PHILADELPHIA – Penn embarks on a road trip to Cornell this weekend hoping to put an end to a nine-game losing streak that has seen the Quakers drop to 0-8 in the Ivy League. The Red and Blue’s opponent this weekend is Cornell, a team that is 4-16 overall and 2-6 in conference play.
A silver lining to the recent struggles for the Quakers is that the games played were against Ivy foes in the other division. The games with the Big Red mark Penn’s first foray into Gehrig Division games this year. As the Quakers begin their final stretch of Ivy games – all of which are divisional games – Penn sits just four games back of division-leading Columbia. Cornell and Princeton are in the middle, two games ahead of Penn and two games behind the Lions.
If Penn is able to turn around its season with a win of the four-game series in Ithaca, the Quakers will go a long way toward climbing back into the Ivy race. While the team’s record is not where the members of the team would like it to be, a reversal of fortune at the expense of the Big Red could catapult a resurgence.
But before the Quakers can look ahead to what could be, they need to focus on the task at hand, namely protecting leads. Over the course of the streak, Penn has led in eight of the nine games. In two of those games, the Quakers had leads slip away in the final inning. If the pitching staff can turn it around this weekend and silence the Cornell bats, especially late in games, what have been heartbreaking losses will turn into confidence-building wins.
One thing Penn’s pitching staff does not have to worry about is offensive support. The Quakers continue to lead the Ivy League in offense, pacing the Ancient Eight in six of the 10 offensive categories – average (.320), at-bats (926), runs (197), hits (296), doubles (660) and triples (6). Penn’s team batting average is 55th in the country. The Quakers are 22nd in the land in doubles per game with 2.54 a contest. The total of 66 two-baggers is good for 43rd in nation. Penn’s slugging percentage of .488 is 63rd in the country.
Individually, Jeremy Maas leads the league in batting with an average .429. Sophomore Dan Williams leads the Ancient Eight in hits (40) and RBI (28) and is second in runs scored with 25. Derek Vigoa leads the league in doubles with 12, with Maas hot on his heels with 10. William Gordon is second in the conference with seven home runs, one behind the leader.
If Penn is to right the ship on the mound, look for Paul Cusick to step up and deliver this weekend. His four wins and 40 strikeouts lead the league and he is second in total innings pitched with 37.2. His .255 opponents’ batting average is also second in the league.
Cornell is led by senior Nathan Ford. A first-team All-Ivy selection last season as a utility player, he can suit up as a catcher or anywhere in the infield. Last year, he set a school record with 17 doubles in a season and hit .410 – the third-best average in Cornell history. This year, Ford is hitting .368 with a team-high five home runs. Scott Hardinger is also a player to watch at the plate, hitting .362 from the shortstop position.
On the mound, Cornell has struggled as four pitchers each have one win while eight have recorded at least one loss. Matt Hill has started six games, but is just 1-4 with a 5.82 ERA. Jadd Schmeltzer is 0-1 with a 2.37 ERA over four appearances, three of which were starts.
If you aren’t making the trip to Ithaca, you can follow the games via live stats here. In addition, Cornell is providing video streaming of the game for a fee by clicking here.