PHILADELPHIA - Rain moving into the Northeast will play a role this weekend as the Penn and Lafayette baseball teams try to alter the schedule to fit three games into what had originally been planned as a four-game set. This is the second straight year that the Quakers and Leopards have run into scheduling problems. A year ago, an April contest was cancelled due to poor playing conditions and was never re-scheduled, though the teams did meet three times in March with the Red and Blue sweeping a Saturday doubleheader to take two out of three. Friday's game will begin at 3:30 p.m. in Easton, while Saturday's twinbill at Meiklejohn Stadium is set for 10:30 a.m.
Last Time Out
Penn scored two runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to rally from an early deficit and storm past Villanova for a 6-3 win on Wednesday afternoon. Connor Cuff pitched the final four innings to collect his first collegiate victory and improve to 1-1 on the year. Offensively, the Red and Blue banged out four triples and Spencer Branigan and Derek Vigoa each had a pair of hits. Greg Zebrack upped his stolen bases total to seven with three against the Wildcats, who fell to Penn for the first time since 2009.
Following the Red and Blue
Lafayette will provide live stats of Friday's contest by clicking here. On Saturday, live stats can be followed through PennAthletics.com by clicking here, and @pennbaseball will have pictures and half-inning updates throughout the game.
Spotting the Leopards
Lafayette enters Friday with a 5-11-1 record on the season. LU and Penn have one common opponent thus far, each having played North Dakota State at different points during the Russ Matt Tournament in Florida. NDSU defeated Penn 15-3, and took down the Leopards, 4-0.
Offense: Lafayette has struggled a bit at the plate to begin the season and have scored three runs or less in nine contests to date. Junior middle infielder Kevin Casey is the leading hitter on the team at .400 through 13 games, but no other regular is hitting over .300. 15 of Casey's 18 hits are singles. Another junior, Andrew Ruck, has supplied some more power to the line-up with seven doubles and a home run.
Pitching: John Gentile, a Philadelphia-area product out of Malvern Prep, is expected to start for Lafayette on Friday. The senior has only walked six in 23.2 innings, but while he's been able to get the ball over the plate effectively, a .343 opponents' batting average has led to an ERA of 7.61 and overall record of 0-4 through five starts. Connor Ortolf and Ethan Perro round out the usual Lafayette rotation, but each boast an ERA of over 8.00. Sean McGrath has worked the most innings out of the bullpen, throwing 12.2 innings over nine appearances. A senior left-hander, McGrath is striking out an average of nearly two per inning, but control issues have ballooned his ERA to 6.39 going into the weekend.
Vince Voiro won his second straight start last Saturday at Charleston Southern. Allowing three runs over 7.1 innings, the senior righty improved to 2-1 and dropped his ERA to a stellar 2.31 on the season. While his 18 strikeouts are second on the team, Voiro has made his job much easier by not giving up free passes. With just five walks added on to the 24 hits he's allowed, Voiro's WHIP is a relatively minimal 1.24 in his four total appearances.
Connor Cuff had been solid in his first three outings in the Red and Blue but brought a 0-1 record into Wednesday's game with Villanova when he appeared in relief with the game having just been tied at 2-2. Cuff sat the Wildcats down in order in the bottom of the sixth but got into trouble in the seventh. With the bases loaded and no one out, he allowed a sac fly to left field to bring in a run that cut Penn's lead to 4-3 but escaped any further damage with a shallow liner to center and a swinging strikeout on a 3-2 count to end the threat. In the eighth and ninth, Villanova never reached base and struck out on four more occasions, as Cuff ended the game retiring eight straight batters to pick up the win.
They Keep Runnin' Runnin', and Runnin' Runnin'
Penn has now doubled up its opponents on the basepaths, with 25 stolen bases on the season to only 12 for the opposition. In the past four games, the Quakers have successfully swiped eight of nine bags, with five coming against Villanova on Wednesday. Penn has upped its success rate on stolen bases to 75.8% (25-33) for the year while Austin Bossart and the defense are limiting opponents to just 60% (12-20).
The Quakers hope to make it two in a row over Villanova when the Wildcats make the trip into the city on Tuesday at 3 p.m. for the opening game of the Liberty Bell Classic. Ivy League play opens next weekend with Brown and Yale coming south on Saturday and Sunday for a pair of 12 and 3 p.m. doubleheaders.