Baseball Clashes with Cornell This Weekend

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Cornell: Live Stats / Audio

The University of Pennsylvania baseball team (21-14, 6-6 Ivy) has two Ivy League weekends left to move up in the standings and challenge for the Gehrig Division crown. The Quakers find themselves three games back of Columbia with eight to play, but will begin a four-game series with the Lions next weekend. Before that, Penn will have to contend with the Cornell Big Red (18-13, 6-6 Ivy), last season’s Ivy League representative in the NCAA Tournament. Both doubleheaders will get started at 12 p.m. from David F. Hoy Field in Ithaca, N.Y. on Saturday and Sunday.

Last Time Out
Penn responded in a big way after a disappointing series with Princeton last weekend, blowing out Lehigh by a score of 13-2 on Wednesday afternoon in the final non-conference game of the season for the Quakers. Rick Brebner put on a one-man show with four hits – including two home runs and a double – to collect five RBIs. Austin Bossart added a three-run shot in the first inning, his third home run in the space of a week, to help stake the Red and Blue to a 4-0 lead after just one inning.

Cody Thomson went 6.0 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) to move to 2-2 on the season. Mitch Holtz, Brian Schwarzbach and Jeff McGarry each worked an inning in relief, not allowing a Mountain Hawk run to come around to score.

Road Warriors
Wednesday’s game at Lehigh began a stretch of seven straight games away from Meiklejohn Stadium for Penn. Though playing at home is always preferable, the Quakers have done a remarkable job on the road this season, compiling a 14-7 record thus far. With six away games left to play, this year’s Penn team could challenge the all-time school record for road wins in a season, shared by the 1975 and 1988 teams who won 15 games apiece away from home.

Rick on a Roll
Sidelined by an injury for nearly three weeks in March, Brebner returned to Penn’s lineup on the opening week of Ivy League play against Dartmouth and Harvard and his impact has been immediate on both offense and defense. In the month of April, his batting average has shot up from .143 to .289 on the strength of a seven-game hitting streak from April 6-13 and six multi-hit contests, while he is now second on the team in slugging pct. at .526. Wednesday’s performance was just the latest in a string of great offensive outputs from him. In a 9-5 win at Brown, Brebner was 2-for-3 with a home run, three runs batted in and two runs scored. He also drew two walks in that game with the Bears. In the opening game of the series with Princeton, Brebner bossed Zak Hermans – last year’s Ivy League Pitcher of the Year – for a 2-for-2 day at the plate with a home run and another base on balls. Splitting time in both left field and at first base, Brebner hasn’t committed an error in the month of April and has helped his pitching staff by digging out a number of tricky bounces at first.

Shouldering the Load
Senior Ryan Deitrich has carried the Penn offense at various points all season and leads the Ivy League in batting average (.408), on-base percentage (.523), hits (49) and is tied for the most games played at 35 along with his fellow captains, Bossart and Spencer Branigan. His on-base percentage has him at third in all of Division I and is only 15 points off the national leader, Jake Thomas of Binghamton (.538). From a team perspective, Deitrich is the standard-bearer for the Quakers in slugging pct. (.617), runs (29), walks (22) and stolen bases (10), and is matched with Brebner in the home run lead with four.

Closing Time
The Ivy League leader in saves this season with eight, Ronnie Glenn has been one of the mainstays at the back-end of the Penn pitching staff, making a team-high 15 appearances. The hard-throwing lefty has struck out 24 in 18.1 innings of relief. Extrapolated over the course of nine innings, Glenn ranks third in the Ivies with an average of 11.78 strikeouts per game. The leader in the category, Eddie Fitzpatrick of Brown, has made 10 appearances, but the other player ahead of Glenn in the rankings has only pitched four times this season. His eight saves also put him in a tie for 24th in Division I, just four behind the national leaders.

About Cornell
After a magical run that ended with the program’s second NCAA Tournament berth in 143 years as a program, the Big Red have come back to earth a little this year, with injuries playing a role. Chris Cruz, who last year led the Ivy League with 12 home runs, missed the first 17 games of the season and is batting just .204 since his return to the lineup. Kellen Urbon, the 2012 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, has pitched only 5.1 innings in four appearances. Connor Kaufmann joined Urbon as a first-team All-Ivy selection a year ago and has made only two starts this season.

The fact that Cornell has remained in contention at all this season can largely be traced to a starting rotation that helps the Big Red rank second in the Ivies with an ERA of 3.31. Staring down the Quakers this weekend will be Nick Busto (4-1, 2.84 ERA), Michael Byrne (1-2, 0.95), Brian McAfee (2-2, 2.61) and Zach McCulley (3-1, 1.67). Eric Upton leads Cornell with 11 appearances and has a 2.31 ERA in 23.1 innings.

Offensively, only JD Whetsel has a batting average above .300, and he comes into the weekend at .302. When he reaches, he can cause problems though. Whetsel is 14-for-17 on stolen bases this season, good for second in the Ancient Eight. Matt Hall chips in at .283 and matches Whetsel for the team lead in doubles with eight. Ryan Plantier is one of three players to play in every game and leads the Big Red with 19 runs driven in.