Dusting off the effects of its early-season losing streak, Penn softball traveled to Providence, R.I. to face Brown for its second Ivy League matchup of the season, and returned with a convincing series win to level its conference record to 3-3.
“[W]e knew we had to win. Every Ivy League game, and every series is a battle,” junior two-way player Bella Fiorentino said. “Coach told us that coming into Ivy League play, you can throw every team’s standings and every team's record out the window. Anything can happen when two teams take the field. So I knew that we had to win.”
The doubleheader against Maryland Eastern Shore on Wednesday was canceled, making it a week since they last played a series — a 2-1 series loss to Columbia. The longer gap between play could’ve proved either a momentum killer or a needed respite. After the first game of Saturday, the weekend seemed to point towards the latter.
“Brown has an all-turf field. And [we were] going on the road versus our field, which obviously we know a lot better, but has dirt,” Fiorentino said. “I think [having more of a week to prepare] allowed us more time to get comfortable fielding ground balls on turf… hitting on turf and understanding the way the ball moves a little bit differently.”
Senior pitcher Julia Longo took to the mound and held Brown (7-14, 1-5 Ivy) to just one run in the first six innings of play. The Penn (7-16, 3-3) offense started on a similar slow rhythm, chipping away with a series of one-run innings off consistent play by junior catcher Sarah Schneider, who took home Ivy League Player of the Week recognition for her performance against Columbia. A solo homer by Schneider at the top of the fifth then gave Penn a 3-1 lead. The Quakers later tacked on four more insurance runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
Sophomore outfielder Julia Mortimer finished the game 3-for-3, while Longo finished all seven innings, racking up five strikeouts en route to her second complete game of the season. The Quakers ended up winning by a convincing 7-2 margin.
Penn carried its momentum into the second game of the doubleheader, as Fiorentino hit a two-RBI double down the left-field line with two outs in the first inning.
But the offense soon dried up. Brown pitchers retired 13 straight Penn batters until the top of the sixth inning. Meanwhile, Brown stacked five runs in the fourth, and despite a home run by senior first baseman Julia Schneider in the seventh inning, Penn dropped the second game 9-3. The game marked Brown’s first conference win of the season.
Sunday’s game would decide whether the Quakers would return home with a series win, or whether they'd return home almost empty-handed. For Fiorentino, especially, who took the mound after playing as a position player during the earlier two games, the weekend was far from over.
“[In warm up], it was a little colder than I'm used to,” Fiorentino, a California native, said. “But I was pitching to Sarah Schneider and we noticed that my drop ball was moving really well and that I was sort of on from bullpen.”
Fiorentino worked through the Brown lineup with ease. For the first 4.1 innings, Fiorentino didn’t give up a single hit; for the remaining 2.2, she gave up only two and struck out five over the course of a complete game shut-out.
“We rode it out,” Fiorentino said. “We were like, ‘Okay, one pitch at a time, one out at a time.’ I knew I had a really good defense behind me, I knew that we were going to hit whatever pitcher that we threw. SO it was up to me to pretty much put the ball over the plate and get some outs.”
The Penn offense wasn’t remarkably productive, but it didn’t have to be. In the spirit of “go big or go home,” all of Penn’s runs were scored through the home run, including one from Mortimer and two from Sarah Schneider — a name that’s becoming familiar.
“Sarah Schneider’s an absolute stud,” Fiorentino said. “That girl has an amazing work ethic.”
Penn won the game 3-0 and the series 2-1. Mortimer and Schneider were named to the Ivy League’s honor roll, while Fiorentino won Ivy League Pitcher of the Week recognition, not only pitching a two-hit complete-game shutout but also batting 3-for-7 with 2 RBI on the weekend.
“[Being a two-way player is ] honestly really fun. I've tried to make it as tough on [coach Leslie King] as I can to not pull me out of this lineup,” Fiorentino said. “And that's been my mentality. I love playing this game, and I'm going to take any opportunity, whether it's at third, at first, on the mound, or whether I'm just hitting to be a part of, you know, what we do at Penn softball.”
The Quakers will face Lehigh at Penn Park this Wednesday, where they'll look to keep this momentum alive.