PHILADELPHIA - Winners of eight of the last 10, the Penn baseball team will make the always-difficult road trip to Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend, looking to keep pace in a crowded Lou Gehrig Division race. All four teams in the Gehrig Division went 3-1 last weekend (at 2-2, Brown leads the Red Rolfe Division) and this set of doubleheaders marks the end of cross-divisional play until the Ivy League Championship Series in May. Penn will meet Dartmouth on Saturday for a pair beginning at 12 p.m. and will close out with a twinbill at Harvard on Sunday beginning at 12 p.m.
Last Time Out
The Quakers made history on Tuesday with a 9-4 win on the road at La Salle. With the victory, Penn assured itself of a first-ever trip to Citizens Bank Park to take on St. Joseph's in the championship game of the Liberty Bell Classic. Ryan Deitrich powered the Red and Blue into the final with a 3-for-4, four RBI day at the plate, including a massive drive out to left for a two-run homer in the seventh inning. Rick Brebner was 2-for-4, including a home run of his own. Matt Gotschall worked into the sixth inning to move to 2-2 on the season.The championship contest is set for April 17 at 7:30 p.m. and much more info is yet to come in the days ahead.
Following This Weekend's Action
Live stats for Saturday's games at Dartmouth can be accessed here, while Harvard will provide live stats of Sunday's contests here. For pictures and inning-by-inning updates all weekend long, follow @pennbaseball. In addition, those with subscriptions to the Penn Sports Network can watch live video of the Dartmouth doubleheader here.
About the Big Green
Dartmouth enters the weekend at 5-13 with a 1-3 record through one weekend of Ivy League action. Riding a national-best 26-game home win streak at Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park, the Big Green have gone nearly two full years since losing at home. The last team to beat them? In the first game of a doubleheader on April 11, 2010, Penn rode a complete game from Vince Voiro and pounded out 13 hits on its way to a 9-5 win. The second game between the teams went 11 innings and Dartmouth held on for a 3-2 victory. They've been untouchable since.
Offense: Junior Ennis Coble leads the full-time starters for the Big Green with a .393 batting average. Senior Jake Carlson is behind him at .308 and just hit for a cycle in Dartmouth's last game, a 12-4 win over St. Anselm on Wednesday. Senior shortstop Joe Sclafani is the only player on the team to have started every game and will likely bat lead-off. With just 10 stolen bases as a team, Dartmouth doesn't cause much pressure with its feet, so Penn pitchers will have to record outs the old-fashioned way rather than letting Austin Bossart (14 runners caught stealing) cut down anyone who is on the move.
Pitching: Dartmouth has established some clearly-defined roles for its pitching staff. Of the ten players who have appeared for the team, only five have started and the weekend starters have pitched 16 of the Big Green's 18 games. Penn will be up against a pair of lefties in Mitch Horacek and Adam Frank on Saturday. Frank shut down Princeton in an 8-2 win last week to move to 2-1 on the season but has an ERA hovering just below 6.00. Thomas Olson has made seven appearances out of the bullpen and has a team-leading ERA of 2.70.
About the Crimson
At 4-19, the record doesn't begin to accurately tell the story for Harvard. Out of those losses, 11 have come by two or less runs and the team's most recent game was a 5-3 win over ACC opponent Boston College. The Crimson opened the season with three losses at #7 Arizona, followed that by falling in three of four to #19 Stetson (who Penn lost its season-opener to), and ended its time in Florida with three-game sweeps at the hands of Bethune-Cookman and #14 Central Florida. Returning north, Harvard lost four games by a total of five runs to Army before starting to get things turned around with wins in three of the last six. The Crimson will play two with Columbia on Saturday before meeting Penn.
Offense: Although few players have eye-popping numbers for the Crimson, their consistency from 1-9 is the biggest strength of the offense. 10 starters or semi-regulars hit at .250 clips or better, with four being above. 310. Sophomore Steve Dill is the team leader in the category at .343. Mike Martin and Zach Boden, with seven and six stolen bases, provide a threat on the basepaths.
Pitching: Despite the quality opposition they've faced, the number of close games that Harvard has been involved in keeps its numbers fairly in line with what the opposition has posted. As a team, the Crimson are only eight points behind in team batting average (.274-.266) and 12 points behind in slugging (.349-.337). The only number that skews heavily is on-base pct., where Harvard is 70 points below its opponents (.401-.331), due to a high number of walks and hit batters. Andrew Ferreira (4.76 ERA, .177 opponents' BA) and Tanner Anderson (6.75 ERA) were the Sunday starters a week ago when the Crimson lost two to Princeton.
Voiro will likely start one of the two games for Penn on Saturday and that bodes well for the Red and Blue. Penn's senior ace has won his last four starts and thrown three complete games in that time, shrinking his ERA to an Ivy League-best 1.60. His 36 strikeouts also lead the Ancient Eight.
Man on Fire
Greg Zebrack earned Ivy League and Big 5 Player of the Week honors earlier this week after a stretch of five games in which he went 10-for-17 from the plate with 10 RBI, including 3-for-3 with seven RBI in Penn's Liberty Bell Classic quarterfinal win over Villanova. The junior outfielder continued to haunt opposing pitching in Tuesday's win over La Salle with a 3-for-4 game that included two doubles, a stolen base and two runs scored.
After eliminating La Salle from the Liberty Bell Classic, the Explorers will be looking for vengeance when they make the trip to Meiklejohn Stadium for a Wednesday afternoon contest with the Quakers. That game will get going at 3 p.m. Penn is back out on the road next weekend with a four-game series at Princeton that will play a large role in determining the Gehrig Division race.