PHILADELPHIA - The Quakers return to the friendly confines of the Meiklejohn Stadium this weekend when they host Princeton in a pivotal four-game set against the Tigers.
The Red and Blue opening the series on Friday with a doubleheader beginning at noon and then are scheduled to play the second doubleheader on Sunday. Penn enters the weekend with a 15-12 record and a 6-2 mark in the Ivy League while the Tigers come into town sporting a 12-15 record and six wins in league play.
Eight games into their 20-game Ivy schedule, the Quakers find themselves tied atop the Lou Gehrig division with Princeton, as both have 6-2 league records. Both teams went 4-0 in the opening weekend of the year and 2-2 last weekend. Princeton won both its games against Harvard but dropped a pair to Dartmouth while the Red and Blue split with both Yale and Brown. Columbia, last year's division winner, sits in third with a 3-5 record and they play 2-6 Cornell in a four-game set this weekend.
Last Time Out: An
The Red and Blue went 2-2 in Ivy action last weekend, winning the first game each day and losing consecutive nightcaps. Penn beat Yale 2-0 to open the weekend behind a seven-hit shutout from the combo of senior Paul Cusick and freshman Cody Thomson, as Cusick went eight innings with 11 strikeouts and Thomson went the final two to get the win. However, Penn lost the second game 13-6. On Sunday the Quaker offense exploded for 14 runs against Brown to support junior Vince Voiro in a 14-5 win. In the second game, sophomore John Beasley had the best start of his young career, going 7.0 innings with six strikeouts and two earned runs. The Penn offense struggled to support the righty scoring once in the seventh and the eighth to tie up the game. However, in the bottom of the eighth the Bears scored a pair of runs and held off the Red and Blue in the top of the ninth to earn the 4-2 victory.
Scouting the Quakers
Penn has one of the most potent offenses in the league, ranking third in batting average (.287) and second in slugging percentage (.427) and on-base percentage (.375). The Red and Blue also lead the league with 21 home runs - five more than second place Cornell - and are second in doubles with 52. Five Quakers are now hitting over .300 on the season led by senior Jeremy Maas and his .394 average. He also leads the team in slugging (.606), on-base percentage (.463), hits (43), runs (25), home runs (5), steals (9). Junior Derek Vigoa is now second on the team in hitting with a .313 average. The shortstop has 31 hits, 16 runs, a team-high 21 RBI and has only struck out six times in 99 at-bats this season, tops in the Ivy League. Freshman Brandon Engelhardt (.308), Greg Zebrack (.308) and Will Davis (.308) are also hitting over .300 this year.
On the Hill
The Quakers have been led by a pair of upperclassmen arms this spring. Senior Paul Cusick is having the best season of his career, having already established career highs for innings (45.2) and strikeouts (55). The 55 K's lead the Ivy League and he also has a 2.36 ERA, having only allowed more than two runs in two starts this season. Junior Vince Voiro has been nearly as impressive, sporting a 3-3 record overall with wins in each of his last two starts. For the season he has a 3.29 ERA with three complete games, 55 strikeouts and 20 walks in 41.0 innings of work. Junior Chris McNulty has struggled in his last two starts and owns a 1-3 record with a 6.11 ERA on the season. However, he is 2-0 against Princeton in his career with a miniscule 0.56 ERA. In two starts he has gone 16.0 innings, allowing just 11 hits and one earned run while striking out ten. Sophomore John Beasley should also get the ball for one of the four games this weekend. Last weekend he went 7.1 innings, striking out six and giving up two earned runs in Penn's 4-2 loss to Brown. He is 1-0 in his career against Princeton after going 7.0 innings and allowing the Tigers just three hits.
On the Hill
Out of the Pen
One key to the Quakers success has been the late game pitching of their relievers. Leading that contingent is freshman Cody Thomson. The righty has been the team's closer since they got back from Florida didn't give up an earned run in his first 17 innings of work. That streak ended on Sunday against Brown; however, Thomson still has a 3.16 ERA with 19 strikeouts and four walks in 25.2 innings. Junior Patrick Brennan and freshman Alex Ott have also been invaluable out of the pen. Brennan has a career-best 4.82 ERA in 18.2 innings with 12 strikeouts and just two walks. Ott, meanwhile, allowed a run in his last appearance, but had tossed 3.1 scoreless innings in his last three appearances.
Scouting the Tigers
Hitting: Princeton enters the weekend hitting .268 and slugging .369 with a .344 on-base percentage. The Tigers has three players who are hitting over .300 this season, led by Mike Ford. Ford is batting .340 with 33 hits, five doubles, 18 runs and 19 RBI. Sophomore Matt Bowman is third on the team with a .310 average and leads the team with 35 hits and 22 runs, but lacks much power as evidenced by one extra base hit this year. Catcher Sam Mulroy provides the power for Princeton, slugging .559 with six doubles, three triples and five home runs.
Pitching: The Tigers has a number of talented young arms to throw against the Quakers this weekend. On the season the staff has a 5.42 ERA, but have by much better in league play with a tidy 2.20 ERA in eight Ivy games. Leading the way is the quartet of Mike Ford, Zak Herman, Matt Bowman and Matt Grabowski. Ford is 1-0 with a 0.57 ERA in two Ivy League starts after tossing 15.2 innings with just one earned run, two walks and 11 strikeouts. Hermans and Bowman are both 2-0 in league play with a pair of starts. Hermans has a 1.80 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 15.0 innings while Bowman has a 3.21 ERA with 13 strikeouts and no walks in 14.0 innings. Princeton's last starter, Grabowski has a 5.06 ERA with a 0-1 ERA and five strikeouts in 10.2 innings.
The Quakers took three of four from the Tigers in Princeton last year. Then senior Todd Roth, Beasley and McNulty all earned wins and went at least six innings. The Red and Blue lost the opener of the series, 8-7, but came back to win the nightcap 13-7. The next day McNulty went 7.0 innings as Penn on 8-1 and then finished off Princeton 14-3 in the final game of the series. Seniors Dan Williams and Adrian Lorenzo each went 6-for-18 (.333) over the four games and Jeremy Maas added a pair of home runs and three doubles for the Red and Blue.
Trending: Last 10
Senior catcher Will Davis is hitting .459 over his last ten games with a .892 slugging percentage and .565 on-base percentage. Over that span he is leading the team with 16 runs, seven doubles, three home runs and is second with 12 RBI. He has also been stead behind the plate, throwing out eight potential base stealers during that span. Classmate Paul Cusick has also been lights out during that span, tossing 16.0 straight scoreless innings. In three appearances he has 25 strikeouts, eight walks and allowed just seven singles and one double.
Trending: Last 5
The Quakers went 3-2 last week, hitting .289 as a team. Greg Zebrack went 8-for-16 and slugged .938 with a team-best six RBI over that span. He also walked six times for an impressive .636 on-base percentage. Junior Derek Vigoa matched Zebrack with six RBI and finished with a .389 average. He finished 7-for -18 without a strikeout on the week.