PHILADELPHIA – The University of Pennsylvania baseball team (20-14, 6-6 Ivy) will close out the non-conference season on Wednesday when the Quakers travel to Lehigh for a 3:30 p.m. date with the Mountains Hawks (18-19). After Wednesday, Penn has eight regular season contests left – four each against Cornell and Columbia that will play a large role in determining the winner of the Gehrig Division race.
Last Time Out
Princeton scored first-inning runs in all three of its wins over the weekend against Penn, while the Quakers scored in their first at-bat in their one victory of the four-game series. The opening game on Saturday belonged to Zak Hermans, who struck out 12 and allowed just five Penn hits in a 7-2 win. The Red and Blue rallied in the second game of the day, hitting Princeton starter Kevin Link hard and scoring six runs in the first three innings. Austin Bossart added a fifth-inning solo home run and three Princeton errors opened the door for another run in the sixth. That run proved vital as the Tigers tried to rally late, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position in the ninth inning before Ronnie Glenn struck out two and induced a weak grounder back towards the mound to pick up his Ivy League-leading eighth save of the season in an 8-7 triumph.
Dan Gautieri struggled in the opening two innings of his Sunday start and the Quakers could not dig out of the hole against Princeton’s Mike Ford. Ford allowed two hits and a run in the bottom of the fifth inning, but that was all Penn managed against him the entire afternoon as the Tigers walked away with a 7-1 victory. In the final game of the series, Penn trailed 6-3 after six innings and nothing had changed as the game entered the bottom of the ninth. A two-out rally with base hits from Connor Betbeze and Brandon Engelhardt, plus a walk from Rick Brebner and a hit batter in the form of Ryan Deitrich made it 6-4. Bossart then tied the game with a line drive into left to make it 6-6 as the game went into extra innings. Just when it looked like Penn was going to come away with a hard-earned split, Princeton answered with a solo home run in the top of the tenth to take the lead and eventually the win, 7-6. Engelhardt led Penn with five hits on the weekend, batting .357 along with two stolen bases. Jeff McGarry earned the win on the mound for the Quakers on Saturday.
Wednesday’s matchup with Lehigh begins a stretch of seven straight games away from Meiklejohn Stadium for Penn. Though playing at home is always preferable, the Quakers have done a remarkable job on the road this season, compiling a 13-7 record thus far. Playing once against the Mountain Hawks, four times at Cornell and twice at Columbia, this year’s Penn team could challenge the all-time school record for road wins in a season, shared by the 1975 and 1988 teams who won 15 games apiece away from home.
Penn vs. the Patriot League
Since the formation of Patriot League baseball going into the 1991 season, Penn has recorded an overall record of 29-31 against its Northeast neighbors. Thanks to a four-game series with Lafayette, plus a slight scheduling quirk thanks to the Liberty Bell Classic that saw the Quakers play a fifth straight game against the Leopards, this game with Lehigh will mark Penn’s sixth game of the season against Patriot League competition, a record that overtakes the five games played against the PL in 2010 and 2006. Having defeated Lafayette four times in five encounters, Penn has already set a new standard for wins against the Patriot League in a single season.
Like Penn, Lehigh will be using Wednesday as a tune-up before an important weekend in its league race. The Mountain Hawks enter the weekend at 5-7 in the Patriot League and are currently fifth in a league where only the top four advance to the conference tournament. Three regulars in the lineup come in batting above .300, led by Justin Pacchioli who is hitting .366 with nine doubles and four triples. Mike Garzillo leads the team with 13 doubles, while John Elson paces the squad with 27 runs batted in and is one of three players with two homers on the season. Beyond the threats the Mountain Hawks have at the plate, what could be more troublesome for Penn’s defense is what Lehigh does once it gets runners on. LU has stolen a whopping 74 bases on 88 attempts this season, 19 more than Penn’s total of 55 which is tied for the Ivy League lead. Garzillo and Casey Turner each have 13 stolen bases apiece, while Elson adds 12 more into the mix.
Playing only one mid-week contest before the weekend, Lehigh will have plenty of options out of the bullpen if they choose to throw multiple arms. Josh Flyer started a mid-week game last week at Rider and leads the team with a 0.79 ERA in six appearances, two of which have been starts. All 10 of Thomas O’Malley’s appearances have been in relief, and he has cobbled together a 2.41 ERA in 18.2 innings of work. Kevin Long (1-2, 6.41 ERA in 14 appearances) and Nick Stephens (1-5, 4.83 ERA in 13 appearances) are two others that could very well see action for the Mountain Hawks.