Penn baseball picked up its fourth straight Ivy League series win in a weekend that saw everything from shutouts to walk-offs, and a couple of career highs too.
The series opened with an on-field celebration commemorating alumni and contributors to the recent renovation project that improved Penn's home of Tommy Lasorda Field at Meiklejohn Stadium. The series ended with even more celebration as Penn (23-12, 11-4 Ivy) picked up wins in two of three games against Yale (14-19, 8-7) — tightly holding on to its top spot in the conference standings.
The Quakers entered the matchup riding high on a six-game winning streak — before seeing it immediately snapped by a tough Bulldogs pitching staff.
“We’re a team that usually comes out strong,” junior third baseman Wyatt Henseler said. “There were so many hard hits [Saturday] and many good at bats, but things just weren’t going our way.”
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning that had the potential to spiral. However, quick thinking by Penn's defense turned a routine fly out to deep center into a double play, catching the runner trying to advance to second and ending the inning. In fact, game one was sprinkled with impressive defensive plays that kept damage to a minimum, and the lead within reach. With no outs and bases loaded in the sixth, the Bulldogs had the chance to more than double its lead. Yet, on another routine fly out — this time to right — junior outfielder Calvin Brown’s outfield assist was right on target, throwing out the advancing runner and keeping the score 2-0.
The Quakers struggled at the plate though, stranding nine runners on base without bringing a single one home. After the Bulldogs scored two more in the eighth to extend their lead to 4-0, Penn’s fate in game one was sealed.
The second contest in Saturday’s doubleheader may have been the team’s wildest win yet.
Junior right-handed pitcher Cole Zaffiro started for the Quakers, and went on to record a career-high 10 strikeouts in one of the toughest pitchers’ duels of the season.
Penn only managed three hits in game two, including a ninth-inning double from freshman infielder Davis Baker to safely reach base for the 16th straight game. In the same frame, Baker stole home on a bases-loaded wild pitch to secure the walk-off win for the Quakers — splitting Saturday’s doubleheader.
Unlike recent games where the team found success jumping out to early leads, the Red and Blue found themselves playing from behind on Saturday, desperately clawing to get ahead until the final moment.
“We just hung on until we got an opportunity late to win it,” coach John Yurkow said. “I thought we showed a little toughness because we were kind of flat for a while there.”
In more typical Quaker fashion, game three saw Penn snag a swift 7-0 lead after batting around the order in the first inning. It wasn’t until one of the Quaker bats fouled out behind the plate that the teams’ red-hot bats were halted, and the scrambling Bulldog bullpen was saved.
“The team came together and got the job done [Sunday],” senior infielder Cole Palis said. “Our pitching has been outstanding and we needed to back them up early; we can’t be on our heels all the time.”
Sunday was a multi-hit game for five Quakers, including Palis, who was just a homer shy of a cycle. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Ryan Dromboski had Bulldog batters chasing balls in the dirt just for the chance to make contact — allowing the only two hits and one run of the game. Despite several deep fly balls to the warning track, nothing threatened Penn’s lead.
The Quakers tacked on four more runs in the later innings off hits by senior catcher Jackson Appel and senior first baseman Ben Miller, and a two-run homer from Henseler. Given the abundant run support, the Penn bullpen had no trouble shutting down Yale to seal the 11-1 victory.
“We scored one run [Saturday] but we still managed to split the series,” Yurkow said. “It is crazy to think about it, yet it just goes to show that you never know what to expect. Sometimes you just need to wipe things clean and not overthink it; baseball is such a mental game,” Yurkow said.
The end of the regular season is quickly approaching, and so is the highly anticipated series against Columbia. But before Penn baseball can seek revenge, it must make its way through Rider, Cornell, and Delaware in the days to come.