Quakers finish 2003 season on three-game win streak.
May 20, 2003
A Slow Start
An unusually harsh winter forced the Quakers to stay indoors to practice and even managed to cancel the team's first three doubleheaders of the season against Fairleigh Dickinson, Wagner and Rider. Head Coach Carol Kashow and the Quakers had to wait to open their season during their annual trip to Orlando, Fla., where they competed in the Rebel Spring Games.
Despite not having officially played a game since October 2002, the Red and Blue came out swinging against Bucknell, defeating the Bison in five innings, 11-2, to open the Rebel Spring Games. The game saw freshman Jen Nichols (Cooper City, Fla.) record her first two collegiate doubles, senior Danielle Landolt (Trenton, Mich.) smack her first double of the season and freshman pitcher Gina Talley (Berwyn, Pa.) record her first collegiate win.
Unfortunately, that would be the last win for Penn over the next four games. During the stretch, freshman Meghan Cowen (Glen Burnie, Md.) recorded her first collegiate triple and three RBI against IUP-Fort Wayne. When the Quakers did break out of their slump, they picked none other than the regionally-ranked Orangewomen of Syracuse to do it against. The game went all the way to the eighth inning before being decided, 4-3, in favor of the Red and Blue. The international tie-breaker rule was put in effect and the Red and Blue put sophomore Kristi Hackett (Torrance, Calif.) on second to produce the winning run for Penn. A sacrifice hit by Landolt moved Hackett to third and a screamer send to third by senior Crista Farrell (Burlington, N.J.) sent Hackett over the plate for the 4-3 win.
Picking up Steam
A string of three close games held Penn winless again before it picked up a 5-1 victory over Niagara. Nichols recorded another double, sophomore Zahya Hantz (Hellertown, Pa.) had a perfect 3-for-3 day and freshman Marissa Brassfield (N. Hollywood, Calif.) went on to pick up her first collegiate win on the mound.
With two games left on their Florida schedule, the Quakers split their final contests at the Rebel Spring Games, falling to Austin Peay, 3-1, and then edging out Butler, 4-3. The game against Butler saw Farrell and junior Erin O'Brien (St. James, N.Y.) smash their first triples of the season. The Quakers returned to Philadelphia with a 4-8 record but gained a strong belief in their potential after finally seeing themselves in action.
Home At Last
Old man winter would halt one more of the Red and Blue's games before leaving Philadelphia, cancelling the matchup between Penn and crosstown rival La Salle. Finally, the Quakers got to open play at Warren Field against Delaware in late March. However, after defeating Delaware, 4-3, in a 10-inning game one, the Fightin' Blue Hens decided to live up to their name and battled the home team for a split on the day.
Game two of the doubleheader was halted by darkness after going a marathon 14 ½ innings of action. Junior Nicki Borgstadt (Lenexa, Kan.) went the distance on the mound in game two, recalling memories of why she received an honorable mention nod for All-Ivy League after hurling over 200 innings last year.
Despite some great efforts, the Red and Blue would split their next doubleheader with Lafayette before falling into a 12-game slump, including five games where the team was edged by just one run. A ray of brighter things to come shined during Penn's doubleheader with Columbia.
Turning the Corner
After dropping game one to the Lions, 3-0, Hantz was the spark that lit the Red and Blue's fire, as she recording her second double of the day. Back-to-back costly errors moved Nichols and sophomore Kimberly Lê (Camden, N.J.) around the bases, scoring Lê and putting the Quakers up, 2-0. A single by Lê later in the game scored O'Brien, which gave Penn the 3-1 win. It was the first Ivy League win of the season for Penn. However with six more conference games on the schedule, the Quakers were looking forward to earning a few more 'W's' before the close of the season. The race to the top of the Ivy League was still a tight one with no clear leader at that point during the season.
Unfortunately, the Quakers were overpowered by the depth of their next conference opponent, Cornell, and dropped a pair of games to the Big Red. In their final non-conference matchup of the season, perennial regional powerhouse Villanova also handed the Red and Blue two losses.
The Quakers just missed their second Ivy win of the season as they held the Big Green to a tight scoring game before a Dartmouth homerun put them ahead for good, 5-2. A solo homerun by Farrell, her first of the season, was not enough to push the Red and Blue to a win in the nightcap and they fell, 8-1.
Finally with three games left on the schedule, two of them against Ivy foe Harvard, the Quakers dug down deep as they had been implored to do throughout the season by Kashow. They dug individually and collectively to find what had been standing between them and a win and managed to accomplish a new feat in the Kashow era - winning both games of a doubleheader against an Ivy League opponent.
Senior Rebecca Ranta (Old Greenwich, Conn.) threw a four-hitter in the first game against Harvard, and both Farrell and Hackett went 2-for-3 in the game to help Penn grab the 4-2 win. Rookie Katie Hughes (Saddle Brook, N.J.) went 1-for-1 with a RBI after coming in to relieve senior Erica Miller (Silver Spring, Md.) at first base. The nightcap saw the Red and Blue keep up the pace with Cowen leading the way with a double and two RBI to help push Penn to a 6-4 win over the Crimson.
With one game remaining on the schedule, the Quakers finished strong with a 3-2 eight-inning victory over Drexel to close out the 2003 season at Warren Field.
All of the hard work on and off the field had finally paid off when the Quakers closed their season on a three-game win streak. Penn had two All-Ivy League honorable mention selections in Hantz and Cowen. And the team continued to excel in the classroom with Farrell earning her second-consecutive Division II Verizon Academic All-America nod.
With the addition of 11 freshmen student-athletes to the roster and the loss of only four seniors, the Red and Blue have the experience, strength and depth to make a run to the top of the Ivy League in 2004.