Baseball Hosts Dartmouth and Harvard to Open Ivy Season

PHILADELPHIATwo years ago, Penn tasted Ivy League baseball success with a Gehrig Division title and a spot in the Ivy League Championship Series. Last season, Penn did not come close to equaling that achievement, ending league play with a 6-13-1 record.

With the opening of the Ivy portion of the season on the docket for this weekend, Penn is hoping that an impressive run through non-league play carries over into the Ancient Eight slate. The Quakers are 10-7 so far in 2009, and are off to one of the best starts in recent years. Last year, the Red and Blue didn’t win their 10th game until April 7, 23 games into the season.

The catalyst for the start has been the offense. Penn leads the Ivy League in every offensive category except walks. The team has been scoring runs at an impressive rate, averaging 7.9 runs a game this season. Last year, the Quakers scored only 4.9 runs a contest. Already this season, Penn has scored 134 runs compared to 191 all of 2008. Six Quakers are hitting over .300 this season. Jeremy Maas leads the way at .532, but he has sat out the last five games. Of the players that have played every game, Dan Williams has the highest average, coming in at .366.

Penn has produced some notable power numbers this season as well. Quaker hitters have launched 19 home runs in the 17 games played in 2009, already surpassing 2008’s total of 18. William Gordon has already set a career high with six round-trippers.

On the mound, Penn’s ERA is a full run per game lower than its opponents. Paul Cusick is 4-0 this season, striking out 27 batters over his 25.1 innings of work. Seven different pitchers have won a game for the Quakers this season. Last year, only six pitchers earned a win for the Red and Blue.

Dartmouth has struggled out of the gate in ’09, losing eight-straight to start the season - the team’s worst start in 27 years. The Big Green finally got in the win column on Tuesday with a 7-4 win over San Jose State. They followed that win up with a 14-9 los to Cal Poly on Wednesday. Dartmouth is hoping that a return to Ivy play will spur a turnaround for the season. Last year, the Big Green went 15-5 in the Ancient Eight, winning the Rolfe Division.

Dartmouth is led by returning first-team All-Ivy players, Mike Pagliarulo and Nick Santamauro. Pagliarulo is hitting .345 this year and finished 2008 with a .370 batting average. Santamauro is hitting at .275 this year through 10 games, but hit .364 last season with 11 home runs.

After a doubleheader with Dartmouth on Saturday, Penn will host Harvard on Sunday at noon for a pair.

The Crimson are 2-14 this season and are on a seven-game losing streak heading into the weekend. Harvard has a twinbill at Columbia on Saturday. The Crimson hung tough with No. 2 LSU last week, losing a tight 4-3 game in Baton Rouge.

Matt Rogers has led the way offensively for Harvard, registering 21 hits (.396 avg.) and driving in 12 runs.

Last year, Penn swept the Crimson in Boston, shutting out Harvard in both games, 10-0 and 5-0.

If you can’t make it to Meiklejohn Stadium this weekend, you can follow all the action at www.PennAthletics.com for Live Stats. In addition, Penn Athletics will be providing a live audio webcast of all four games. The link for the webcast can be found here.