NEWYORK CITY – The University of Pennsylvania baseball team (22-19, 7-11 Ivy) suffered a gut-punch loss in the opener of a four-game series with Columbia, losing on a walk-off home run in a game that clinched the Lou Gehrig Division for the Lions. The Quakers were unable to recover from the loss and faced an offensive onslaught from Columbia in the nightcap. The Lions put six runs on the board in the first three innings and cruised to a 14-1 win, improving to 22-19 (14-4 Ivy).
Game One – Columbia 3, Penn 2
One swing of the bat was all it took to ruin a masterful game from the Quaker bullpen , as Joey Falcone’s two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh innings gave Columbia a 3-2 win and sealed the Lou Gehrig Division for the Lions.
Penn owned a 1-0 lead through the first two innings of the contest. Austin Bossart singled with one down in the inning, then hustled around to score when Joey Greco delivered a double to the gap in left center. Connor Cuff then left two Lions aboard in the bottom of the second, but that proved to be the end of the day for Penn’s starting pitcher.
Columbia was able to tie the game on Mitch Holtz in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Lions strung together back-to-back singles to open the frame, then had both runners in scoring position with one down in the inning before a sacrifice fly to left brought the lead man in to knot the score at 1-1.
The Quakers quickly jumped back out in front in the top of the fifth. Mitch Montaldo worked a lead-off walk against Columbia ace David Speer, then went station-to-station to help Penn retake the lead. A sacrifice bunt from Gary Tesch moved Montaldo into scoring position at second base and a Mike Vilardo single bumped him up to third base with one away. Brandon Engelhardt then bunted his way on, blazing down the line for a single while scoring Montaldo for a 2-1 advantage.
Holtz held Columbia off the board in the bottom of the fifth despite the Lions having men on second and third. A vital strikeout against Aaron Silbar ended the threat and sent Penn to the sixth holding onto its one-run lead. John Beasley came on for Holtz in the bottom of the sixth and put Columbia down with relative ease to move the game onto the seventh.
Speer struck out the side in the top half, but was still in line for the loss. That all changed when Alex Black led off with a double to put a man on for Falcone. The sophomore outfielder connected on his fourth home run of the season to end the game in walk-off fashion, hitting it out to center field and clinching a spot for his team in the Ivy League Championship Series in the process.
Vilardo, Engelhardt and Greco each collected two hits in the game against Speer, who worked a complete game to move to 6-2. The Ivy League’s leader in stolen bases, Jordan Serena, was held to a 0-for-4 day at the plate, while Connor Betbeze entered the game as a pinch-runner and stole his 10th base of the season to tie Ryan Deitrich for the team lead in the category.
Game Two – Columbia 14, Penn 1
The after-effects from the first game seemed to snowball into game two as Columbia plated three runs in the first inning and just kept going from there, going up 6-0 on Penn starter Jeff McGarry in the first three innings of the contest.
Brian Schwarzbach came on to start the fourth inning and put the Lions down in order. Penn then jumped on the board with its only run in the top of the fifth. Betbeze started things off with a walk, then moved to third as Vilardo doubled to left field. With the defense playing back, Engelhardt brought Betbeze in to score with a groundout to the shortstop, making it 6-1.
Any thought of a Quaker rally was effectively ended in the bottom of the fifth however, as it took three pitchers for Penn to escape the frame. Schwarzbach struggled in the early part of the inning and gave way to Jeremy Witt. Witt battled control issues and was lifted for Stephen Silvestri. Silvestri recorded the final two outs of the inning, but the damage had already been done with Columbia pushing eight runs across and taking a 14-1 lead.
The Lions turned things over to their bullpen in the final three innings with the lead safely in hand, and each reliever threw one inning of scoreless baseball. Penn put two men on over the last four innings, with Spencer Branigan recording a single in the sixth and Matt McKinnon picking up a base hit in the ninth. Silvestri continued to work for the Red and Blue and held Columbia in check the rest of the way, throwing 3.2 innings and giving up only three hits.
Download: Penn-Columbia Game 1.pdf