PHILADELPHIA – After 14 games on the road or at neutral sites, Penn plays a baseball game on its home field for the first time since Feb. 28 on Wednesday when the Quakers host Philadelphia rival, Villanova, at Meiklejohn Stadium at 3 p.m.
The game will be broadcast live by Penn Athletics over the internet. You can access the audio broadcast of the game by clicking here.
Brian Seltzer, play-by-play voice of Penn men’s basketball and football will call the action with color analysis provided by Chas Dorman, Penn’s athletic communications contact for baseball.
The Quakers enter the game with a 9-7 record. The Wildcats are 10-9 and come in riding a three-game losing streak. Penn is 5-2 against Big East competition this season, with all seven games coming against Georgetown.
Penn is hoping that the tables will turn from last year’s matchup between the two teams, where Villanova used a five-run first inning to breeze past the Quakers, 16-2, in Plymouth Meeting.
This season, the Quakers have been rolling at the plate, leading the Ivy League in all offensive categories. As a team, Penn is hitting .313. The Quakers have scored 124 runs this season – 46 more than the next highest in the Ivies. Penn has compiled 178 hits this season – 39 more than the next closest team. Penn’s 41 doubles are most in the conference as is the 18 home runs hit by Penn players.
Individually, Jeremy Maas sits atop the Ivy League hitting chart with his .532 average. Maas, who sat out last weekend’s series with Mt. St. Mary’s with an injury, is one plate appearance shy of qualifying for the NCAA leaderboard. If he did, he would only sit in second place - .002 behind the nation’s leader, Ryan Honeycutt of New Mexico. His slugging percentage of .872 would rank him 12th in the country.
William Gordon did find himself among the NCAA’s leaders this week, his .43 home runs per game landing him tied for 18th in the country. His season-total of six homers is tie for 73rd in the land. Tom Grandieri’s 1.47 RBI per game is 37th-best in the country.
On the mound, Paul Cusick is tied for 11th in the country with four wins.
Cusick knows that his team is battling through a patch of injuries (regulars Maas and Adrian Lorenzo missed large portions of last weekend with injuries), but knows that the team has the ability to work though it.
“We have some guys out,” he said. “But, once they return, we will really start rolling.”
After a busy week in Florida, Cusick also feels that last week’s experience of a mid-week game followed by a four-game set will go a long way towards developing the young team’s confidence heading into the Ivy season.
“We are still a young team,” said the sophomore hurler. “We used this first week of a mid-week game followed by a four-gamer with two doubleheaders as a learning experience. It was good for guys to learn how to stay up energy wise for the season.”
Awaiting Penn across the lines on Wednesday will be a Villanova team which is capable of putting up runs of its own. The Wildcats have scored 129 runs over their 19 games this season and have four players hitting above .340. Penn will need to take notice when a ‘Nova player reaches the basepath – the Wildcats have stolen 38 bases this year, with Matt Szcuzur (11) and Dain Hall (9) the biggest thieves.
One way for Penn to combat Villanova’s attack on the bases is to continue the potent offensive attack that has become one of the Quakers’ trademarks this year. Two players who have contributed to that cause are freshmen James Mraz and Derek Vigoa. Each is hitting in the .300s, with Mraz at .350 and Vigoa at .339. Vigoa has collected six doubles while Mraz has pitched in on the base paths, stealing a pair of bases.
Cusick knows that the play of the two rookies, while good so far, will continue to grow this season.
“Mraz played well in the outfield for us this week,” said Cusick. “He has been effective at the top or bottom of the lineup. Derek is gaining more confidence as the games have gone on, both in the field and at the plate.”
Penn hopes that confidence continues to build as the Quakers move towards the start of conference play.