PHILADELPHIA - With just eight games remaining in the regular season it is now or never for the second-place Quakers as they travel to Cornell for a pair of doubleheaders on Sunday and Monday beginning at noon.
Penn is in the midst of the four-game slide and has seen its record even out to 16-16 on the season, including a 7-5 mark in Ivy League play. Cornell, meanwhile, has won two of its last three games to improve its record to 6-26 on the season. The Big Red are also 3-9 in Ivy action after going 1-3 against Columbia last weekend.
Last Time Out
The Quakers had another one-run game not go their way on Wednesday as they fell to Lehigh by a 6-5 score. Penn spotted the Mountain Hawks an early 5-1 lead but made a comeback attempt over the final six innings. The team closed the game to 6-3 in the seventh and then added a pair of runs in the ninth, however, it wasn't enough as Lehigh managed to get the final out with the tying run on base. The Red and Blue got solid pitching from its relievers, Patrick Brennan, Alex Ott and Chris McNulty, as the three combined to pitch 5.1 innings while giving up just four hits and one earned run. At the plate the team banged out 11 hits with two apiece coming from Dan Williams, Brandon Engelhardt and Rick Brebner.
Following the Red and Blue
Quaker fans have a number of ways to follow all the action this weekend. Fans can follow the action via live stats (click here) and also watch the games on Cornell's Red Cast (click here).
Scouting the Quakers
Despite Penn's recent losses, the team is still second in the Ivy League in hitting (.290), slugging (.429) and on-base percentage (.373). The Quakers currently have five players who are batting over .300. Jeremy Maas leads the team with a .375 average and is just one of three players who have played in all 32 games this season. He leads the team with 48 hits, 28 runs and is tied for the team lead in RBI (23) and steals (9). Junior Derek Vigoa and Will Davis are both hitting .316 and Davis has been the team's power hitter, slugging a team-best .588 with 14 doubles and five home runs. Sophomore Greg Zebrack and freshman Brandon Engelhardt are hitting .306 and .302 respectively and have combined to go 16-for-19 on steal attempts this season.
On the Mound
The Quakers will have kept the same starting pitching quartet for each of the past two weekends and change is unlikely for the four-game series against Cornell. Senior Paul Cusick has been the staff ace this year, leading the team with 62 strikeouts in just 52.2 innings with a 4-2 record and team-best 2.39 ERA. He has also allowed just two earned runs in his last 23 innings of work, striking out 32 batters and walking just ten over that span. Junior Vince Voiro has also been strong for Penn, having tossed three consecutive complete games. For the season he has a 3-4 record with a 3.38 ERA. He is second on the team with 48.0 innings pitched and has a career-best 50 strikeouts this season. The other starting junior, Chris McNulty has pitched well in his last two appearances, going 8.1 innings while allowing nine hits and just three earned runs. For the season he has a 1-3 record with a 5.56 ERA and 21 strikeouts. Sophomore John Beasley has yet to win a game this year but has been solid in his last two starts, going seven innings in each and giving up just two earned runs each time. He also has given up just 12 hits and has 12 strikeouts in those starts.
Scouting the Big Red
Hitting: Cornell his hitting .255 this year as just one player is batting over .300. Additionally, the team is slugging .371 and has an on-base percentage of .333. Leading the hitting contingent for the Big Red is Mickey Brodsky. The senior is batting .325 this season and leads the team with 40 hits and eight doubles. He also has scored 12 times and is second on the team with 19 RBI. Another player to keep an eye on is junior Brian Billigen, who has hit seven of the team's 18 home runs this year. He is batting .289 but leads the team with a .608 slugging percentage and four doubles and three triples.
Pitching: The Cornell pitching staff has struggled this year, sporting a 6.30 ERA, however they have been a bit better in Ivy League play (6.14). Seniors Jadd Schmeltzer, Taylor Wood and Corey Pappel have each started at least seven games this year and thrown at least 39.0 innings. Schmeltzer leads the team with a 4.38 ERA and has 30 strikeouts and 18 walks in 39.0 innings. Wood leads the team with two victories and 36 strikeouts, and has a 5.21 ERA in 46.2 innings of action. Pappel, an honorable mention All-Ivy selection last year, is 0-7 this year with a 5.77 ERA. In 43.2 innings he has 27 strikeouts but has walked 23 batters.
The Quakers are currently in second place in the Lou Gehrig division with a 7-5 record. They trail first-place Princeton by two games and lead Columbia by one game. This weekend could further complicate the standings as Princeton (9-3) and Columbia (6-6) face each other in a pair of doubleheaders.
Oh Danny Boy
Senior Dan Williams enters the weekend within reach of the school's all-time hit record. The third baseman has 192 career hits, just shy of Nick Italiano's record of 194 set back in 2003. Williams is also third all-time in Penn history in runs scored with 130, trailing just Glenn Ambrosius (130) and Tom Olszak (135). He is also fourth in career doubles with 38.
Sweating it Out
The Quakers have played 12 Ivy League games this season and seven have been decided by two runs or less. Penn is 2-2 in one-run games in Ivy play and then 1-2 in two runs games this season. The team is also 5-1 when they lead after six innings. The long ball has been key as the Red and Blue are 6-2 when they belt at least one home run.
The Quakers have 44 steals this season with four players totaling at least seven swipes. Jeremy Maas and Greg Zebrack each have nine while Adrian Lorenzo has eight and Brandon Engelhardt has seven. Lorenzo is also tied for second with five in 12 Ivy League games. In his career he has 19 steals, the most for a Quaker since Alex Nwaka finished his career with 22 in 2008.
Senior Paul Cusick has turned one of the best pitching seasons in recent memory for the Quakers. He has a career-best 2.39 ERA with three complete games and 62 strikeouts in 52.2 innings. The 62 strikeouts are tied with Todd Roth's 2007 total of 62 for the most since John Cole took over the baseball program. Cusick also has 182 career strikeouts, good for sixth in Penn history.
Ivy Rankings (Within Ivy Play)
Penn leads the league in average (.312), slugging (.488), on-base percentage (.379), runs (78), doubles (24), home runs (13) ... The Quakers are also second in walks (34), fewest strikeouts (55) and steals (14) ... Individually, Will Davis leads the league in hitting (.432), on-base percentage (.537), slugging (.795), hits (19), runs (16), doubles (7), total bases (35) ... Paul Cusick is first in strikeouts with 30 and second with a 0.82 ERA ... Derek Vigoa is fifth in batting (.400), second in hits (18) and fourth in RBI (11).