Category Archives: Softball

Championship Sunday: One afternoon, two teams, two titles

With Penn’s women’s lacrosse and softball teams both playing one game at home for their respective Ivy League championships – just an hour apart – I went to campus to watch both games and chronicle the experience. It turned out to be a very good day for the Quakers. Here’s what transpired:

12:00: “I’m going to be doing a lot of banging,” a father of one of the Penn players informs me as the lacrosse game begins. “You might want to move up a row.” I keep my seat and the Franklin Field bench indeed begins to shake beneath me. I don’t mind. Lacrosse fever, baby!

12:02: People are still settling in when Penn scores its first goal of the game – the 16th of the year from Maddie Poplawski.

12:06: Lucy Ferguson makes the first of her eight saves on the day. “She’s amazing,” someone in the crowd says of the Penn goalie that would soon earn quite the amazing honor.

12:07: Ferguson can’t save a shot from Dartmouth star Hana Bowers, who nets her 46th goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1. It would be the last time the game is tied and the last time the Big Green would score that half.

Dartmouth was no match for Penn goalie Lucy Ferguson (courtesy of Penn Athletics)

Dartmouth was no match for Penn goalie Lucy Ferguson (Penn Athletics)

12:18: Two straight free-position goals – from Caroline Bunting and Courtney Tomchik puts Penn up 3-1 as the crowd goes wild. The Penn fan that leads the cheers with a bullhorn after every goal gets a friendly suggestion to take a sip of water to preserve his voice. He grabs his 24-once Wawa coffee and takes a sip of that. I guess that works, too.

12:30: After a couple of more big saves from Ferguson, Penn goes up 4-1 on the 21st goal of the season from Iris Williamson.

12:43: Penn completes a dominant first half with a Bunting goal with just 11 seconds remaining. It’s 5-1 at the halftime break but the Quakers know they can’t rest easy. In last year’s Ivy championship, they held a 3-1 lead at halftime before watching Dartmouth celebrate on their own field.

Penn's Caroline Bunting shook free of Dartmouth defenders all day (photo courtesy of Penn Athletics)

Penn’s Caroline Bunting shook free of Dartmouth defenders all day (Penn Athletics)

12:59: Penn picks up right where it left off, opening up a 6-1 lead early in the second half on another Poplawski goal.

1:02: Around the same time Dartmouth slices a little bit into the lead to make it 6-2, the Penn-Dartmouth softball championship begins over at Penn Park. I start following that game on Twitter.

1:07: Penn calls a timeout after Bowers scores to make it 6-3. The people dressed in green are starting to make a little more noise.

1:09: Over the loudspeaker, it’s announced that Yale beat Princeton in the Ivy League men’s lacrosse championship but there aren’t any cheers. Come on, Penn fans – where’s the Princeton hate?

1:11: After Penn goes up 7-3, I get a high-five from the fan with the bullhorn, who I find out is defender Meg Markham’s dad, John. I asked how he got the role of head cheerleader. “I’m loud and they gave me this,” he said, pointing to the bullhorn. Makes sense.

John Markham is the man with the bullhorn for women's lacrosse games

John Markham is the man with the bullhorn for women’s lacrosse games

1:16: Bunting gets her hat trick to put Penn up 8-3 with a little under 20 minutes remaining. Things are looking good at Franklin Field but not as good at Penn Park, where Dartmouth opened the scoring with a run in the top of the first.

1:22: Dartmouth is going to have nightmares about Bunting, who scores her fourth of the game to extend Penn’s commanding lead to 9-3.

1:30: Dartmouth is making a little noise on both fields, scoring two straight goals to shave Penn’s lead to 9-5 while increasing its advantage at Penn Park to 2-0 through one-and-a-half innings.

1:35: The lacrosse game is starting to get pretty physical with an increasingly desperate Dartmouth team committing three straight penalties. But Penn makes the Big Green pay when Meredith Cain burying a free-position goal following one of them. Meanwhile at Penn Park, the Quakers slice Dartmouth’s lead in half on a Georgia Guttadauro RBI single in the second inning.

1:45: Dartmouth again scores two straight goals. But with Penn leading 10-7 and just five minutes left, the Big Green are running out of time.

1:48: Bunting forces a key turnover and Ferguson makes a big save as the Quakers begin to clamp down to protect their lead and run down the clock.

1:53: With fans counting down the final seconds, the final whistle blows and Penn celebrates its 10-7 win in the middle of the field. The win assures the Quakers a spot in the NCAA tournament for a whopping seventh straight year. Later, they’ll find out they draw Virginia in the first round Friday.

1:55: As is their custom, the Penn players sing “The Red and the Blue” in front of their fans. The Dartmouth players quickly try to scamper out of the stadium but reluctantly stop halfway down the track for the trophy ceremony.

After doing some celebrating, the Penn players do some singing

After doing some celebrating, the Penn players then did some singing

2:00: The all-tournament team is named with Bunting, Cain, Markham and Poplawski all earning a spot and Ferguson being named most outstanding player. Chants of “Lucy” can be heard all across Franklin Field, right before all of the players go to receive their championship trophy.

Everyone wants to touch the the championship trophy

Everyone wants to touch the the championship trophy

2:04: With one championship down and one to go, I begin the long, arduous journey from Franklin Field to Penn Park to catch the end of the softball game.

2:08: Just as I’m completing the arduous journey, I see a ball fly over the fence and notice that Penn is now leading 3-2. The fourth-inning solo home run, I find out, was belted by Kayla Dahlerbruch. And it came after Penn tied the game on a Dartmouth error.

2:20: Penn clings to its 3-2 lead after ace Alexis Borden wiggles out of a jam in the top of the fifth, getting a strikeout to end the inning.

2:38: Still leading 3-2, Penn escapes another big jam, thanks to a clutch play to catch the lead runner at third on a sac bunt with runners on first and second and nobody out. Some Penn fans are shaking bottles filled with coins to celebrate. Is this a softball thing?

Is there a better place to watch a game? That skyline never gets old.

Is there a better place to watch a game? That skyline never gets old.

2:46: On her next at bat following the home run, Dahlerbruch gets hit in the head with a foul tip but shakes it off with a smile on her face. Penn still can’t get any more runs though as the game shifts to the seventh – and final – inning.

2:51: Looking for her second win in as many days, Borden retires the first batter of the inning on a lineout. Two more outs until Penn’s first Ivy League softball championship since 1981. Fans are standing and cheering every strike.

2:53: Strikeout. One out until the title. “Don’t say anything,” one fan warns. “It’s not over,” another one screams. Gotta love baseball/softball superstition.

2:55: A slow grounder to second … and it’s over! About an hour after one Ivy League championship, Penn wins another. You can watch the final out and some great fan reactions below.

2:57: Head coach Leslie King gets the Gatorade shower – only it wasn’t Gatorade. “Thankfully, it was water,” she’d say later, her shirt almost completely dry. “Last year it was blue Gatorade.”

3:05: Standing in a row, the Penn players pass the trophy down the line. One fan helpfully calls out, “Don’t drop it.”

For the first time since 1981, the word "Pennsylvania" will be inscribed on this trophy

For the first time since 1981, the word “Pennsylvania” will be inscribed on this trophy

3:06: I see Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky watching the celebration and ask him if Penn has ever won two Ivy League championships at home in the same day before. Off the top of his head, he thinks it might be the first. It’s later revealed that this marks the first time two Penn women’s teams earned NCAA tournament bids in the same day.

3:09: The softball team sings the second “Red and the Blue” of the day. The song definitely sounds better after a win.

Heeding the words in the dugout

Heeding the words in the dugout

3:17: With players still smiling and taking pictures with their friends and family, I talk to Dahlerbruch about her game-winning home run. She said her dad has the ball. She’s going to keep it.

3:25: I talk to King about capturing her first title at Penn. Like all good coaches, she credited her senior class but admitted she was nervous during the final two innings as she was “counting down the outs.” As for the upcoming NCAA tournament, King said, “We’re going to go to some beautiful stadium somewhere and play some high-quality team and we’re looking forward to the challenge and the experience. We’re really going to enjoy the ride.”

3:30: I leave the softball stadium. All of the players and parents are still on the field, not wanting the moment to end.

The team that broke the 32-year title drought.

The team that broke the 32-year title drought.

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Filed under Softball, Women's Lacrosse

Championship weekend comes to Penn

lacrossesoftball

 

This is getting to be a yearly tradition.

Last year at this time, Penn hosted the Ivy League women’s lacrosse tournament, the track and field Heptagonal Championships, and a one-game playoff for the softball division title.

This weekend should be just as fun.

For the fourth straight year, Penn will host the Ivy League women’s lacrosse tournament with Princeton playing Dartmouth on Friday at 4 p.m. and the Quakers, led by recently named Ivy League Midfielder of the Year Shannon Mangini, facing Cornell at 7 p.m. at Franklin Field. Both of those games are semifinal contests.

The next day, Penn hosts the Ivy League softball championship series for the first time ever, as the Quakers, who won the Ivy South Division with a 16-4 record, take on North Division champ Dartmouth in a Saturday doubleheader at Penn Park starting at 1 p.m.

Since it’s a best-of-three series, if the two teams split Saturday, they’d play again on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Penn Park in a win-or-go-home battle for the league title – and automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

Meanwhile, if the Penn women’s lacrosse game wins its semifinal game on Friday, it would also play in a championship game on Sunday – at noon.

That means that on Sunday, you might be able to watch Penn win a women’s lacrosse Ivy championship at around 2 p.m., leave Franklin Field, make the very short walk to Penn Park and see the softball team win a league title possibly within the next hour or so.

What do you think, Quakers? Two championships in one afternoon?

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Filed under Softball, Women's Lacrosse

For resurgent softball team, Penn Park paying huge dividends

Penn Park softball

The Penn softball team opens Ivy League play today against Harvard, which it has had a historically difficult time beating.

But the Quakers do have at least one advantage: they’re playing at Penn Park.

Since its state-of-the-art softball stadium opened in September of 2011, Penn has enjoyed a tremendous home-field edge, boasting a 24-3 record at Penn Park and advancing all the way to the Ivy League Championship series last year.

I wrote about the program’s resurgence in this past issue of the Gazette, interviewing head coach Leslie King, ace pitcher Alexis Borden and star power hitter Brooke Coloma.

Here’s more of what they had to say about how much moving from Warren Field to Penn Park has meant to the program.

KING: “It makes you feel good running out onto that field and knowing that’s your home. You feel good about yourself as an athlete. … From a recruiting standpoint, it’s hard to match those facilities. Recruits are absolutely blown away by it. The backdrop is drop-dead gorgeous. The athletic department has made this investment into our program that I think speaks volumes.”

BORDEN: “The field’s gorgeous. I’m really lucky coming in when I did because the park opened that year. To see what we had before and what we have now is a huge jump.”

COLOMA: “It’s a completely different feeling. With Penn Park, it’s almost because you’re in a stadium that’s so beautiful that it makes you want to be there so much more. Not that we didn’t want to be there on our field. But it takes the feeling to a whole another level. It’s just so nice. There are no bumps anywhere. We never catch a bad hop on our field. It’s a great field.”

Coloma also discussed how more people now watch their games, partly because the field lures casual fans walking through Penn Park that stop to watch a few innings.

There are certainly worse ways to spend a nice spring afternoon. And considering Borden has already thrown a perfect game and a no-hitter at Penn Park, you might just see a cool milestone when you’re there.

So if you live in Philly and want to cheer on some good players in a beautiful park, here’s the rest of the softball team’s home schedule.

Friday, March 29, 2 p.m. – vs. Harvard (doubleheader)

Saturday, March 30, 4 p.m. – vs. Dartmouth (doubleheader)

Wednesday, April 3, 4 p.m. – vs. Monmouth (doubleheader)

Thursday, April 11, 6 p.m. – vs. Villanova

Saturday, April 13, 12:30 p.m. – vs. Princeton (doubleheader)

Sunday, April 14, 12:30 p.m. – vs. Princeton (doubleheader)

Wednesday, April 24, 4 p.m. – vs. Temple

Saturday, April 27, 12:30 p.m. – vs. Columbia (doubleheader)

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Filed under Softball

Perfection, (brief) disappointment at Penn Park over the weekend

I arrived at Penn Park on Saturday afternoon, hoping to catch the last couple of innings of the Penn softball team’s one-game playoff for the Ivy League South Division title vs. Cornell.

As I walked down the ramp from the north side of the park, I heard over the loudspeaker that it was the seventh inning. Quickening my pace, I saw from a distance one quick out … then another … then another.

And then I heard three words sacred to anyone who follows baseball or softball.

… A perfect game …

Yes, in one of the biggest games in program history, Penn freshman phenom Alexis Borden did not allow a Cornell runner to reach base, retiring all 21 batter in a 4-0 win that propelled the Quakers into next weekend’s Ivy League Championship series against host Harvard (where they will be going for just their second Ivy title ever and first since 1981).

Below are two videos, courtesy of Penn Athletics, of the final out and Borden talking about her accomplishment.

About 24 hours later and right next door, I was there for the entire Ivy League women’s lacrosse championship pitting the host Quakers against Dartmouth at Dunning-Cohen Champions Field, one of the turf fields at Penn Park.

At first, it looked as if Penn might add to the perfection of the weekend as they held Dartmouth scoreless for all but the entire first half (a serious accomplishment in a sport that’s very high-scoring).

But the Quakers lost the momentum and couldn’t get it back as the visiting Big Green scored six unanswered goals en route to a 6-4 win.

Despite the upsetting loss, though, Penn was rewarded for its sixth consecutive regular-season Ivy title, strong strength of schedule and rout of Harvard in the Ivy semifinals at Penn Park when it earned an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament later that day.

The trip will be Penn’s sixth straight to national tournament and it begins next weekend at Loyola (Md.).

All in all, it was a pretty good weekend at the new Penn Park – which, in addition to its charm and beauty, can now call itself the home of champions.

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Filed under Softball, Women's Lacrosse

Penn’s action-packed sports weekend

As far as sports weekends go, it’s hard to imagine too many being bigger than this one for Penn athletics. Want to head out to campus to take in some of the action? Here’s a look of what’s on tap:

Women’s Lacrosse – Ivy League Tournament

Friday and Sunday, Dunning-Cohen Champions Field at Penn Park

For the third straight year, the Quakers will host the Ivy League Women’s Lacrosse Tournament, earning that right by finishing atop the league standings to capture their sixth straight Ivy championship. Incidentally, Penn has hosted this tourney (which determines the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament) all three years of its existence.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the tourney is that the games will be the first played by a varsity team at the synthetic turf field at Penn Park, which is primarily used as a practice facility. The reason for this is the team’s normal home at Franklin Field will be occupied by track and field (see more below).

As the top seed, the Quakers open with fourth-seeded Harvard on Friday at 8 p.m. Should they advance, they’ll play the Dartmouth-Cornell winner Sunday to become the second Penn team this spring to win the Ivy title. (The men’s golf team won in thrilling fashion last weekend.)

Track and Field – Outdoor Heptagonal Championships

Saturday and Sunday, Franklin Field

Just one week after Penn Relays, Franklin Field will be filled with elite athletes again as the seven other Ivy League teams join the host Quakers for Heps.

Last year the Quaker men finished in seventh place at the outdoor championships meet but Maalik Reynolds claimed the high jump title with the second-best jump in Heps history. Now a sophomore, Reynolds will look to defend his title, as will Penn’s 4×800 relay team, which took first at last year’s meet.

On the women’s side, junior Morgan Wheeler and junior Jillian Hart are among the favorites to win Heps titles in the javelin and pole vault, respectively, while the Quakers’ 4×100 relay team of Gabrielle Piper, Paige Madison, Leah Brown and Emily Townsend should also have a good showing.

Softball – One-Game Playoff for South Division Title

Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Penn Park

For the first time in conference history, there will be a one-game playoff to determine who plays in the Ivy League Championship Series. Penn and Cornell will do the honors after finishing tied atop the South Division with 15-5 records. Both teams set up the showdown after concluding the regular season with four-game weekend sweeps. The winner of the matchup will face North Division champ Harvard the following weekend.

Cornell has won the last three South Division championships, while Penn is going for just their second division title in program history. But the upstart Quakers (32-15) have already taken three out of four from Cornell this season and boast perhaps the best pitcher in the league in Alexis Borden.

Borden, a freshman, leads the league in earned run average (1.39) and wins (23). The Penn offense, meanwhile is led by reigning Ivy League Player of the Week Brooke Coloma (who is second in the league with 34 RBIs) and freshman Sydney Turchin (who leads the league with 36 runs scored).

Penn Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Saturday, The Inn at Penn

Away from the fields where Penn’s current athletes are competing for championships, some past champions will be honored in this invite-only, black-tie event.

The eighth induction class features Diana Caramanico W’01, LPS’11 (women’s basketball), Debra Cencits Donnally NU’81, GNU’83 (field hockey/women’s lacrosse), Tim Chambers C’85 (football), Willis N. Cummings D’19 (track/cross country), Melissa Ingalls C’90 (women’s volleyball), Bruce Lefkowitz C’87 (men’s basketball), Robert Levy C’52 (special award), Timothy Ortman C’01 (sprint football/wrestling), Joseph Sturgis, Sr. C’56 L’59 (men’s basketball), Paul Toomey C’77 (men’s soccer), John Tori C’54 (men’s fencing) and Bob Weinhauer (men’s basketball coach of the famed 1979 Final Four team).

It’s a pretty impressive class to be sure, and we’ll have more on these Penn greats following the induction ceremony.

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Filed under Hall of Fame, Softball, Track and Field, Women's Lacrosse