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Credit: Nathaniel Babitts

Last year it was rain, this year it was a mound malfunction — the Quakers can't seem to catch a break when it comes to the second round of the Ivy League Tournament.

Penn baseball's second-round matchup versus Cornell was delayed to Sunday, similar to their second-round matchup against Harvard last year that was delayed a day, due to what the Ivy League reported as "a field maintenance issue on the mound." This field dysfunction led the Ivy League to move the rest of the playoffs away from Columbia's home field, and instead to Montclair State University's Yogi Berra Stadium in New Jersey. Marching on to face Cornell, Penn dropped its first match and fell into the loser's bracket. Despite this setback, the Quakers rallied in their second game of the afternoon against Princeton off the bat of freshman first baseman Nick Spaventa to earn themselves a place in the Ivy League Tournament final.

“Nick specifically got off to a great start to the season, and then he dealt with a lot of back and hip problems,” coach John Yurkow said. “I think a lot of his success has just been just being closer to 100% than before."

Ethan Hamill was the starting pitcher sent out by Cornell. Hamill struggled in his last performance against the Quakers, and he picked up right where he left off in the second inning of today's match.

A hit from senior outfielder Calvin Brown sent Penn's "swiss army knife," senior right-handed pitcher/infielder Carson Ozmer, flying headfirst into home for the affair's first run. A looping double hit by junior infielder Connor Chavez sent Brown home, and gave the Red and Blue an early 2-0 lead.

Both teams would trade scores, but the game was truly dominated by pitching. Junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Dromboski stood tall on the mound for the first six innings, striking down all those who dared oppose him. Late in the sixth, he showed cracks, allowing runners on second and third with one out, but two lighting-fast strikeouts sent his team to the seventh inning with clear skies ahead.

Soon after, back-to-back moon balls were launched into those same clear skies. These bombs were delivered by senior third baseman Wyatt Henseler, the reigning Ivy Player of The Year, and sophomore Davis Baker. With only one man on base between the two home runs, the Quakers could only run up their lead to 6-1 as the Big Red came up to bat in the bottom of the seventh.

Despite having already thrown well over 90 pitches in the game, Dromboski was kept in. This high usage finally caught up to the pitcher as he allowed a walk and an ensuing home run from Matt Barnhorst to shorten the Quaker lead to three. The Big Red would soon chase the Lion Man off the mound with two more hits, leaving junior left-handed pitcher Will Tobin with two men on. After another quick walk, freshman catcher Mark Quatrani stared down Tobin with the bases loaded. After a crack of the bat, every head in the stadium turned around to watch the lead-flipping grand-slam that Cornell just unloaded.

“His stuff was still good, it's one thing if his velocity is going down, but he was looking good,” Yurkow said in regards to Dromboski's performance. “The problem was giving them those freebies, letting people get on base."

After a deflating inning, Penn was unable to regain the lead and lost its second match of the tournament 7-6. With no time to mourn, the Quakers were scheduled to fight against Princeton in the loser's bracket only an hour later for the right to face off against Cornell in the final.

With plenty to be upset about after the last game's disappointing finish, Penn's batters were able to quickly take their frustrations out on Princeton's pitching. Following a walk from Chavez, singles from Henseler and Baker, and a sacrifice fly from sophomore outfielder Ryan Taylor, Penn found itself with another quick 2-0 lead.

Tobin was selected to start on the mound against Princeton and was able to keep a clean slate until the third inning where, in what felt like déjà vu, Tobin once again allowed a walk and an ensuing home run — this time to Caden Shapiro.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Josh Katz filled in for Tobin to get the last out of the third inning. Entering the fourth with a steely demeanor, Katz used a mixture of heat and finesse to strike out the side, leaving two Tigers staring at their feet. In the fifth inning, Katz found himself bases loaded and one out. Despite the precarious situation, Katz showed the Tigers his claws, preventing any runners from scoring with a pop fly and strikeout to end the inning.

With this swing of luck on the mound, the Red and Blue bats found themselves waking up as well. With two men on base, freshman first baseman Nick Spaventa hit a single into left field to earn himself the first of his four RBI's in the game. The lead didn't last long, though, as the Quakers once again found themselves on the wrong end of a two-run home run, giving Princeton a one-run lead.

Entering the seventh, the Quakers had a much easier time sitting down Princeton batters as senior right-handed pitcher Danny Heintz took the mound. To back up his performance, none other than Spaventa found himself as the difference maker once again. With Taylor on base, Spaventa took the lead from the Tigers by force, mashing a towering home run to flip the score to 5-4. 

"I think recently, I really started to put things together," Spaventa said. "I wasn't all there in the middle of the season, and by the end I was just feeling more myself."

In the ensuing innings, the Tigers had no response to Spaventa's scoring as senior right-handed pitcher Eli Trop, who was looking to earn himself another day of Quaker baseball, made mince meat of Princeton in the final innings. Penn would go on to win 9-4, earning themselves a rematch against Cornell in the Ivy League Championship.

The Quakers will play again Monday at 1:30 p.m in hopes of earning themselves a game seven match later that day. Having to cycle through a lot of their bullpen to beat Princeton, the Red and Blue have their work cut out for them if they want to conquer Cornell and earn a spot at regionals.