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Now-junior pitcher Ryan Dromboski pitches against Brown on Apr. 15, 2023.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Penn baseball played and lost its first series of the season this past weekend. Despite the result of their first four games, there were plenty of positives as the team kicked off their 2024 season.

Playing at Abilene Christian University, the Quakers opened up their season down in the Texan heat. Penn (1-3) would end up dropping three of four versus the red-hot Wildcats (6-3), a team who already had a week of in-game action.

Starting off the series on Friday, the Quakers unloaded their best one-two punch on the mound in the form of reigning Ivy League Pitcher of the Year junior Ryan Dromboski and All-Ivy honorable mention senior Carson Ozmer. Throughout the first eight and a half innings, this duo only allowed two runs, but it was late in the ninth where the game derailed. With only three outs needed to secure the win, the Quakers let up a game-winning, two-run, walk-off home run off the bat of Wildcats designated hitter DJ Van Hatten. Despite the problematic situational pitching, there were more pressing problems all around in the first match.

“I think we struck out a lot, like, too many times, especially with runners in scoring position, that's what really hurt us in the first game,” Coach John Yurkow said. “You know, I felt like if we would have made some better decisions we would have probably won that game … I think we're probably up three or four runs going into the last inning if we would have run the bases a little bit better.”

Moving onto Saturday, the Quakers faced a tough double header. In the first match, the Quakers received a beat down in the form of a 10-4 score, in a game where Penn’s pitching was caught lacking once again. A combined seven runs in the fifth and seventh innings alone proved to be too large of a hole for the team to dig themselves out of. Despite the loss, junior transfer Connor Chavez showed out, finishing 4-5 from the leadoff spot.

“Grew up with Carson [Ozmer], great glue guy, and meshes super well,” senior third baseman Wyatt Henseler said. “Every good team has a good lead-off hitter… It seems like Chavez is gonna fit that role well.”

In the second game, the Red and Blue clawed away a win on the back of some unlikely and impressive performances from two freshmen. Freshmen Josh Katz and Marty Coyne both appeared on the mound for the second game and combined for a total of two earned runs through seven innings. Katz started off the game and pitched a shutout with five strikeouts, and Coyne finished the game with the save and four strikeouts of his own.

“People come and go, and you'll see some freshmen get a chance to step up for the team,” Henseler said.  “Both Katz and Coyne, it was awesome to see them smiling after the game. They both did great.”

With a chance to split the series on Sunday, the Quakers once again faced difficulties on the mound. Letting up nine runs, the Red and Blue offense failed to make up the difference. Despite the loss, another rookie seemed to step up for the team. Freshman Nick Pavetta led the offense with three hits, one of which being his first career home run. 

“I felt like we were prepared to come down here, but you don't know because the young guys - obviously they're excited,” said Yurkow. “They might have been a little nervous to start the season, but I thought they did a pretty good job throughout the series.”

Despite the less-than-ideal series result, there were plenty of diamonds in the rough that began to shine their way out of the dirt, the largest of which being sophomore Davis Baker. Baker ended the series leading the Ivies in total hits with eight, and a .471 batter average to start his second season. Overall, with four freshmen, a transfer player in the one hole, and four sophomores all getting significant playing time, it was expected that there would be some difficulties coming out the gate.

“We needed to set the tone, and we as seniors didn’t do that,” Henseler said. “We had a lot of growing pains, some highs and lows, it's just important that we go out and improve.”

Looking ahead, the team will travel next to Spartansburg, South Carolina where they will take on U of SC upstate. Building off of the elite performances from their younger players, the Red and Blue hope to get back in the saddle as their road trip continues. As soon as the players grow more comfortable in their roles, and the team figures out their identity, the Quakers will begin to flash their form from their Title winning team last season.

“Our lineup is a little inexperienced right now, but you know, all in all, it was good to get them out there,” Yurkow said. “Got them some D1 experience, and I think we know what we need to improve on going in or our next series.”