After a disastrous 0-16 start to season, Penn softball returned to Penn Park this weekend looking for a fresh start. But the team’s home and Ivy opener ultimately fell short, as the Quakers lost all three games to Harvard over the two days of play.
The Quakers (0-19, 0-3 Ivy) were no match for the Crimson’s (10-7-1, 3-0) offensive dominance, being outscored by at least six runs in all three games of the series. The sweep keeps Penn solidly at the bottom of Ivy standings as the team is still searching for its first win of this season. Interim coach Dani Gonzales has done her best to lead the team following the retirement of longtime coach Leslie King two months ago, but the struggles continue.
The Crimson got out to an early lead in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning. They would continue to build on that lead, adding on two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth — running away with the game. The Quaker bats were silent in response, only recording three hits — and no runs — in 24 at bats.
Despite the offensive struggles, sophomore right-handed pitcher Payton Bean threw an impressive relief performance to prevent the Crimson’s lead from growing out of control. In 3.1 innings, Bean held the Harvard offense to just two hits and one run while recording three strikeouts — closing out the game as the Quakers fell 6-0.
The second game of the doubleheader began the exact same way as the first, with Harvard swiftly taking the lead by scoring three runs in the first inning. Penn’s only run of the day came at the bottom of the third inning when sophomore infielder Madison Bauerle recorded a two-out base hit up the middle, and senior catcher Sarah Schneider followed that up with an RBI double that was barely contained by the left field wall.
Bauerle carried Penn’s offense throughout the game with three hits. Along with Schneider’s double, the two combined for Penn’s four total hits of the game — an improvement over the first game, but meager nonetheless. The Quaker defense continued to struggle as Harvard extended its lead bringing the score to 9-1 before a run-rule victory was called after six innings to end the day in Harvard's favor.
After dropping both games of the doubleheader, the Quakers headed into Sunday looking to avoid the series sweep. Harvard jumped to yet another 3-0 lead after Bean — Sunday’s starter — held the Crimson to one hit in the first two innings. Penn responded with a run of its own as freshman infielder Dani Freer scored on a wild pitch. The Crimson offense then exploded; a six-run fourth inning extended Harvard's lead to nine.
A sacrifice fly at the top of the fifth from Harvard's Allison Heffley positioned the Crimson for another rule-run victory, but the Quaker offense rallied back to keep the game alive. An RBI double from Freer and key baserunning from junior outfielder Julia Mortimer and junior utility player Katie Reagan put three more runs on the board for Penn.
Harvard responded with two more runs in the top of the sixth, but Bauerle answered back with a two-run RBI single to reduce the Crimson’s lead to six. Ultimately, the Quakers' efforts were unsuccessful as Harvard completed the sweep with a 12-6 win.
Central to the Crimson’s success this weekend was capitalizing on Quaker errors and aggressive baserunning. Most of Harvard’s scoring came as a result of multiple fielding errors on the Quakers, with the team recording three errors in each game. The Crimson also recorded seven stolen bases across the weekend, putting key runners in scoring position and aiding in the team’s extensive leads.
Despite the disappointing series result, the Quakers show promise as the season moves forward. Sunday’s game marked the fifth time this season that Penn scored 10 or more hits in a single game, and the third time where it recorded six runs.
The Quakers will look to turn things around with a doubleheader at Maryland Eastern Shore on Wednesday afternoon, where they’ll hope to pick up their first win of the season.