PHILADELPHIA - Winners of two straight and four of five, the Penn baseball team welcomes in cross-divisional opponents Brown and Yale this weekend to kick-start Ivy League play. The Quakers face Brown for two on Saturday, starting at 12 p.m., with Yale beginning the weekend at Columbia before coming in for a doubleheader on Sunday, also slated for a 12 p.m. first pitch.
Last Time Out
With an 11-4 win over Villanova on Tuesday, Penn defeated the Wildcats for the second time in a week and advanced into the semifinals of the Liberty Bell Classic where they will take on the La Salle Explorers. Greg Zebrack went 3-for-3 with 7 RBI and a pair of walks in the game, ending just a single short of a cycle. Eight starters had at least one hit and the 1-2-3-4 hitters in the order each scored two runs apiece. Sam Horn earned his first career win, throwing 3.2 innings and allowing just one hit and a total of two baserunners against a potent Villanova line-up.
Following the Action
Live stats for all of this weekend's games will be available here and following @pennbaseball will provide pictures and inning-by-inning updates. Audio streams of the four games will be available through the Penn Sports Network.
About the Bears
Brown comes into the weekend at 2-14, having won its last game of an eight-game swing through California against San Jose State to salvage one win from its visit to the West Coast. The Quakers and Bears have split their doubleheader for the last two seasons.
Offense: Junior outfielder John Sheridan carries much of the load for Brown batting from the lead-off spot. One of two regular starters with a batting average over .300, Sheridan doubles as the team's main speed threat on the basepaths, having collected nine of Brown's 13 stolen bases this year. The aptly named Wes Van Boom leads the team in doubles (6), home runs (3) and slugging pct. (.515), and has also managed to keep his strikeouts relatively low despite his power numbers, having whiffed only nine times entering the weekend. While not overwhelming, the 5.0 runs per game that the Bears average is just a slight tick behind what Penn puts on the board.
Pitching: Here is where Brown has run into trouble thus far in 2012. As a collective staff, Brown has an ERA of 8.84 and only one pitcher on the team is below 5.00. Opponents are hitting .361 against the Bears and the staff has issued 90 free passes, as well. Junior Heath Mayo has easily been Brown's most effective starter, but he threw six innings on Tuesday at Santa Clara in a game that the Bears eventually lost 2-1 in 12 innings, so the Quakers are likely to miss his turn in the rotation. Other possible starters for Brown are Anthony Galan (0-2, 8.22 ERA), Kevin Carlow (0-3, 7.82) and Will Marcal (0-3, 10.50).
About the Bulldogs
Rolfe Division leaders (through March 28) Yale will face Penn on Sunday to bring the first weekend of Ivy League action to a close. The Bulldogs have stumbled to a 1-9 start away from home, but that record includes six losses to teams from the ACC and Big East. Yale brings a 6-13-1 record into the weekend and will square off with Columbia for two games on Saturday before making the trip to Philadelphia.
Offense: Sophomore middle infielder Cale Hanson is on an island in terms of offensive production for his team, batting .385, almost 125 points better than the next closest Eli. He'll bat lead-off and try to set the table for Kevin Fortunato, who has six doubles and Yale's only home run of the season. The Bulldogs bat .226 as a team and have an on-base pct. of under .300, so Penn should look to attack the strike zone and force the Yale bats to beat them.
Pitching: With their mid-week game at Quinnipiac cancelled due to weather, the Bulldogs should have a full stable of arms to call on this weekend. The starting rotation has held consistent from the beginning of the season, four pitchers starting 17 of the 20 games. If the order holds true from last weekend's four-game set with Hartford, Pat Ludwig (0-2, 2.43 ERA) and Nolan Becker (1-2, 4.37) would go against Columbia, with Penn being challenged by Christopher O'Hare (1-2, 5.40) and Rob Cerfolio (0-2, 5.40). David Hickey has been Yale's best option out of the bullpen, throwing 15.0 innings over six appearances and giving up just 14 hits and three walks over that time while striking out 10.
Greg Zebrack has been on fire in the last three games, each of which has been at Meiklejohn Stadium. The junior centerfielder is on a 6-for-7 tear right now, which includes a home run, a triple, three doubles and a total of 8 RBI. He's also walked six times in that stretch and been hit by a pitch for a ridiculous on-base percentage of .929.
City of Brotherly Love
Freshman catcher Ian Kukowski will see a familiar face in the opposing dugout on Saturday. That's because his older brother, Nate Kukowski, is a sophomore on Brown who leads the Bears in batting average at .385 in spot duty as an infielder and relief pitcher.
Penn will have a quick turnaround after this weekend, diving back into non-league play with a Liberty Bell Classic semifinal matchup with the La Salle Explorers on Tuesday afternoon. The 3 p.m. game at La Salle's Hank DeVincent Field will see one of the two squads qualify for the Liberty Bell Classic championship game, held April 17th at Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies.