PHILADELPHIA – Only one weekend into the Ivy League season, it is hard to fathom that this weekend’s trip to New England is “make or break time” for the Penn baseball team, but that is what the Quakers face as they head to Brown (Sat.) and Yale (Sun.) for a pair of doubleheaders.
A season that began with 10 non-conference wins has hit a rough patch, with the Red and Blue mired in the midst of a five-game losing streak. Four of those games came at the hands of Ivy foes Dartmouth and Harvard, leaving Penn two games behind Gehrig Division-leading Cornell and Columbia as both schools are 2-2 in the league.
The trouble for Penn over the last week has been avoiding the “big inning” late in the game. The Quakers have led in all five games that they lost over the past six days, but could not put away their opponents in the end stages of the game. Against the Big Green, Penn allowed five runs in the top of the seventh in game one as Dartmouth sent the game to extra innings. In the eighth, the Big Green tacked on six more for the win. The doubleheader with Harvard saw Penn give up three in the sixth inning of game one to turn a 4-3 lead into a 6-4 deficit. In game two, Penn led 11-6 entering the eighth inning, but the Crimson scored five over the final two innings to send the game to extras, finishing things off with a four-run 11th inning. Against a potent Delaware team on Tuesday, the Red and Blue allowed nine runs in the seventh inning as the Blue Hens extended their lead to 11-3.
The Quakers can find solace in the fact that their offense has still came through over the past week. Penn has averaged 6.8 runs a game over the past five games while averaging 12.2 hits a contest. Twice, the Red and Blue have scored eight runs in a single inning.
Penn still leads the Ivy League in team batting average, coming into the weekend hitting at a .320 clip – 19 points ahead of second-place Harvard. Yale is third at .297 and Brown fifth at .275. The Quakers have scored 43 runs more than the next closest team in the conference. Penn’s 22 home runs are the most of any Ivy team.
Penn’s offense will have to contend with the league’s two best fielding teams this weekend. Brown’s 18 errors this season leave the Bears with a .971 fielding percentage. Yale has committed just 15 errors for a .968 percentage.
Individually, Jeremy Maas still leads the Ivies in batting average with his .460 average. With his play in all five games this week, Maas officially qualified for the NCAA leaders, and his average ranks him 17th in Division I. His 10 doubles are tied for 65th in the country.
Brown is 3-1 in the Ivy League, with a sweep at Princeton and a split at Cornell last weekend. Matt Nuzzo is a player to watch for the Bears. He is tied for the team lead with 26 hits (.325 avg.) and has eight doubles. Former Ivy Rookie of the Year Steve Daniels is a force on the base paths with 13 stolen bases on 14 attempts.
Last season, Penn and Brown split a series at Meiklejohn Stadium. Penn won 6-4 while Brown escaped with a 2-1 victory.
On Sunday, the Quakers will play Yale in New Haven. The Bulldogs enter the weekend 2-2 in league play and 6-10 overall. Sophomore Andy Megee is the offensive catalyst for the Bulldogs, leading the way in seven offensive categories. On the mound, Vinny Lally is 2-0 since a rough first start of the season and nearly pitched a perfect game last weekend, falling two outs shy of the impressive accomplishment.
Last year, Yale won a game in Meiklejohn Stadium before the two teams tied a game that was called due to darkness.
If you can’t join us in New England this weekend, there are multiple options to follow along with the Red and Blue as they look to climb back into the Ivy championship race. Brown will be providing live video of the games on Saturday by clicking here. On Sunday, Yale will have live audio of the games by clicking here. Both schools will also be providing live stats of the games. Finally, for those faithful followers of the Penn Baseball Spring Blog, a special edition is on tap for this weekend as Penn Athletics will make the trip with the team to New England.