After a late run, the Quakers came up just short of victory.
Strong late hitting in addition to wild pitching almost led Penn baseball to a win against La Salle on Tuesday, but the Red and Blue eventually lost by a score of 7-6. The Quakers (19-11) went up early following a few walks and solid hitting. However, following three runs by La Salle (19-18) in the bottom of the first, Penn found itself in a deficit. Another run in the third brought the Red and Blue within one, but consistent hitting by the Explorers expanded the lead to four.
The Quakers cooled down through the middle innings, only tallying two hits from the fourth to seventh. However, a hot streak in the eighth led by a two-run shot from senior first baseman Sean Phelan nearly helped Penn overcome the deficit. Nevertheless, the Explorers' relievers ultimately prevailed, sealing the game for La Salle.
“Right now, our offense has not been as hot as it had been for the majority of the season. But it’s just a short speed bump," freshman shortstop Josh Hood said. “We have a great talented group of guys. Our timing is a little off for a lot of our guys right now, but we are going to make adjustments."
Penn began the game strong in the first inning, with its first two batters reaching base through a hit by pitch and walk, respectively. A subsequent single by Phelan loaded the bases for the Red and Blue to set up Penn’s first run, which came on a sacrifice fly to right field.
Another single gave the Quakers their second run in the top of the first, but the home side would respond with three runs in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead.
While the second inning saw the Red and Blue give up two more, they pulled the game back in the third. A triple from Hood brought junior second baseman Chris Adams home, shaving La Salle’s lead to one run.
The middle innings proved tough for the Quakers, and the Red and Blue were unable to generate any substantial offense. The Explorers gained momentum on offense and scored three more runs, handing them a 7-3 lead heading into the top of the eighth.
Following strong pitching to end the seventh from junior Dylan Mulvihill, Penn seemed determined to come out on top. The Quakers then started the top of the eighth with a triple.
With two outs and the pressure on, senior catcher Matt O’Neill singled up the middle to bring in a runner. Phelan then hit a two-run shot to right field to trim the lead within one. But a comeback would have to wait, as a subsequent pop out to second ended the run.
Strong pitching by freshman Kevin Eaise in the bottom of the inning allowed the Quakers to try again for the lead in the ninth. However, solid pitching from La Salle reliever Connor Hinchliffe meant the Quakers would come up just short.
“It’s baseball — stuff happens even to the most talented group of guys," Hood said. “We have one of the best hitting offenses in the country so I'm sure we'll be able to bounce back."
As the Quakers try to shake off this tight loss, they turn to Yale this weekend for a three-game series. Facing a Bulldogs team that has had trouble scoring recently, the Quakers will need to keep the pressure on at the mound and hit consistently.
“We have to execute hitting, get our swings in before we take Yale on," Hood said. “We have to remember to stick to the same approach that we've had all season."
Although the Elis have lost their last four games, they have all been by close margins. The Quakers will have to improve their offense and pitching from Tuesday if they want to be victorious in the series.