For Penn baseball, Tuesday's game was won and over within the first inning.
The Quakers welcomed Big 5 rival St. Joe's to Meiklejohn Stadium as the two faced off in the second game of the Liberty Bell Classic. The Red and Blue blew out the Hawks, 20-7, in a game called after seven innings by the mercy rule.
After sophomore pitcher Tim Miller gave up a sacrifice fly at the top of the first inning, Penn (14-8) put up 11 runs against Hawks (12-13) and junior pitcher Kyle Smith in the bottom half of the inning. The offensive explosions continued with four runs in both the fifth and sixth innings. Junior right fielder Peter Matt and senior designated hitter Matt O’Neill led the charge with a combined seven runs batted in.
“Every time you score and then get a stop right after, it's huge for momentum throughout the game,” senior first baseman Sean Phelan said. “When you keep putting up a bunch of runs in the first inning and you get a zero in the next half, you really feel in control.”
The Quakers' season has been highlighted by these high-scoring games and these types of offensive explosions. Penn leads the Ivy League in runs, hits, and runs batted in and is only second in the nation — behind New Mexico State — in batting average.
After a couple of days off, Penn will face their third Ancient Eight opponent as they travel north to face off against Dartmouth (9-13) in a three-game series this weekend. The Red and Blue will look to continue their offensive dominance and develop pitching consistency. The last time these teams faced each other, the game ended in a 4-4 tie after the game was shortened due to darkness in the 11th inning.
Early offense and jumping out to a lead has been paramount for Penn’s success, and they will need to continue that against the Big Green.
“Especially when you’re on the road, and get to hit first, it’s always a nice feeling if you can score and draw first blood,” coach John Yurkow said.
While offense will be important for the Quakers, they will also look for strong efforts on the mound as well. Penn’s current earned run average of 4.61 is the lowest in the Ivy League. Despite this, the team still sees room for improvement for the entire staff, in particular limiting free passes.
“We’ve been walking too many guys, too many hit-by-pitches," Yurkow said. “We need to throw more strikes early in the count. We need to do a better job of getting ahead and forcing them to put the ball in play to beat us.”
For the Quakers, the turn of the calendar to April means that conference play will heat up this month. Currently, Dartmouth and Penn have the same record at 3-3, and both teams will be looking to gain ground in the League standings.
“You only get seven [series against Ivy League teams],” Yurkow said. “These games at the end of the year all add up. We need to go up and win this series, I think it's a very important series for us."
Hoping to ride the momentum from their blowout win, the Quakers will look to combine a dominant offensive performance and shutdown pitching to pick up a series win in Hanover, N.H. this weekend.
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