PHILADELPHIA - Squarely in the mix for a division title, the Penn baseball team travels to Princeton this weekend for a huge four-game series against the rival Tigers at Clarke Field. Doubleheaders begin at 12 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Cornell leads the way in the Lou Gehrig Division with a 7-1 record with Princeton just behind them at 6-2 in the league. Penn and Columbia are both heavily in contention at 5-3 with 12 league games left to be played.
Last Time Out
Ten pitchers took the bump for the Quakers on Wednesday afternoon against La Salle, as John Cole tested the Quaker bullpen in advance of this weekend's action. Unfortunately, after four shutout innings, things fell apart for the pen. Nine walks and four hit batters were to blame the majority of Penn's problems as the Red and Blue actually outhit the Explorers, but fell by a score of 11-4. Ryan Deitrich had three doubles, including a pair that landed directly down the third-base line, to lead the Quaker attack. Ronnie Glenn was charged with the loss.
Following the Red and Blue
For those who aren't able to make the trip out to New Jersey, you can still follow the Quakers this weekend in a couple of different ways. Live stats will have up-to-the-minute coverage of every at-bat, or, follow @pennbaseball to receive half-inning updates on Twitter.
About the Tigers
Having represented the Ivy League in last year's NCAA Tournament, Princeton is no stranger to success, especially on its home field. This year, the Tigers are 13-12 against some top-level competition, including four losses to teams - South Carolina and North Carolina - that were ranked in the top five in the nation when they faced off. Penn and Princeton had identical results against three of the four cross-divisional opponents, sweeping Yale and Harvard and splitting a series with Brown. The Tigers have gained their current one-game lead on the Quakers by virtue of a split at home with Dartmouth.
Offense: The two-headed monster of Alec Keller and Sam Mulroy leads the charge for Princeton. Keller, leading off and playing second base, is third in the Ivy League with his .400 batting average. Coming up behind him in the middle of the order is 2011 first-team All-Ivy member Mulroy. The senior bats a respectable .373 and provides a legitimate power threat with seven home runs on the season, good for second in the Ivies. Junior shortstop Matt Bowman trails only Keller with his on-base pct. of .435.
Pitching: Penn will be facing the foursome of Zak Hermans, Mike Ford, Matt Bowman and Kevin Link this weekend. Of Princeton's 25 games, 21 have been started by that quartet. The fact that all are right-handers could offer a welcome respite to a Quaker batting order that has seen their fill of lefties in recent games. Hermans and Ford have nearly identical ERAs, 3.89 and 3.90 respectively, while Bowman leads the staff with a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Link makes up for the fact that opponents are batting .333 against him by limiting his walks, giving up just seven over 30 innings of action in six appearances.
All or Nothing
Since the calendar flipped to April, a switch has seemed to get flipped for Ryan Deitrich, who has added 50 points to his batting average and at .348, trails only Greg Zebrack for the team lead in the category. In the past seven games alone, Deitrich has had four games with three hits, most recently on Wednesday with his three doubles against La Salle. Curiously, in the other three games over that stretch he has been held without a hit.
After opening the season in the bullpen and even earning a pair of saves in that time, Cody Thomson has embraced his role in the starting rotation, lowering his ERA from 5.73 to 2.53 since making the move. Penn now boasts the two lowest ERAs in the Ivy League with Thomson in second to Vince Voiro's 2.18.
Like a Boss
Hitting just below .300 for the season, Austin Bossart has acquitted himself nicely at the plate in his freshman season, but it's defensively where the Quakers' starting catcher has already set himself apart from his peers in the Ivy League. Starting all but one game behind the dish, Bossart has rung up an amazing 50 percent (17-of-34) of runners attempting to steal on him this season, including six of the last seven. By comparison, the second-best team in the Ivies in throwing out runners, Columbia, has a success rate of 35.9 percent.
In the 20-year history of the Liberty Bell Classic, neither Penn nor St. Joseph's has emerged as champion. That is all set to change on Tuesday night as the Quakers meet the Hawks at Citizens Bank Park where one of the two teams will be crowned Philadelphia's best. First pitch is set for 7:30 pm and tickets are just $5 at the gate with free parking.