ROCK HILL, S.C. - The University of Pennsylvania baseball team established a nice cushion against Winthrop in the series opener between the two schools on Friday night. As it turned out, they would need almost all of it. The Eagles scored four runs in the final three innings and had the winning run at the plate in the ninth inning before Ronnie Glenn slammed the door for his second save of the season in a 6-4 Penn win, moving the team to 3-4 on the season.
The Quakers converted their early scoring opportunities to put pressure on Winthrop right from the start. Austin Bossart led the top of the second inning off with a double to the gap in left-center. Consecutive doubles from Mitch Montaldo and Joey Greco made it a 2-0 game before the Eagles could escape the inning. Connor Cuff was key in making the lead hold up. Winthrop put runners on in each of the first seven innings, loading the bases in the second, fifth and seventh, but didn't dent the scoring column until after Cuff had been lifted.
Penn added on to the lead in the third inning. After Mike Vilardo walked to open the inning, Ryan Deitrich launched a two-run shot over the wall and into the trees in left field, opening up a 4-0 lead for the Red and Blue.
An inning later, Montaldo led off with a walk and stole second - one of six stolen bases by the Quakers on the night - before coming home later in the frame off a Connor Betbeze grounder to shortstop. Penn's final run of the night came in the sixth inning as Rick Brebner led off the inning with a walk, stole second, and then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Greco came up with one away and launched a fly ball to deep left center, allowing Brebner to trot in without a throw.
With Cuff cruising and Penn ahead 6-0, the game seemed well in hand, but Winthrop had other ideas. The Eagles loaded the bases with one out, forcing the Quakers into the bullpen. Montaldo made the move to the mound from shortstop, and with two strikes on Max Vogel, came inside and hit him, scoring Matt Lobacz to make it 6-1. Montaldo got out of the inning with no further damage thanks to consecutive strikeouts.
Two errors in quick succession set up Winthrop with runners on the corners and one away in the eighth. After getting the second out in the inning, the Eagles hit a single and a double to make it 6-3 with two men on in the eighth. Montaldo gave way to Glenn, and the sophomore lefty was able to pop Vogel out to shortstop to end the threat.
The ninth inning was a bit of a gut check for the Quakers. An error and a single put two men on with no one out. Glenn struck out pinch-hitter Stephen Wallace for the first out, but a wild pitch and a walk loaded the bases with the meat of the Eagles' order coming up. Cody Dolan flew out to right field, deep enough to score the runner from third and cut the Penn lead to 6-4 with two down. Facing the potential winning run in Lobacz, the clean-up hitter, Glenn was finally able to secure the win for Penn with a check-swing strikeout.
Cuff (1-1) picked up the win going 6.1 innings and giving up just one run while striking out four. Deitrich and Montaldo each went 2-for-3 from the plate, with Deitrich and Greco leading the team with two runs batted in.
The Eagles and Quakers continue their three-game series tomorrow with a 3 p.m. first pitch from Winthrop Ballpark.