PHILADELPHIA – The University of Pennsylvania baseball team made a clear statement to the rest of the Ivy League on Saturday, taking two from prohibitive Rolfe Division favorite Dartmouth to open league play. Behind the strong pitching of starters Connor Cuff and Jeff McGarry, the Quakers came up with just enough offense to pick up a pair of 3-2 wins over the Big Green. Penn ups its record to 15-7 (2-0 Ivy), while Dartmouth drops to 12-3 (0-2 Ivy).
Game One – Penn 3, Dartmouth 2
With Cuff and his counterpart on the mound, Dartmouth’s Cole Sulser, locked in a duel through the early innings of the seven-inning opener, it looked like Cuff’s one mistake was all it was going to take to give the Big Green the win. In the top of the second inning, Cuff elevated a pitch for Dartmouth designated hitter Joe Purritano and he crushed it over the wall in right-center, staking the Big Green to a 1-0 lead.
For awhile, that looked to be enough. Sulser cruised through the first three innings, only giving up baserunners on two occasions, thanks to errors from his defense. Beyond that, the Quakers had managed nothing. That all changed on the very first pitch in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Ryan Deitrich was looking fastball and got it, blasting his third home run of the season into left-center, tying the game up at 1-1.
The tie between the teams wouldn’t last long, as Jeff Keller led off the top of the fifth with a double to left and scored with one away off a Nick Ruppert single.
Trailing 2-1, Penn’s two-out offense struck again and gave the Quakers their first lead of the day. Gary Tesch kept the fifth inning alive with a single into right field and he advanced onto second after Brandon Engelhardt was hit by a pitch. The two moved up on a balk by the suddenly shaken Sulser, and Mike Vilardo scored them both with a double to right field, making it a 3-2 contest.
Cuff buckled down on Dartmouth from there. He struck out two in the sixth inning and left a runner stranded. Looking to close it out for a complete game victory in the seventh, he sandwiched a single from Keller with two strikeouts. In desperate need of a spark, Keller was able to steal second, but a routine fly to Deitrich in right ended the threat and gave Penn the confidence-boosting win. The sophomore ended his day with seven strikeouts to just a single walk, improving to 4-1 on the year.
Game Two – Penn 3, Dartmouth 2
Jeff McGarry took his cues from Cuff and kept the Dartmouth offense in check in the day’s second game, but a bumpy start nearly derailed him before the game was yet an inning old.
With runners on first and second and one away in the top of the first, a slow roller to Ryan Mincher at shortstop left him with no choice but to throw to Mitch Montaldo at third for what appeared to be a force out, however the runner was ruled safe and the Big Green were in business with the bases loaded. The next batter, Nick Lombardi, had a full count and took a pitch that seemed to find a good amount of the plate, but the umpire allowed Lombardi to trot down to first, bringing Trent Goodrich into score. Just as it looked like Dartmouth was going to try to blow the game open before Penn even got to the plate, McGarry ended the side with a 4-6-3 double play to keep the Quakers in it.
Penn evened the game up in the bottom of the second. Spencer Branigan led off with a double into the right-center gap, then moved to third as Austin Bossart grounded out to short. One batter later, Montaldo hit a fly ball deep into center field, allowing Branigan to jog home and knot it at 1-1.
The tension mounted as the game moved along. Both McGarry and Dartmouth’s Kyle Hunter flew through the middle innings, barely breaking a sweat. The Big Green threatened in the top of the seventh inning with two men aboard and one out, forcing John Beasley into action in McGarry’s place. The senior reliever needed all of one pitch to get Jeff Selzer to bounce into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to get out of the jam.
Consecutive doubles in the bottom of the seventh finally saw Penn break out in front. Branigan led off with his second double of the contest down into the right field corner. Bossart immediately followed him with a double of his own, off the wall in center field to stake the Quakers to a 2-1 lead.
Dartmouth hadn’t put together its 12-1 record entering the day without fighting through some adversity and it showed in the top of the eighth as the Big Green responded immediately to tie the game once more at 2-2. A Keller double scored Purritano from first, but Beasley escaped the inning by getting Ruppert to pop out weakly to first base.
The teams couldn’t manage anything in either the bottom of the eighth or the top of the ninth, setting the stage for some late-game theatrics from the Penn offense. Though there was some action in the Dartmouth pen, Hunter remained in the game throughout and led off the ninth with a walk to Deitrich. He was then able to move into scoring position as a high fastball to Branigan popped out of the glove of catcher Matt MacDowell. Branigan followed that up with a ground ball to second base for the first out of the inning, but he was able to move Deitrich to third on the play.
After a lengthy discussion on the mound, Hunter continued to work as Bossart was the next man up. With the defense drawn well in to try to hold Deitrich where he was, Bossart got the pitch he was looking for on the very first offering, sending the right fielder Keller back deep to make a play for the second out. With Deitrich tagging the whole way, Keller was in no position to make an accurate throw home and Penn was able to walk away with its second 3-2 win on the day.
Branigan and Vilardo led the Quakers with two hits apiece in the Saturday finale. McGarry and Beasley combined to hold Dartmouth to seven hits in the game, four of which came from Ennis Coble. Beasley earned the win on the afternoon and moved to 1-0 on the season.
Penn is back at Meiklejohn Stadium tomorrow, taking on Harvard (3-17) in a doubleheader. With the possibility of afternoon showers in the forecast, the start time for first pitch has been moved up to 11 a.m.
Download: Game One.pdf