WINTER PARK, Fla. – Staring a 9-2 deficit in the face early in the game, Penn could have rolled over and allowed its three-game losing streak to become a four-gamer.
Instead, a freshman pitcher picked up his upperclass ace, a sophomore catcher who hadn’t registered a hit all season came up with three on the day, a junior starting at his third position in three years slammed a game-tying two-run homer and a freshman leadoff hitter scored the winning run on a two-out single from the DH as Penn rallied for an 11-10 win over Rollins on Wednesday.
Oh, and the designated hitter who picked up the winning hit? That would be Jeremy Maas. You may remember him as a starting pitcher on last year’s team. However, as he rehabs from offseason Tommy John surgery, he can still hit – which is an understatement.
Maas, had three hits in five at-bats on the day – including a double and a triple – to up his average to a team-high .536. At the moment he leads the team in hits, doubles, total bases, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
Of course, the late-inning offensive heroics may not have been possible if not for the stellar pitching of rookie Trey Jennings. He entered the game in the third inning after junior Todd Roth had allowed nine runs to erase a 2-0 Penn lead. Jennings promptly retired the first batter he faced on a groundout to himself to end the inning.
Jennings went 6.1 innings, allowing just one run on four hits for his first collegiate win. Hisonly hiccup came in the fifth when he allowed back-to-back doubles to give Rollins its tenth run. From there, he allowed only one runner to reach second base over the final 4.1 innings and induced two inning-ending double plays in the final two innings to ice any chance for a Tars rally.
Most teams would have been shell-shocked after allowing nine runs in an inning. However, the Quakers showed a team-heart and will to win that had been lacking since their two wins last weekend to start the trip.
In the bottom of the third – immediately after allowing the nine-spot – Penn got a run back when Maas tripled home Adrian Thomas – who had a 3-for-3 day at the plate with three runs scored and an two runs driven in.
The Quakers added five runs in the fourth inning. The first two came when Thomas drove in Derek Vigoa and James Mraz with a double to left-center. A Dan Williams sac fly scored Thomas who advanced on a wild pitch from reliever Michael Eppich. Will Davis scored Tommy Grandieri and Maas. For the final two runs of the inning, putting Penn back within one at 9-8.
Even though Jennings allowed a run back in the next inning to up Rollins’ lead to 10-8, Penn did not panic. Despite having the lead runner on in the sixth and being unable to advance him with a hit and run attempt, ultimately being retired in the inning thanks to a line-out double play, the Quakers did not wilt.
Instead, the team dug deep and put together one last rally, tying the game in the bottom of the seventh when William Gordon sent a home run over the left-center fence, scoring Davis, who had singled the at-bat prior. Momentum was clearly on the Red and Blue’s side.
And that rejuvenation carried over onto the defensive side of the field in the eighth inning when Williams fielded a hard-hit grounder to third, applied a tag to the Rollins runner who had taken off on contact from second and then fired to first to complete the 5-3 double play.
What followed in the eighth was well-executed baseball at its best.
Freshman James Mraz singled to right to start the inning. Thomas, who had been mashing the ball all day, sacrificed himself with a bunt to move the runner to second. He even stopped running midway down the line to make sure he confused the first baseman enough to allow Mraz to make it to second.
Williams, an All-Ivy player in 2008, showed he can be counted on to get the job done a swell, grounding out to the right side, allowing Mraz to slide over to third base with two outs. Maas, was calm under pressure, despite facing a 1-2 count. He stayed in on a pitch and drove a single on the ground through the left side, scoring Mraz with the eventual winning run.
In the top of the ninth, with the rookie still on the mound, it was again the defense turn to shore up the win. Mraz reeled in a high popup in sunny right field for the first out. Jennings allowed a single pinch-hitter Eugene Martinez which gave Rollins a little bit of life. The Tars’ hope was quickly squashed by a textbook 5-4-3 double play on a 0-1 pitch to end the game.
Penn evens its record at 4-4 with the win. The Quakers are off on Thursday and back on the field on Friday against Georgetown at noon.