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Sophomore outfielder Ryan Taylor loads his stance against Brown on Mar. 24.

Credit: Nathaniel Sirlin

As the weather finally starts to warm up, so do the Quakers as Penn baseball swept Brown in its first Ivy League action of the year. Becoming the first team in the Ancient Eight to reach an above .500 record, the Red and Blue have finally found its footing for the 2024 campaign.

Facing off at home on Tommy Lasorda field in Meiklejohn Stadium, Penn (11-9) won all three of the games in the series against Brown (4-13). This sweep marks five straight wins, and eight wins in the last nine games for the Quakers. 

The series started off with a doubleheader, with the first pitcher of the day being senior Cole Zaffiro. Coming off with a home win in which he struck out nine batters and earned Ivy League Pitcher of the Week, Zaffiro decided to one-up himself (and his career record) by recording a career high 11 strikeouts in a dominant seven inning outing. Only allowing two hits and a walk, Zaffiro’s lights-out pitching would give senior pitcher Carson Ozmer an easy job, retiring the game in the eighth and ninth for the win.

The Red and Blue bats also did their part by scoring all four runs of the game in the third inning, taking advantage of a lead-off walk with three straight hits — the final of which was the ninth home run of the year for senior Wyatt Henseler.

The second game of the doubleheader saw a much more competitive match that reached two extra innings of overtime. Both teams brought their ‘A’ game, but it was Penn who reached an early start-off of a thunderous homer in the first from sophomore Davis Baker. This was immediately followed by another Baker run as he brought home freshman Gavin Collins for a 2-0 lead off of a double. The inning ended 3-0 as freshman Nick Spaventa walked with the bases loaded.

Junior pitcher Ryan Dromboski was able to secure the lead for five innings, only letting up two runs as the Bears attempted a comeback. As the Lion Man was taken off the mound and sophomore Jake Moss took over, the Quakers quickly let up another run to find themselves tied at 3-3. 

From there, the slug fest raged on with Penn scoring once in the bottom of the sixth and Brown returning the favor in the top of the seventh. Reaching the ninth inning, the Quakers pulled ahead once again off of a double from junior catcher Asa Wilson. With only a half inning left, Penn found itself needing one out as senior pitcher Eli Trop knocked down the first two batters in the final frame. As the final batter knocked a ball out into center field, sophomore Ryan Taylor was unable to coral the pop fly as Brown tied the game. 

Taylor, unwavering after his mistake late in the ninth, ended up the hero late in the final inning as he walked off Brown with an RBI single to left field in overtime. Finding the ultimate redemption at the plate, the team rushed the field to celebrate their first Ivy series win of the year. 

“It was some of the most fun baseball we played in a long time,” Dromboski said after the game.

“The team really did rally around Ryan Taylor the other day and we’re gonna continue to do that,” interim manager Josh Schwartz said after the series. “This culture is supportive, unselfish, and we’re here for the Quakers to win baseball games.”

With the last game coming on the ensuing Sunday, the Quakers seemed ready for another ugly slug fest. Despite early hitting struggles, a pair of wild pitches took the Quaker lead from 2-1 to 4-1 early in the final game as Henseler and Spaventa slid home. This was coupled by freshman pitcher Josh Katz holding down the fort for the first five, continuing an impressive first season by only allowing one run. 

Past Katz, the mound got quite shaky for the Quakers as junior Tommy Delany and sophomore John Cerwinski struggled to keep the plates clean. Delany was pulled early after allowing a run in under one inning pitched, and Cerwinski had to pitch himself out of a pinch in the seventh as he let the bases get loaded.

With the match standing at 4-3, and Penn needing some breathing room, Henseler did what he does best by blasting a solo home run over the 368 feet mark in left center field. Notching his tenth home run in only 20 games, Henseler looks to follow his 2023 First Team All-Ivy campaign with an even stronger performance. 

Leading the league in home runs, runs scored, runs batted in, and being top five in a plethora of other statistics, Henseler continues to be every bit as dominant as he has been in previous seasons.

“Wyatt’s talent is undeniable and it continues to show up, but it's his leadership that has really taken another step forward this year,” Shwartz said. “He's a calm driving force of the group which emits confidence.”

Entering the ninth, Ozmer was looked toward to clean up the game (and series) once again. After one out, two batters were able to reach base. Despite the uneasy situation, Ozmer once again cleaned house and secured the victory for the Quakers.

Hitting its stride at just the right time, Penn baseball looks to grow as its culture carries the team to wins.

“I think we’re galvanizing a bit from a culture standpoint, and squeaking out some closer wins, specifically league wins, that helps us push forward,” Shwartz said. “There's still probably some really good baseball left on the plate that we’re gonna continue to push for, but we've got some uptick in good baseball.”

The team looks ahead to their next match versus Delaware in the Liberty Bell classic, which can be viewed on ESPN+ this upcoming Tuesday at 3 pm.