While the eyes of the Penn Athletics world turn to Franklin Field for the Penn Relays this weekend, it might be easy to ignore the other Penn teams that are competing at the same time. With a number of key games on tap, here are three key questions to consider going into an important weekend of play.
Can Penn softball qualify for the Ivy League Championship Series?
The Quakers (21-14, 12-6 Ivy) enter their final Ivy series of the year against Columbia (19-17, 11-4) just a half game back of the Lions and Harvard (18-16, 11-4) for a spot in the top two of the Ivy League and a trip to the Ivy League Championship Series.
Coming off a dominant sweep of Brown at home last weekend, the Quakers will certainly have the momentum as they make the trip to New York this weekend. However, the Lions pose a difficult challenge for the Red and Blue.
The matchup should be a good test of strength versus strength, as Columbia’s second-best Ivy League earned run average will be challenged by the Quakers' League-high runs per game. That is not to say either of these teams struggle on the other side of the ball.
In their series against Brown, the Red and Blue's pitching — led by junior Jennifer Brann’s historic perfect game — was the main reason the Quakers secured all three victories. For the Lions, junior outfielder Sommer Grzybek is one of the best hitters in the Ivy League, leading the conference with eight home runs and boasting the second-best slugging percentage of .727.
While the Quakers don’t quite control their own destiny, a sweep of this series would clinch the Red and Blue a spot in the Ivy League Championship as long as Princeton loses just one of its final six Ivy League contests. If Penn only manages to take two of three from the Lions, the road becomes much more difficult. Princeton would need to lose at least twice, and the Quakers would need Harvard or Columbia to drop a game in their final series of the year. Unfortunately for the Red and Blue, the final opponents for the Crimson and Lions are last place teams Cornell and Brown.
Can Penn baseball’s offense get back on track and end the skid?
Despite a four-game Ivy losing streak, the Quakers (20-14, 8-7) still sit in third place in the Ancient Eight with six conference games to go, giving them an outside shot of qualifying for the Ivy League Championship Series. The road to the playoff would likely start with a sweep of last place Cornell (9-21, 4-11) this weekend, and crucial to the Quakers' ability to accomplish this is getting their historically productive offense back on track.
While the Quakers still lead the Ivy League in runs per game, batting average, slugging percentage, and a number of other key offensive categories, a concerning trend has come about recently for the Penn offense. After averaging 10.7 runs per game in their first 27 contests this season, the Quakers have averaged just 3.5 in their last six games to go along with a 1-5 record.
While the Big Red have struggled this season, it has largely been a result of their League-worst offense, as they actually have the third-best ERA in the conference. This weekend gives the Red and Blue's offense a chance to get back on track against good pitching to prepare themselves for the crucial home stretch of the season.
Can lightweight rowing take back the Callow Cup?
Lightweight rowing will travel to Annapolis, Md. this weekend to take on Navy in a battle for the Callow Cup. The history of the competition has seen each school go on long runs of dominance, with the Quakers winning all but two in the late 1980s and 90s, followed by Navy winning every cup from 2001 to 2012.
In recent years, it has been more of a back and forth battle, with the Quakers coming out slightly ahead, winning four of the last six and three of the last four. However, the Red and Blue fell to the Midshipmen by just 2.7 seconds last season in the Varsity 8 race, relinquishing the cup.
The Quakers will take to the Severn River with their sights set on reclaiming the Callow Cup before a three-week break until they compete again on May 19.