Baseball Opens Liberty Bell Classic at Lafayette

Lafayette: Live Stats

The University of Pennsylvania baseball team, winners of eight of its last 10 games, looks to keep things rolling on Wednesday afternoon as they meet the Lafayette Leopards in the quarterfinals of the Liberty Bell Classic. The Quakers (12-7) are in search of a return trip to Citizens Bank Park after winning two contests in the Liberty Bell Classic a year ago, reaching the championship game at the home of the Philadelphia Phillies. First pitch between Penn and Lafayette is set for 3:30 p.m. from Kamine Stadium in Easton.

Last Time Out
In a four-game series against these same Leopards over the weekend, Penn came away with three wins, including a doubleheader sweep in two games played at Lafayette on Saturday. Spencer Branigan led five hitters who put up batting averages of over .400 in the series by going 7-of-13 (.538) along with four walks for an on-base pct. of .647. Mike Vilardo tagged Lafayette pitching for four doubles and a home run among his eight hits, slugging .882 over the two days of action. Austin Bossart provided plenty of timely hitting, driving in a team-best seven runs.

On the mound, Connor Cuff threw a complete game in the Saturday opener, winning 12-5. Jeff McGarry then shut down the Leopards over eight innings, helping Penn to cruise to an 8-1 victory. Ronnie Glenn was credited with both decisions on Sunday, winning the opener by a score of 7-6 thanks to a seventh-inning comeback from the Quakers. Lafayette avoided the sweep with an 8-6 win in the last game of the set.

Liberty Bell Classic
Penn and Lafayette is one of four matchups taking place this week to pare the field down to four semifinalists in the Liberty Bell Classic. On Penn’s side of the bracket, Villanova (5-16) travels to La Salle (7-12) on Tuesday for a game at Hank DeVincent Field. The Quakers will have a game against either the Wildcats or Explorers on April 2 depending on the outcome of their game.

On the other side of the draw, Lehigh (11-9) travels to Temple (8-11), and Saint Joseph’s (10-12) crosses state lines to meet Delaware (14-8). Both of those games are slated for Wednesday afternoon.

1-2 Punch
Seniors and tri-captains Ryan Deitrich and Branigan are doing more than just providing leadership off the field; they’re leading the Penn charge on the field as well. Deitrich leads the Ivy League with a .429 batting average and he’s not simply a table-setter either. Of his 30 hits, eight are for extra bases, helping him to a slugging pct of .629 that ranks behind only Nick Lombardi of Dartmouth in the Ancient Eight. With 13 walks on the year as well, the right fielder has an on-base pct. (OBP) of .529, a full 60 points ahead of second place in the league.

After a down junior year by his standards, Branigan is making up for it in 2013. His .385 batting average is third in the Ivy League, as is his OBP of .467. Counting six doubles among his 25 hits this season, Branigan is tied with teammate Joey Greco for seventh in the Ivies in slugging pct. and is one of six Quakers to drive in at least 11 runs this season.

Bengal Continues Climb to 100
A first inning home run in the final game of the Lafayette series inched Brandon Engelhardt one closer to career hit No. 100. The junior outfielder now has 96 hits in his time in the Red and Blue, and is batting a career-best .315 in 13 starts this season.

Pulling Double Duty
One of the biggest reasons for Penn’s quick start this season has been the improved play of Mitch Montaldo. Though he played in 35 games and made 20 starts in the field as a freshman, he struggled through growing pains at times and ended the season with a .189 batting average. This year, that average has bumped up to .277 with increases in his power numbers and stolen bases in 17 starts on the left side of the infield. Just as impressively, Montaldo has become a staple of the bullpen, making seven appearances and placing just a tick behind Dan Gautieri for the best ERA on the team (1.74 to Gautieri’s 1.73). In 10.1 innings on the mound, he has allowed only nine hits and given up just two earned runs.

More Honors for Vilardo
It was announced on Tuesday (March 26) that Vilardo was both the Big 5 and Ivy League Player of the Week. In addition, he shared Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors with RHP Sean Poppen of Harvard. In five games played, Vilardo batted .524 with five doubles and a home run to drive in six runs. He drew four walks as well, helping him reach base at a .600 clip. Once on base, he wreaked all kinds of havoc on opposing defenses, stealing a pair of bases and scoring eight runs.

About Lafayette
Despite their 3-17 overall record, the Leopards proved they could play with the Quakers on Sunday, setting up a tough draw for a taxed Penn pitching staff. Andrew Ruck batted .500 while starting all four games this weekend. Drawing six walks on top of that, he put together an on-base pct. of .722 against the Red and Blue. Kevin Casey leads the team with a .324 batting average this season, while Andrew Santomauro was a pain for Penn with a .313 batting average and three stolen bases in the series.

With the four starting pitchers from this weekend unlikely to see much, if any, time on the mound, Lafayette will be in the same position as the Quakers in relying heavily on the bullpen to carry the load. Toby Schwartz picked up the win on Sunday, shutting out Penn over three innings of relief. Ryan Callanan and Mark Louis are also likely candidates to get a call. Robert Tatum has made eight appearances for the Leopards and threw just over an inning last weekend, making him a good bet to appear.