The expectations for the 2006 Penn softball team were to turn the corner and play winning softball. After being competitive with a young squad in 2005, a winning record seemed likely coming into the season. Although a winning record was not achieved, the Quakers’ 18 overall wins were the most since the 1981 Ivy League Championship team. Their five Ancient Eight wins were also the most since 1981.
One area in which the Red and Blue turned the corner on was offense. Penn led the Ivy League in team batting average (.298), slugging percentage (.424), on-base percentage (.358) and hits (363). Individually, Christina Khosravi led the league in total bases (85), on-base percentage (.465) and slugging percentage (.607) while finishing second in batting (.407).
A Strong Core
The Quakers returned their everyday starting lineup from 2005. The lineup consisted of seven juniors and two sophomores. Penn was led up the middle by Khosravi and Annie Kinsey. The tandem combined to hit .400, score 57 runs, drive in 51 RBI, and hit 20 doubles and 10 home runs. They also tied for the school’s single-season record in home runs (5) and hits (57).
Another staple in the Red and Blue’s lineup was leadoff batter Stephanie Reichert. Besides batting .346, the Quakers’ sparkplug was second in the Ivy League in doubles (13), fifth in runs scored (30) and seventh in walks (17). She also showed signs of power, belting four home runs.
These three were supported by a strong cast of juniors who provided clutch hits and key defensive plays. Julia Cheney batted .328 and hit three home runs. Catcher Brandi King hit three homers and led the team with three triples. She was also a stalwart behind the plate, throwing out 60 percent of base stealers. Kaelin Ainley, Melissa Haffner and Teresa Leyden provided sure-handed defense in the outfield, combining for 14 assists. Leyden was successful at moving runners batting in the second spot; she was second in the nation in sacrifice bunts per game (.53) and laid down 20 for the season.
In the Circle
One area of weakness for the Quakers was the pitching staff not in talent, but in depth. Penn started the season with a small staff that got even smaller when Michelle Rehm took a line drive off her pitching hand against Loyola Marymount and was lost for a huge portion of the season.
Olivia Mauro, who was supposed to be a middle reliever, moved into a starter’s role and did a nice job after being thrust into the role. The junior logged 102.2 innings and led the Quakers with a 3.75 ERA.
The most pleasant surprise was the emergence of freshman Emily Denstedt. She led the team in innings pitched (115.0), wins (12), strikeouts (49), appearances (27) and games started (19). Denstedt also hurled nine complete games and four shutouts. She earned Ivy League Pitcher of the Week (4/25) and Rookie of the Week (3/14).
Starting Out Strong
Penn got out to its best start under third-year head coach Leslie King, winning its first four games at the Sun West Tournament in Orange, Calif. The Quakers hit .408, popped five homers and scored 32 runs. The Red and Blue capped off the tournament with a thrilling 6-5, extra-innings over Methodist College. Penn scored the go-ahead run on a single by Reichert. The drama did not end there. In the bottom half, Ainley caught a fly ball and threw a strike to the plate to throw out a runner who was tagging up for the game ending double play.
The Quakers saw its 4-0 start slip away when they continued their California trip at the Loyola Marymount Tournament. Penn was overpowered by Loyola Marymount, Cal State Northridge and Loyola Chicago.
The Red and Blue returned home 4-6 and did not put a halt to its losing streak until a 7-3 win over St. Francis (N.Y.) in the Bash at the Beach Tournament. Penn would put that bad spell behind them, winning six of the next eight games and sweeping doubleheaders from Lafayette and Lehigh heading into Ivy League play.
The Ivy League Slate
The Quakers opened up the Ancient Eight campaign by hosting defending champions Princeton. In game one, Denstedt held the Tigers scoreless until the sixth. After a lead-off double, Jackie Araneo homered to left. Princeton added some breathing room, scoring two runs on a single. Penn could not figure out Erin Snyder, who threw a three-hit shutout. The Tigers then won game two, 5-2 taking advantage of three Quaker errors.
The next weekend, the Red and Blue split doubleheaders with Brown and Yale. Penn’s win over the Bears was highlighted by a Denstedt complete-game shutout and a grand slam in the sixth by Kinsey. Against the Bulldogs, Denstedt duplicated her performance from the day before, hurling another complete-game shutout. Penn added an insurance run in the fifth on a solo homer to center by Haffner.
Heading into the final two weeks of the season the Quakers sat at 2-4 in the Ivy League and had an opportunity to climb in the standings. Cornell and Columbia made sure the Red and Blue did not do that, as Penn went 0-4 on the weekend.
Closing Out the Season
Penn hit the road for the final weekend of the season, traveling to Dartmouth and Harvard. Going on the road was just what the Quakers needed for its bats to come alive. The Red and Blue batted .421 and hit five home runs in its final four games.
After defeating the Big Green 5-2 in game one, both teams embarked on one for the ages in the nightcap. Game two turned out to be a 13-inning, three-hour-and-30-minute affair. A second victory on the day was three outs away as Penn held a 5-4 lead in the seventh. However, Dartmouth tied it up to send it to extra innings. Both teams exchanged runs in the ninth and the game remained tied for the next two innings.
In the top of the 13th, with two on and one out, Cheney decided she had enough. She crushed a homer to left to put Penn on top 7-5. After pitching a complete game earlier in the day, Denstedt returned to throw two scoreless innings in the nightcap and picked up her second win against the Big Green.
After a three-hour trip to Cambridge, the Quakers somehow mustered enough energy to score 14 runs against Harvard the next day. After losing game one 7-6, Penn was out for keeps in the season finale. The Red and Blue scored at least one run in five innings and belted two home runs.
Kinsey provided instant offense with a leadoff homer. Khosravi also hit a long ball, a two-run shot, in the fifth. The pair teamed up to go 6-for-8 with six RBI and three runs scored.
Not to be forgotten in the offensive explosion of game two was the performance of Denstedt in the circle. The freshman scattered eight hits over seven innings while striking out two. She also picked up her 12th win, which put her in second place in the school’s single-season win total.
Khosravi was named Ivy League Player of the Year, voted on by the league’s eight coaches. Six others earned All-Ivy recognition, tying Penn with Ivy League champions Princeton for the most. Kinsey earned her second first-team selection in as many years. King, Ainley and Reichert were named second-team and Cheney and Kim May were named honorable mention.