program record for hits by the team. It was the Red and Blue’s 463rd hit of the year, breaking the previous mark of 462 set by the 2010 squad.
The Quakers now have 485 hits, still with four games to play, so they’ll give their record even more cushion by the end of the season.
O’Neill has been swinging the hottest bat of all this year, leading the team with a .409 batting average coming into the weekend. Yurkow made the unconventional but justified move of slotting his star catcher into the leadoff position for the entirety of the series. O’Neill showed why he deserved the spot, going 5-for-11 on the weekend with two RBIs.
In game two on Saturday, junior pitcher Mitchell Holcomb delivered another strong start for the Quakers, but with a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, back-to-back one-out singles would spell the end of his day. Freshman Kevin Eaise came on in relief and allowed the walk-off, a two-out triple off the bat of senior center fielder Adam Saks.
On Sunday, junior starter John Alan Kendrick took the hill, looking to make it three solid starts in a row for the Penn pitching staff. He delivered six innings and gave up three runs, but only one earned. Kendrick somehow managed to keep Cornell from scoring more despite giving up eight hits on the day.
Luckily for Penn, or maybe predictably, the Red and Blue offense came to play. Sophomore left fielder Eduardo Malinowski starred in the final game, notching three hits, including a double that sparked a three-run fourth inning and a three-run homer in the seventh.
The late innings proved to be the Quakers’ demise once again, just as they were in game two. This time, Cornell scored three runs in the final inning, all coming off the bat of senior catcher Will Simoneit, who hit the walk-off home run to left field to give Cornell the 8-7 victory.
Now sitting at an even 9-9 in conference play on the year, the Quakers still have an outside shot at earning an Ivy League Championship Series berth with a sweep over Columbia next weekend and a pair of Yale losses against Princeton.
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