PHILADELPHIA - Saturday's one-game playoff for the South Division Championship was everything you would expect when each squad can send out either the reigning Ivy League Pitcher of the Week or Ivy League Rookie of Week. In the end, it was Alexis Borden that would put her stamp on the Quakers' championship performance with a perfect game in Penn's 4-0 win over Cornell. The win sends the Quakers (33-15) to the Ivy League Championship Series next weekend at Harvard and ends the Big Red's (25-23) three-year run of representing the South Division.
Borden's perfect game was the first for an Ivy League pitcher since the 2006 season. In that year, Erin Snyder of Princeton threw a five inning perfect game against Yale. Also that season, Whitney Smith of Cornell threw a perfect game in five innings against Norfolk State.
Lost in Borden's pursuit of a perfect game was Cornell starter Alyson Onyon, who kept Cornell in the game all day long. The Quakers scratched across their first run on a suicide squeeze from Kayla Dahlerbruch in the third inning. The game would remain 1-0 until the bottom of the sixth when a defensive lapse by Cornell led to a three-run double to clear the bases from Elysse Gorney. However, those runs would prove to be just insurance as Borden retired all 21 batters that she faced, striking out six, while getting 11 fly outs and five ground outs on her day of perfection.
Right out of the gates, Borden was sharp, allowing just one ball out of the infield in the first as Jessica Melendez made a catch just shy of the warning track after two pop-ups on the infield. In the bottom of the first, Sydney Turchin singled to left to get things started and was moved into scoring position on a groundout back to the pitcher. However, Onyon would get the next two hitters to strand the runner in scoring position.
In the second inning, Borden did not allow a ball out of the
infield as the first batter flied out to short before Borden got her first and
second strikeouts of the afternoon. The Quakers again threatened in the second
as Melendez walked with one out and Samantha Erosa followed that up with a
single to put runners on first and second. A grounder to right side of the
infield would move both runners into scoring position, but Onyon would
eventually strand them both.
The third inning saw some great glove work in the field for the Quakers. The first batter lined one that looked to be the first hit of the day; however, a diving catch by Stephanie Caso at short kept the bid alive. The next batter would then line right back to the pitcher and Borden showed quick reflexes to snag that liner and help her own cause defensively before she finished off the inning with her third strikeout of the day.
In the bottom half, Penn would finally give its starter some breathing room. Turchin led off with a single and was bunted into scoring position by Gorney. The first pitch to Dahlerbruch was called an illegal pitch, moving Turchin to third. With the count 3-1, Dahlerbruch then laid down the suicide squeeze bunt as Turchin slid into home before the Cornell defense could react as Penn took the 1-0 lead.
Over the fourth and fifth innings, Cornell managed to get just one ball out of the infield, a foul out to Brooke Coloma, who ranged over into foul territory for the out. A strikeout and pop-up to Erosa would end Cornell's fourth, while Borden's fifth strikeout and a grounders to second and third would make her perfect through five innings. Erosa and Coloma would work walks in the fourth and fifth, respectively, but Penn could not get anything else going offensively.
With the crowd anticipating something special, Borden induced a pair a groundouts to the middle infielders before a fly out was taken in foul ground for the final out of the sixth inning and put Borden three outs away from her perfect game.
In Penn's final time at bat, Erosa and pinch-hitter Justine Payne each singled with one out. After the second out of the inning, Turchin reached base for the third time on an infield error to load up the bases. Gorney would then make that error hurt as she doubled into the left-center field gap, bringing home all three runs to stake Penn to a 4-0 lead.
With the crowd anticipating the perfect game, Borden got the Cornell leadoff hitter to foul out to first base to put one away. She would then record her sixth strikeout of the game, putting two away. The final out of the game would come on a fly to left. Drifting into foul ground, the ball hung up long enough for Turchin to range over and when the ball landed safely in her glove, the Penn bench erupted to celebrate not only the perfect game, but the South Division Championship.
For Penn offensively, Turchin and Erosa each had two-hit days. Turchin scored twice, including the game-winning run on the bunt play. Erosa also added a run along with Payne. Cornell's starter also threw a complete game, allowing just seven hits over her time in the circle, while walking three more hitters.
After clinching their second divisional title since the Ivy League went to this format in 2007, the Quakers will now move onto the best-of-three Ivy League Championship Series at Harvard next weekend. Against Harvard, the Quakers will be looking for their second Ivy League Championship in program history. The Quakers first Ivy title came during the 1981 season. The first two games will be on Friday, May 11. If a third game is needed to determine a champion that game will be played on Saturday.