AUBURN, Ala.In a winner’s match between the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds of the Auburn Regional, Cole Sapphire delivered a masterful performance on the mound as the fourth-seeded University of Pennsylvania baseball team secured a 5-4 victory against third-seeded Samford at Plainsman Park on Saturday night.
The Quakers scored five runs in the first five innings and held on in the bottom of the ninth behind a defensive play to end the ball game.
Quaker Note Meal
* Penn earned two NCAA Regional wins in the same season for the first time in program history; the Quakers entered this year with three all-time wins in NCAA play (1988, 10-6 over Southern; 1989, 7-1 over Illinois; 1990, 5-3 over Cal-Santa Barbara).
*Penn is the first Ivy League team to win its first two games in a regional since the NCAA went to a four-team 16 in 1999.
* It is the second year in a row that an Ivy team has won twice at a regional event (Columbia in 2022). Other multi-game winning Ivies in regional play included Yale (2) in 2017 and Columbia (3) in 2015.
*Saturday was the first game of all time between the Quakers and the Bulldogs.
* Penn’s pitching staff surpassed 500 strikeouts in a season for the first time in program history. The previous record was 485, set by the team last year.
* Zaffiro shutout in the eighth inning and pitched a career-high for eight innings without walking, allowing two runs on four hits and striking out eight.
*Penn earned his 34th win of the year, breaking the single-season record set by the 2022 team’s program.
* The Quakers took their winning streak to 10 games, the longest for the program since winning 11 in a row from March 27 to April 6, 2014.
* Cole Palis finished 1-for-5 and reached base safely for the 37th game in a row.
* Wyatt Henseler recorded an extra-base hit for the 13th straight game to finish 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI.
How it happened
With one out in the first, back-to-back singles by Appel and Henseler set the stage for Miller, who hit one to center right, scored Appel and sent Henseler to third base. Baker followed with a groundout to first base and Henseler scored.
After Zaffiro put the Bulldogs in order in the first inning, the Quakers offense tacked on another run in the second.
With one out, Seth Werchan reached on a bunt-single, his second bunt of the Regional, then stole second base. With two outs, Palis brought Werchan round with a line-drive shot back in the middle, putting the Red and Blue up 3-0.
After a quiet third and fourth, Appel, Henseler and Miller added in the fifth. With one out, Appel singled to left and later scored on a two-out double by Henseler to the deepest part of the park at left-center. Miller followed with a Henseler-scoring single to left.
Samford held Penn off the board for the last four innings, but Zaffiro was dominant, taking out the first 10 Bulldogs and looking at the minimum through five. He ran into trouble in the sixth, when two runners reached on a couple of errors, but the first-team All-Ivy roster escaped the threat with his sixth strikeout of the night.
The quest for a shutout ended on a two-run homer by Garrett Staton in the eighth, but Zaffiro took the final out of the inning to keep the lead to three runs.
The Quakers went down 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth and set the table for the bottom of the inning with a 5-2 lead.
Edward Sarti entered the game to relieve Zaffiro, looking for the save, but put the first three runners on base on two walks and a hit by pitch to load the bases.
David Shoemaker took over and allowed a run on a groundout and another run on the final play of the game, but the clutch defense prevented the Bulldogs from catching up and holding onto the lead for the 5–4 victory.
Penn will face the winner of an elimination match between Samford and Southern Miss with two seeds tomorrow night at 9 PM EDT / 8 PM CDT. A win would see Penn advance into the Super Regional round next weekend.
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