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Senior infielder Laurel McKelvey bats against Columbia during the third game of the weekend at Penn Park on March 20. Credit: Samantha Turner

Penn softball kicked off Ivy League play against the Columbia Lions, but dropped both games of Saturday’s doubleheader before a picking itself back up for a crucial victory on Sunday to go 1-2 over the weekend.

“Getting [swept] this early in the season is never a good idea,” freshman pitcher Payton Bean said. “I think the team dynamic was a little shaky, for sure. I think we were all super excited to get to prove ourselves again, but definitely some nerves.”

Preseason Ivy rankings placed Columbia (4-13, 2-1 Ivy) and Penn (5-15, 1-2) to finish first and second, respectively. After games one and two went in favor of the Lions, that ranking seemed to be accurate, which made game three all the more must-win for the Quakers.

Although Penn's under-.500 record continued to dip over the weekend, emerging stars within the team continued to make a name for themselves.

In game one, the Quakers jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead by the bottom of the second inning off contributions from junior catcher Sarah Schneider and senior infielder Laurel McKelvey.

With two runners on, McKelvey turned on the second pitch of the at-bat, sending it over the centerfield fence. Schneider got in on the action a few batters later with a centerfield home run of her own, with each homer being the player’s first of the season.

Credit: Samantha Turner Freshman Payton Bean pitches against Columbia during the third game of the weekend at Penn Park on March 20.

Schneider didn’t just stop there. After the team fell 9-7 in the fifth, she answered with another homer in the sixth to bring the Quakers within one. However, the Lion’s defense couldn’t be tamed and the team recorded two more runs in the last frame for an 11-8 final score

Game two was a much different tale. The offense of both teams was a fraction of what it was in matchup one. 

Heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, Columbia had managed to shut out Penn and put together a three-run advantage. But McKelvey’s pinch-hit line drive back up the middle plated the runner on second and put the Quakers on the scoreboard.

This would be the only offensive output all game for the Red and Blue, as they fell 4-1 to the Lions. McKelvey totaled four RBIs on two hits for the day as Schneider compiled three RBIs on four hits.

Penn took control and flipped the script in game three, however.

“We just had a mindset of wanting to reset after [Saturday’s games] after we didn’t get the wins that we wanted to,” Schneider said. “We really needed to come out strong [Sunday] and start scoring runs from the start and I think we did a really good job on that – scoring almost every inning, it was great.”

Shooting for the fences each at-bat did more harm than good for the Red and Blue’s offense in games one and two. Small ball, aggressive baserunning, and capitalizing off of Columbia’s errors contributed most to Sunday’s victory.

Credit: Samantha Turner

Freshman infielder Danica Larwill slides into home base during the third game against Columbia at Penn Park on March 20.

The first run was scored off a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. Senior outfielder Emma Nedley’s sacrifice fly in the second upped the lead to 2-0. In the next inning, pinch runner Madison Bauerle advanced to third on a wild pitch. Smart baserunning quickly paid off as Bauerle scored on a single to left on the next pitch.

“Something we took away from yesterday was we had a lot of pop-ups and we were getting under the ball a little too much and trying to do too much,” Schneider said. “We know this field. We realized yesterday that they were making a lot of mistakes on ground balls. So we thought it would be a great idea to try and hit more balls into the ground.”

However, this is not to say that the long ball wasn't helpful. Especially as Schneider’s third home run of the season in the sixth inning aided in sealing the Quakers' 5-3 win.

But the victory wouldn’t have been possible without a stellar pitching performance from Bean. The freshman pitcher has had a busy season. Most recently, Bean had five pitching appearances over spring break, recording a win against Delaware earlier in the week, and was on the mound the day before for game two against the Lions as well.

“Coming in, I definitely didn’t expect to be pitching as much as I am. But, spring break was a great experience,” Bean said. “It was a little shaky just because we were playing some really good caliber teams. But I think it prepared the entire team perfectly for this.”

Bean tossed five shutout frames and recorded four strikeouts over six innings – only allowing a two-run homer in the fifth. 

Credit: Samantha Turner The team cheers for junior center Sarah Schneider after she scores a home run during the third game against Columbia at Penn Park on March 20.

In the end, the return to Penn Park was a mixed one. 

“The biggest takeaway from this series is that if we play as a team, everyone’s beatable,” Bean said. “I think we can come out on top every time if we bring this energy and really just play as a team because our team energy is unmatched. I promise that.”

The Quakers will take on Maryland Eastern Shore on Wednesday before traveling to Providence, R.I. for a weekend series against Ancient Eight foe, Brown (4-12, 0-3). 

Despite a rocky start to this series, Sunday’s win showed promise of what Penn softball might have in store for the remainder of Ivy League play.