Penn softball left its Wednesday doubleheader against Villanova expecting its next matchup to be against Big 5 rival St. Joseph’s a week later. However, after picking up a last-minute doubleheader against cross-town rival La Salle, the Quakers took the field on Saturday eager to take advantage of the chance to compete.
The Red and Blue rode a shutout performance from pitcher Julia Longo to a 3-0 decisive victory in the opening contest. After falling behind early in the second game, the Quakers used a late-game comeback, including a four-run fifth inning, to come out on top 8-5.
Longo entered her start on Saturday with two complete games victories in her last two starts. The junior had no problem replicating her success, as she was able to put together yet another complete game performance. She held La Salle to only three hits and struck out eight batters, never allowing the Explorers to come within striking distance.
The Quakers’ offensive performance in the first game was headlined by the play of Emma Nedley, who scored the game’s opening run on a throwing error. One inning later, the junior outfielder added an RBI single to give Penn an early 3-0 lead.
After the second inning, neither team was able to mount any offense. Instead, the teams traded back-and-forth scoreless frames for the rest of the game as Longo and La Salle starting pitcher Sarah Dowalo turned the contest into a pitcher’s duel.
Though Dowalo shut down the Quakers’ offense following their early rally, the Explorers’ offense could never mount a comeback effort.
“With the first game, we were definitely eager,” Nedley said. “We sat on our pitches and really just controlled the game, and Julia [Longo] commanded in the circle, and that definitely helped.”
With a controlled victory in the first contest, Penn entered the second matchup looking to secure its second series sweep of the year. On the other side of the field, La Salle was looking to record its first victory, as the Explorers entered the Saturday doubleheader with an 0-13 record.
In the first inning, it looked like the Quakers were on their way to another clean win. A first inning double by Julia Schneider scored Nedley, giving Penn an early lead. Both teams were held scoreless in the second inning, and freshman pitcher Olivia Szewczyk took to the circle to keep the score in Penn’s favor.
After Szewczyk loaded the bases to start the inning, the Explorers had their chance to tie things up and possibly even take the lead. La Salle tied the game when sophomore Mia Recenello hit an RBI single to knot the score at 1-1. Then, with the bases still loaded, Victoria Zatko hit a grand slam, giving La Salle a 5-1 lead over the Quakers.
Following the grand slam, Penn coach Leslie King pulled Szewczyk and turned to Bella Fiorentino. However, after Fiorentino walked three La Salle batters, King pivoted to senior Abigail Abramson. Although Abramson was able to work out of the jam, the Red and Blue still found themselves in relatively uncharted territory: down by several runs.
“I think we did get a little bit nervous when we fell behind in the game,” Nedley said. “That was honestly one of the first times this year that we had been at a deficit that large, so we knew that we just had to chip together and piece everything together.”
The Quakers were unable to create any offense during the fourth, leaving the La Salle lead intact. It wasn’t until an inning later that the Quakers were able to break the game back open, as the team scored four runs of its own. It was a Sarah Schneider two-run blast that ultimately knotted the score at 5-5.
Any early struggles by the Quakers’ pitching staff were gone by the latter portion of the game, as Abramson closed out the game with 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Abramson’s effort in the circle gave the Penn offense a chance to take the lead and secure the sweep.
The offense delivered on this chance, scoring three runs over the final two frames. Alyssa Pope and Laurel McKelvey both hit RBI doubles in the sixth inning, giving the Quakers the momentum shift they needed.
“As soon as we got the first hit, there was a little bit of momentum,” Nedley said. “As soon as we had the first hit, we all kind of fed off of that.”
Nedley was one of the contributors to Penn’s late offensive surge, as she hit a solo shot in the final inning to help the Quakers close out their series sweep of the Explorers.
Saturday’s pair of victories brings Penn’s record to 5-3 on the shortened season. The Quakers will look to continue their recent success when they host St. Joseph’s on Wednesday.