Sophomore John Quinlan bats at the game vs. Penn at Booth Field on April 29, 2023. (Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor)

April 16, 2024

Baseball Continues Strong Conference Play With Series Victory Over Penn

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Cornell (10-13, 8-4 Ivy) came into this weekend’s games against Penn (14-17, 6-6 Ivy) having won its past two series. After losing two out of three games to Princeton at the end of March, the Red has consistently shown cleaner, fundamentally sound baseball, sweeping its series against Dartmouth and taking two out of three games from Harvard to put the team in second place in the Ivy League.

A comeback effort from Penn in the first of two games on Saturday cost Cornell the series-opening win, but a prolific offensive effort in the final games led to two wins and the series victory.

“We have some guys that are really aggressive and are working hard at it,” said head coach Dan Pepicelli. “We have a talented group that has come together. [Ever since] that third game at Princeton [where we won 15-2], we have been pretty offensive. … All in all, I have been very happy with what I have seen.”

Cornell jumped out to an early lead in Saturday’s first game, scoring four runs in the first inning including two on a double from freshman catcher Mark Quatrani. Following the first inning, Penn pitcher Cole Zaffiro would settle in, surrendering no further damage in his five total innings of work. 

For the Red, sophomore pitcher Noah Keller took the mound in search of his first win of the season. After getting through the first inning unscathed, Keller allowed three straight singles to Penn hitters, plating a run and cutting Cornell’s lead to 4-1.

Keller struggled with his command in the third inning, surrendering three walks, three hits, and four runs to give Penn the 5-4 advantage. The next inning, the Penn offense continued its attack, adding one run on a solo home run by senior Wyatt Henseler. 

Unfortunately for the Red, a seventh-inning rally fell short as senior infielder Matt Barnhorst and sophomore infielder TJ Swidorski struck out with runners on the corners to end the inning. Penn would breeze through the eighth and ninth innings and hand the Red a 6-5 series-opening loss.

“[The first game] was very competitive,” Pepicelli said. “We knew it was going to be really challenging but I thought our guys did a good job with timely hitting in the [other two games] and being aggressive [throughout].”

The second game of the doubleheader featured a total of 29 runs scored between the two teams. After a three-run homer in the first by Penn, Cornell responded with three of its own in the second. 

Freshman pitcher Huxley Holcombe completed five innings for the Red, giving up five runs on five hits, but keeping the team in the game. The sixth, seventh, and eighth innings proved to be big for Cornell as it recorded a total of 14 runs led by sophomore outfielder Caden Wildman’s two grand slams, personally plating a total of eight runs. 

While Penn continued to fight throughout the game, its 11 runs were not enough to top the Red’s 18, leaving the series decider to Sunday’s rubber match.

In the series finale, both teams’ offenses were on full display once again. Cornell scored four runs in the first while Penn plated two of its own. In the sixth inning, the Red tacked on three more, taking advantage of an error by Penn’s Nick Spaventa.

Penn took the lead for a short period after scoring six runs in the bottom of the sixth. The Quakers’ offense capitalized on two walks given up by freshman pitcher Nathaniel Jennewein en route to the 9-7 lead.

In the eighth, the Red jumped back ahead with Wildman and Quatrani once again leading the charge. Wildman’s bases-clearing double knocked in three runs while Quatrani added number four of the inning with a single of his own.

“Wildman played very well and was really clutch [throughout the series],” Pepicelli said. “The timeliness of his hitting was really key. The two grand slams were at the end of the seventh and eighth inning, and he came up with three runs on Sunday late in the game.”

The Red held on to win 11-9 and take the series from the Quakers. With an 8-4 conference record, Cornell sits one game behind Columbia for the top spot in the Ivy League, with its next game coming this Tuesday, April 16 against Binghamton (13-18, 3-9 America East) at 6:30 p.m. in Vestal, NY.