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Senior designated hitter and captain Matt O'Neill went 3-for-5 and scored two runs in Penn baseball's loss to Monmouth on Wednesday night.

Credit: Eric Zeng

Penn baseball kept waiting for the big hit that never came. 

After tallying 49 runs in a three-game sweep against Dartmouth last weekend, the Quakers didn’t generate much offense against Monmouth on Wednesday at Meiklejohn Stadium. Penn’s pitching did not offer much help either, as the team lost by a score of 8-5.

The Red and Blue (17-9) started off strong, as they led the Hawks (12-18-1) by a score of 3-0 after the second inning. Sophomore starting pitcher Tim Miller started the game strong, giving up only one hit and striking out three in the first two innings. However, after a single and two walks loaded the bases, Miller exited the game in the third inning without retiring a batter.

Sophomore pitcher Robby Cerulle came in but didn’t offer much relief, giving up five hits, a balk, and a wild pitch. By the end of the inning, Monmouth had scored six runs, split evenly between the two pitchers. 

“[Miller] lost his command. He walked a couple guys, [and] they hit a ball hard to start the inning off. It was a tough play and the ball got through,” coach John Yurkow said. “Then we went to the bullpen. I don’t think Robby had his best stuff today. He struggled with his command and got some balls up, and [Monmouth] made some good swings.”

The Quakers' season has been highlighted by their offensive explosions, so it felt like the team could respond and get back in the game. Thanks to three walks in the bottom of the third, the Red and Blue loaded the bases, but they could only score one run. Throughout the game, Penn had its chances with leadoff hits and walks but could never capitalize.

Oddly enough, Penn actually outhit Monmouth, 12-9.

“We had our chances with guys in scoring position. We just couldn’t get a big hit today,” Yurkow said. “I didn’t think we took many good swings in advantage counts. [Monmouth] was ahead most of the day pitching, and we really couldn’t get ourself in a good spot to drive the ball.”

“Sometimes with baseball, you’ll have good days and bad days," senior catcher Matt O'Neill said. "We had a good weekend and a tough loss today, but I think we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing and not press too hard."

Penn still leads the League in batting average and earned run average, so the game was uncharacteristic for the Quakers both on offense and from the pitcher's mound.

“We’ve been doing a pretty good job this year in the batter’s box of not going out of the strike zone and taking our hits,” O’Neill said. “On the mound we’ve been good too. We just need to keep attacking guys and keep competing. If we’re competitive, we’re tough to beat.”

The loss is the Quakers' fifth consecutive against the Hawks, and Penn is now 3-7 all-time against Monmouth. 

After a couple days off, the Quakers will look to shake off this loss as they continue Ivy League play on Friday and Saturday against Princeton. The Princeton series marks the halfway point of the Ivy season as Penn's fourth series against Ancient Eight foes. 

At 6-3, Penn is tied for first place in the conference with Harvard and Columbia, making the weekend crucial for the Red and Blue's title hopes. A series win over rival Princeton would help solidify Penn's championship series positioning, and a second consecutive sweep would help separate the Quakers from the pack.

To come away from the three-game series with a win, Penn will need to revive the streak of timely hitting they've had over the past few weeks. The pitchers stepping up would certainly help as well.