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Now-senior outfielder Brianna Brown loads her stance against Princeton on April 2, 2023.

Credit: Nathaniel Sirlin

For the first time this season, Penn softball brought out the brooms.

After securing two wins against Coppin State (4-7) in the first two games of the series, the Quakers (5-8) entered the third game looking to make a statement with its first series win of the season, completing the sweep against the Eagles with an 11-3 win.

The third game began on a rough note, with junior right-handed pitcher Payton Bean facing challenges in the first inning, giving up consecutive runs that quickly put the Quakers at a 3-0 deficit. However, the Quakers swiftly responded, highlighted by senior outfielder Brianna Brown's triple, which paved the way for a run, narrowing the gap and making the score 3-1.

In a scoreless second inning, the top of the third saw freshman outfielder Megan Huang dominate the field, playing a pivotal role for the Red and Blue to ensure that the Eagles remained scoreless. Huang made all three outs and showed signs of good things to come for the team's play on the defensive end. 

After the rocky start, the defense settled into the game. After pitching two more innings, Bean made way for sophomore right-handed pitcher Kelly Zybura. This substitution proved to be a significant one as the Quakers held the Eagles hitless in the fourth inning with three consecutive and fast outs. Penn's resilience on defense after letting up three early runs was rewarded by the bats finally waking up in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Coach Christie Novatin reflects on Zybura’s performance, saying “I thought she prepared herself really well and came in and just executed what she does well, so I was really proud of Kelly and her teammates were super excited about how sharp she came out and loved how [she] just shut down the momentum really quickly, which is what we need from her in that situation. But it was cool to see her also continue that momentum through the game. So I thought was a great outing for her.” 

The Quakers quickly got to work in the bottom of the fourth, cutting into the lead that Coppin State held. Junior infielder Madison Bauerle's massive triple brought in a runner, setting the stage for the rest of the inning. With Bauerle positioned to score, Huang's strategic grounder to the left erased the deficit, evening the score at 3-3.

At the top of the fifth inning, Zybura continued throwing heat, recording consecutive strikeouts to keep the Eagles off the bases. Building on this momentum, the Quakers capitalized in the bottom half of the inning. With two outs, freshman infielder Chloe Lesko hit a double, setting two runners up in scoring position. Senior utility player Katie Reagan then found a gap, driving in both runners to advance the Quakers' lead to 5-3. Reagan moved to third and was brought home by senior outfielder Julia Mortimer's single, extending the lead to 6-3. Mortimer would proceed to score on Bauerle's double.

In the top of sixth, Zybura struggled as she allowed back to back walks. With one out, her teammates came in clutch, highlighted by an insane jump catch by Reagan on second plate and a diving catch by Brown, keeping the Eagles scoreless after the first inning. In the bottom of the sixth inning, senior Sammy Fenton's strategic bunt allowed Brown to score from third, pushing the score to 8-3 in favor of the Quakers. Following this, with Fenton and Montgomery on second and third, Reagan's right-field single drove both runners home, widening the lead to 10-3. 

NCAA softball rules dictate that if one team is up by eight or more runs after five innings, the game can be ended early. With Reagan in scoring position, Mortimer rocketed off a single that brought Reagan home. Reagan scored the Quakers' 11th run of the day and effectively ended the game. After a double play and a routine fly out in the top of the sixth inning, the sweep was Penn's. The win by the run rule also wrapped up the team's first series win and first series sweep of the season. 

“This weekend was the first time that we put everything together," Reagan said. "The second game on Friday, we started to string our offense, our defense, our pitching, and our base running all together... this was the first time I would say this weekend we kind of strung it all together on our own field, which was a really cool opportunity, and [we] were able to succeed in all four categories which was really awesome.”

With the team now on a three game win streak, Novatin talks about carrying this momentum, especially through conference play down the stretch. 

“We took a lot of the things that we learned from our losses and executed so it was an exciting three game series for us just because I know we've been very eager to get those wins," Novatin said. "I thought we did a really good job of finishing the game, finishing Sunday with a run says a lot about the momentum that I think we have left in the tank, so it was really good to kind of put it all out there."

Penn softball will take the field again on March 20 at 3:00 p.m. in Newark, DE for the team's first of three games against Delaware.