College Station Regional Tournament Central
Arizona 3, Penn 2 (8)
WP: Estele Pinon (13-8), 4.1 IP, H, 0 ER, 2 BB, K
LP: Alexis Borden (17-12), 7.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R (2 ER), K
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The University of Pennsylvania softball team (30-20) saw its historic season come to a close on Saturday evening. The Quakers dropped a heartbreaker, 3-2 in eight innings, to Arizona (33-25) in an elimination contest. Penn accomplished much in 2013, including winning its second Ivy League title in program history and qualifying for the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. The Red and Blue graduated seven core seniors of this year’s squad, including three of their four captains, and will now look toward 2014 and continuing their success in the Ivies.
The second game in NCAA postseason history for Penn started out much better than its first. Sydney Turchin led off the top of the first inning with a single through the right side, although the half inning would end on a tailor-made double play. In the home half, the first two batters would reach safely for Arizona, but the Quakers would get a double play of their own – albeit unorthodox. The Wildcat batter would hit a grounder to Samantha Erosa, who would toss to Stephanie Caso at second for the out, and reach safely on what look to be a fielder’s choice. Then, thinking she had been called out, the Arizona batter started to head to the dugout. Alexis Borden had the presence of mind to toss the ball to Georgia Guttadauro at first for the second out for the 4-6-1-3 double play.
Brooke Coloma and Kayla Dahlerbruch led off the top of the second by drawing a pair of walks, but Penn was unable to bring them home – Jessica Melendez did hit a nice line drive to left-center, although it was right at the Arizona centerfielder. Borden came back to pitch a flawless inning in the home half. Erosa factored into all three outs, getting the first two on popups and the third on a groundout.
Penn would go down in order again in the top of the third, but Arizona would not fair any better in the home half. Borden recorded the first out, catching a line drive right at the circle. Then, after a two-out bunt single, Borden would field the groundout to end the inning. Through three, the game was still knotted at zero apiece.
That would change in the next half inning though, as Penn jumped out to the 2-0 lead thanks to a two-run shot off the bat of Guttadauro. Erosa would lead off with a single right back up the middle. Then, with two away, the Red and Blue’s junior first baseman turned on a pitch low and in, sneaking the homer just inside the rightfield foul pole for two runs. A Melendez walk in the following at-bat would eventually chase Arizona’s starting pitcher.
The Wildcats would also get on the board in the fourth, pulling within one on a no-out RBI-single through the left side. Borden would clamp down after that at-bat though, sending down the next three Arizona batters to end the inning with Penn out in front 2-1 through four. Things would stay scoreless in the fifth – Penn had a single and two walks in the top half and Arizona eked out an infield single in the home half.
The sixth inning saw three up and three down for both teams, but not without some flair from Guttadauro. The Ivy League’s top fielding first baseman made a diving catch in foul ground for the second out of the bottom half of the inning, earning the title of SportsCenter top play nominee from ESPN play-by-play broadcaster Pam Ward.
Penn went quietly in the top of the seventh, going down in order. Arizona came back with the pressure on in the bottom of the seventh, getting an RBI single through the left side to knot the game at two and send it to extra innings. The Quakers were unable to get anything going in the top of the eighth and were left to keep it alive in the home half. Unfortunately for Penn, the Wildcats were able to get a one-out sacrifice fly to take the walk-off victory and send the Red and Blue home.
With the loss, Penn’s season officially came to an end, but it was nothing short of historic and record-breaking. As mentioned, the Quakers won the Ivy title for the second time in program history, won the South Division for the third time, and earned a berth to the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. Additionally, the Quakers showed that they are a top tier Division I program and competed with a national powerhouse in Arizona on national television until the very end.
Despite the graduation of seven key seniors, the Red and Blue will return in 2014 with a vengeance, hoping to top their amazing feats from this season.