Cole Zaffiro Penn Baseball
Cole Zaffiro will face No. 16 Virginia on Friday. | PHOTO: Penn Athletics
Though it wasn't the path they anticipated, Penn will kick off play on Friday at Disharoon Park in the Charlottesville Regional against top-seeded Virginia. 
The Quakers (24-23) showcased remarkable resilience, battling back from the loser's bracket in the Ivy League Tournament to win three straight games and secure their second consecutive title and an NCAA Regional berth. They defeated Cornell twice on Monday, 11-9 and 12-6, becoming the first team in conference history to win back-to-back Ivy League Tournament championships. 
It's an impressive feat for a team that began the season as the preseason favorites to win the Ivy League, only to find themselves needing help to qualify for the final seed during the last weekend of the regular season. Their journey continued with a dramatic comeback from the loser's bracket to claim the championship. 
Head coach John Yurkow attributes much of this year's late-season success to the experience his team gained last year when they set a program record with 34 wins and earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament, collecting victories over Auburn and Samford before eventually falling to Southern Miss in the Regional Final. 
"I think that run last year had a lot to do with it," Yurkow said. "We started slow this year with some of our guys missing a beat, and we were inconsistent at the plate, but as the year wore on, we did a good job of making adjustments and played our best baseball over the final month of the season." 
The Quakers' offense is led by senior third baseman Wyatt Henseler, the Philadelphia Baseball Review's Division I Philly Area Offensive Player of the Year. He enters the tournament hitting .372 with 22 homers and 55 RBIs, rewriting the Penn record books and solidifying his place as one of the greatest Big 5 players ever. 
Beyond Henseler, the Quakers will look to senior Carson Ozmer to come up big in Charlottesville. The Texas native has been solid at the plate, hitting .318 with a .899 OPS, and has also excelled out of the bullpen as a late-inning option, posting a 3.68 ERA over 36 2/3 innings, along with 41 strikeouts and four saves. 
"He's done a bit of everything for us," Yurkow said. "He's such a great competitor, and you know he's going to give you everything he's got out there. As a coach, it's a reassuring feeling knowing he's up there in a big moment or spot in a game." 
Another player to watch this weekend is freshman Nick Spaventa. The Pitman, NJ native started 41 games for the Quakers and finished second behind Henseler with a .325 average and a .924 OPS. He also tied for second on the team with seven homers and 39 RBIs. 
"He started really hot but struggled on and off for about a month and dealt with some hip issues," Yurkow said. "As he's gotten healthier, he's bounced back and is now a key player for us in the middle of the lineup. He's a really good offensive player with a ton of power." 
This weekend marks the Quakers' seventh regional appearance in program history (1975, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995, 2023, 2024) and the first time since 1988-90 that the program is making consecutive NCAA appearances. 
Senior right-hander Cole Zaffiro (5-4, 4.98) will start Friday's opener, while Ryan Dromboski (3-5, 7.36) will start on Saturday. 
The Cavs enter the tourney with one of the best offenses in Division I, including nine players hitting above .300, including Bobby Whalen who is hitting a team-best .403.

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