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Junior Joe Miller struck out eight Villanova Wildcats during the Quaker's first baseball game in over a year. 

Credit: Samantha Turner

Getting swept by Villanova isn't how Penn baseball envisioned their long-awaited return to competition, but shaking off the rust takes time. 

Following a hiatus that lasted over a year, Penn baseball was finally back in action at Meiklejohn Stadium this Saturday. Taking on Villanova (6-2) in the first game of the weekend’s three-game series, the Quakers started off strong before a two-run homer by the Wildcats turned the tide against them. The Red and Blue never got going on the basepaths in their attempt at a comeback, and ultimately dropped the contest by a score of 3-0. 

Junior Joe Miller started on the mound for the Quakers, facing a Villanova squad that was riding a six-game winning streak. The junior left-hander struck out eight Wildcats — passing the seven strikeouts he put up in his two starts of the abbreviated 2020 season. Miller went three innings without allowing a hit before Villanova broke the floodgates with its two-run homer in the fourth inning. 

Senior second-baseman Eduardo Malinowski singled in the bottom of the fourth, but the Quakers were unable to capitalize. A double play from the Wildcats ended the inning and Penn’s offensive momentum. 

Malinowski collected another hit in the seventh inning, while freshman Wyatt Henseler, juniors Andrew Hernandez and Tommy Courtney, and senior Jackson Petersen each notched one apiece throughout the game. However, Penn was never able to string enough hits together in the same inning to mount a comeback. Villanova added to its lead in the top of the ninth and blanked the Quakers in the bottom of the inning to take the first game of the series.   

The second game of Penn’s Saturday doubleheader against Villanova nearly became a comeback victory in the bottom of the ninth inning. 

The Wildcats scored one run in each of the fourth, fifth, and ninth innings, and the Quakers looked as though they would be shut out like they had been earlier in the day, going scoreless through eight innings in the game, and seventeen consecutive innings for the day.

Villanova senior Jimmy Kingsbury dueled Penn sophomore Sam Bennett on the mound. As the Quakers notched only one hit in the first inning, Kingsbury blazed through the game with the goal of achieving a complete game shutout. The Quakers proceeded to go hitless until the ninth inning. 

In the bottom of the ninth, Malinowski continued his stellar college tenure and day with a two-run homer that gave the Quakers hope for a comeback. However, Henseler lined out with a hard-hit ball to right field, and the game ended, 3-2. 

Kingsbury ended up closing out the game with 121 pitches and a complete game victory. Bennett pitched four innings in his Penn debut, giving up one run. Penn senior Brendan Bean and sophomore Owen Coady pitched two and three innings respectively, giving up one run each.

The third game started off slow for the Quakers, with Penn trailing 1-0 against the Wildcats heading into the ninth inning. Over the first eight innings, Villanova’s Ryan Toohers was the only player to score, hitting a homer dead-center in the top of the fourth. 

Attempting to turn things around in the seventh inning, Petersen singled to left field, and was followed on the base paths by Henseler, who was hit by a pitch. Making his collegiate debut at bat, freshman pinch hitter Carson Ozmer was deemed safe at first after an errant throw forced the first baseman off the bag. Penn lost its rally back when freshman Calvin Brown struck out.

Sophomore Ben Miller started off for Penn at the top of the ninth and came away with a single hit to right-center field, before getting replaced by pinch runner Seth Werchan. Penn was able to get runners on second and third from Petersen’s double to right field. Henseler grounded a ball to first base, and the Quakers managed to tie the game after a challenged call from Penn reversed Werchan’s out at home plate. 

Villanova answered back with their own plays at the bottom of the ninth. Pat O’Neil led off with a double, and a hit by Will Reiner tied the game. The winning run for the Wildcats came after Chris Rotondo hit a single to right center, allowing Reiner to advance to third and finally score for Villanova, walking off the game by a score of 3-2.

Despite the Red and the Blue struggling offensively throughout the game, the team showed signs of progress on the mound, allowing just five hits and striking out 12 Villanova batters. Penn hopes to shake all the rust off and get back into the swing of things in its upcoming game against La Salle.