PROVIDENCE, R.I. — When Penn baseball made the nearly five-hour trek to Providence, R.I. to face off with Brown, the team brought with them one very important item: the brooms.
In yet another crucial Ivy League tilt, the Quakers (20-11, 9-3 Ivy) brought their best, sweeping the Bears (7-21, 4-8) over the course of a three-game series. The wins showcased Penn’s ability to not only gain leads quickly, but also hold them — carrying the team into first place in the Ivy League and giving the Quakers a record of 8-1 over their last nine Ancient Eight matchups.
“We go up to Dartmouth and get a sweep, we get two out of three against Princeton … we’re starting to get some consistency,” coach John Yurkow said. “This is why you coach — for the joy, the excitement this time of year.”
Under the common theme of victory, each game in the series told a unique story for the Red and Blue. Friday’s game had all the makings of a drubbing by Penn, despite early struggles by senior left-handed pitcher Owen Coady. Coady walked three in the first inning, but the Quaker fielders and hitters backed him up — holding Brown scoreless and opening up a 6-0 lead in the top of the seventh inning.
Then, the Bears stormed back in the bottom of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, part of a 13-7 advantage in total hits on the day. Though Brown got the tying run to first base in the bottom of the ninth, the Quaker bullpen ultimately did just enough to hold on for a 6-4 victory.
That scrape with defeat set the stage for Penn to flex their muscles in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. The Quakers shelled Brown's starting pitcher, hitting into every gap and capitalizing on every Bears mistake en route to a 6-0 lead before the end of the second inning. On the mound for Penn, junior right-handed pitcher Cole Zaffiro delivered a gem of his own, striking out four Brown batters over six scoreless innings.
Again, the Bears would not go away. As the scoreboard flashed a bleak 11-0 in the bottom of the eighth, Brown refused to fold — rallying for six runs on six hits and narrowing Penn’s advantage to five. But with two runs in the top of the ninth and a pristine effort on defense, the Quakers again quelled the Bears’ comeback hopes, taking the win 13-6.
“You get up early, I guess it’s human nature to have a little bit of a letdown,” Yurkow said of the team’s ability to withstand Brown’s late runs. “But one of the nice things is, when you get out early with the lead, we pitch really well. Starting pitching was really good all weekend, [Zaffiro] threw well.”
Finally, with a seat atop the conference standings on the line, the series’ final game was ruled by one name: Ryan Drombroski. Fresh off breaking the program record for strikeouts with 15 last week against Princeton, the sophomore right-handed pitcher again terrorized opposing batters with his pitches. Drombroski — equipped with his fearsome slider — mowed through the Bears’ lineup with furious precision, as cheers of “Drombo!” filled the stands, growing louder with every strikeout.
There was nothing to close, because the door was never open — Drombroski made sure of it.
“As soon as you get out there, coach always stresses to work ahead, stay ahead, just fill up the zone,” Dromboski said. “I knew these guys weren’t going to be a team to be taken lightly. Coach was on one with the strike calling. I loved the pitch selection that he chose, and obviously the slider is my best pitch, so it’s really nice to be able to do it.”
Drombroski allowed just three hits and one run in his complete-game effort, striking out 12 Bears in the process. While the Quakers were not as hot at the plate as they had been in game two, home runs from Henseler — his fourth in the last four games — and senior infielder Cole Palis were all the offense they needed to secure the 4-1 victory.
From Zaffiro and Dromboski’s heroics to the team’s composure in the face of Brown’s late surges, Penn has a lot to celebrate as the team returns home from Providence and looks ahead to the games to come.
“It’s really good,” Dromboski said of Penn’s new place atop the Ivy. “We just gotta keep it rolling. I’m happy with the guys. We’re all starting to heat up — offense is starting to get going, the pitching staff are bringing it all together. We’re going to be a threat to anyone if we just keep on working together.”