PHILADELPHIA Before they could focus on this weekend’s showdown with Columbia, the Quakers had to turn their attention to a doubleheader with Lehigh at Meiklejohn Stadium on Wednesday. After dropping game one, 3-0, to the Mountain Hawks, Penn earned a split with a 6-2 win in the finale.
After a game one that saw Lehigh score three times in the first two innings and hold the Quakers to six scattered hits, the last thing Penn needed was to spot Lehigh a lead early in game two. That is just what happened though, as Mark Bernhard scored in the top of the first to give the Hawks an early 1-0 lead. Bernhard singled to right and advanced to second when Tom Grandieri’s throw sailed over the cut-off man. Brendan McGaheran advanced Bernhard with a fly out to center and he scored on a Liam O’Connor single.
The difference between game two and the first game was that Penn rallied immediately to take control of the game.
In the home half of the first, the Red and Blue put two runs on the board. After two singles from Steve Gable and Kyle Armeny, it appeared that Mike Mariano had grounded into a fielder’s choice that would erase Gable. O’Connor mishandled the grounder and everyone was safe. After Dan Williams ground into a fielder’s choice that eliminated Gable at home, Grandieri made up for his overthrow with a double down the left field line that bounced off the chalk and scored both Armeny and Mariano.
Lehigh tied the game in the second inning off a Geoff Campbell sacrifice fly. His fly ball to deep center was enough to score Greg Turcotte who had tripled to lead off the inning. Starting pitcher Sam Gilbert retired the next two in order to end the inning.
Penn broke the tie right away in the bottom of the second. Michael Gatti singled to left with one out to start the rally and then stole second base. A single from Adrian Thomas resulted in Gatti advancing to third. Gable drove him in with a sac fly to left. A wild pitch from Mike Lebo allowed Thomas to reach second. Armeny walked to bring up Mariano. The freshman catcher continued his hot streak at the plate, belting a double to the left-centerfield wall to score both runners and give Penn a 5-2 lead.
Penn added its sixth run in the fourth inning when Thomas singled to center and then took second on a Gable groundout. Two wild pitches from Rob Russell allowed the Quakers’ leadoff hitter to score.
Lehigh had the lead runner on in the sixth, but Anthony Aruffo was able to retire Billy Swenson via popup to first and then induced an inning-ending double play from pinch hitter Matt Reitz to retire the side.
Thomas continues to spark the offense at the top of the order. In game two he was 2-for-4 with two runs scored to go with one hit in game one. Armeny was 1-for-1 with two walks and two runs scored in the second game. Mariano also reached base all three times in the finale, reaching on a double, walk and fielder’s choice.
Aruffo pitched in both games of the twin bill, allowing zero runs over his three innings of work. He allowed just one hit and lowered his ERA to 2.03, second on the team.
The Quakers now turn their sights to the Big Apple and a date with Columbia with the Ivy League Gehrig Division title on the line. Penn is third in the division, but a four-game sweep of the Lions in NYC and Philly this weekend will vault them into a first place tie provided Princeton wins no more than two games against Cornell. If those scenarios unfold, Penn will need to finish the suspended game with Yale from March. A win in that game, which is tied 9-9 after 11 innings, will put the Quakers in the Ivy League Championship Series for the second consecutive season.
Saturday’s doubleheader will begin at noon in New York. Sunday’s also begins at noon at Meiklejohn Stadium. Sunday is also Alumni Weekend for the baseball team. The 1988, 1989 and 1990 Ivy championship teams will be honored during the games as will the senior class of 2008.