Auburndale, Fla. - The Penn baseball team jumped Fairfield starter Brett Shulick early on in Saturday night's contest and rode that lead the rest of the game, winning by a score of 7-3 at Lake Myrtle Park in the penultimate game of the team's Florida trip. Matt Gotschall went five innings to earn the win while Cody Thomson threw the final three innings to earn his first save of the season.
With a stiff evening breeze blowing in from right field to open the game, Penn manufactured an early lead thanks to a Fairfield error. Greg Zebrack hit a ground ball to third base but the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag and allowed Zebrack to reach. After a stolen base, Matt McKinnon singled Zebrack in with a shot into right field for the early 1-0 Quaker lead.
An inning later, Spencer Branigan connected on what would become the deciding hit of the ballgame. Penn loaded the bases with one away in the inning, and though the Stags would throw home on an infield ground ball to erase one run at home, Branigan made sure they paid before the frame was over. Smacking a high fly ball directly into the wind, Branigan got just enough on it to drop the ball past the outfielder playing shallow. A ball that would have left the park on nearly any other day, it was still deep enough to clear the bases and advance a hustling Branigan to third base for a 4-0 edge.
Another run in the top of the fourth for the Red and Blue seemed to be enough as Gotschall cruised through the first four innings, but the sophomore fell into some two-out trouble in the fifth. It all started with an innocuous throwing error that pulled McKinnon off the bag, allowing a runner to reach. But before it was all over, Fairfield had brought three runners around to score, making the game 5-3 and ending Gotschall's day at the close of the fifth.
Penn was quick to respond, putting men on 2nd and 3rd with one down in the sixth inning and scoring off a Derek Vigoa sac fly. From there, the bullpen did its job, shutting down the Fairfield attack for the final four innings. Chris McNulty pitched the sixth inning then handed the keys over to Thomson. The sophomore reliever struggled early in the seventh, loading the bases with none away, but two strikeouts sandwiched a pick-off from Austin Bossart to Rick Brebner at first to end the inning.
Pinch-hitter Mitch Montaldo added a bit of insurance in the ninth inning with a two-out single to left, scoring James Mraz from third for the 7-3 lead that Thomson made sure held up, recording the final three outs in the bottom half.
The Quakers wrap up their time in the state of Florida with an 11 a.m. game on Sunday against the North Dakota State Bison. Penn will then host its home opener on Wednesday at 3 p.m. against Big 5 rival, Temple.