The men’s baseball team has arrived at a crossroads, a proverbial fork-in-the-road that could determine the cadence of the rest of its season. Since Cornell has battled adverse weather conditions over the past seven days, it is appropriate to examine the two potential climates the Red could be headed for after this weekend:
In this case, the climate of choice is the frigid one, based solely on the fact that to get warmer, one has to go SOUTH, a.k.a. downward, plunging into a bottomless pit, spiraling out of control, straight into a black hole, only to emerge as a footnote in the standings.
Well, perhaps the situation is not so dire. However, the one question that the next four games will answer is: can Cornell rebound from Wednesday’s disastrous twin-bill in which it was outscored 39-5 by Penn State?
Head coach Tom Ford is certain that answer is yes.
“You certainly hope you never have to be on the wrong end of the stick there,” he said, referring to the two losses. “It really is not a lot of fun. But you have to look at it for what it’s worth, and if we learn something from it, then it wasn’t a wasted day.
“Certainly if we let it get after our confidence and that type of thing, then… But I don’t get that feeling from [the team]. I think they want to get right back out there again. If they could have played three games yesterday, they would have gone back out there again and seen what we could have done.”
Tomorrow and Sunday, the Red (5-8, 1-1 Ivy) will travel to face Harvard and Dartmouth in its second round of conference action.
The Crimson (5-14, 2-2) will bring the current Ivy Rookie of the Week in first baseman/pitcher Marc Hordon. He is leading the team with a solid .344 batting average and shares the lead with a 2-0 record on the mound. In last weekend’s action against Columbia, Hordon went 4-for-5 with three runs scored in Harvard’s 14-0 dismembering of the Lions.
On Wednesday, Harvard suffered a 7-2 loss to the University of Rhode Island and blundered through the match with seven errors. Last year, the team committed the second highest number of mistakes in the league with 83, while Cornell was the fourth highest with 75.
In the fifth inning of this game, junior third baseman/pitcher Nick Carter belted a two-run home run with no outs to bring Harvard within three of the Rams, trailing 5-2. What began as promising suddenly took a nosedive for the Crimson as Rhode Island escaped from the inning with the bases jammed, thus preventing further damage.
Last year the Red swept its series with Harvard by scores of 2-1 and 9-6.
Cornell should see another side of the coin on Sunday. Dartmouth had the
second best Ivy fielding percentage last year (.958). The Big Green ended the year with a 29-12 overall record and a league best 17-3 conference mark. Despite its successful regular season, Dartmouth fell in two straight matches against Princeton for the Ivy Championship.
The Big Green’s arsenal is loaded again this year, thanks to the return of last year’s top two bats. Current sophomore first baseman Mike Mileusnic was number one with a .376 batting average and senior Brian Nickerson was number two with a .372 mark. Not surprisingly, Mileusnic was named 2000’s Rookie of the Year and Nickerson was named to the All-Ivy First Team.
Dispelling hopes that his first year was a fluke, Mileusnic has returned this year as potent as ever. In last Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of Penn, Mileusnic turned in a nine-RBI day, including a Dartmouth record seven RBIs in the second victory that concluded by a final score of 16-1. He was 5-for-14 (.357) over the two games, with three home runs, a double, and four runs scored.
Against Columbia on Sunday, the tables were turned as Dartmouth folded 6-3 and 6-3 in two games. Mileusnic was held 0-for over both contests, ending his 10-game hitting streak.
The Red should not rely on the Big Green’s bats getting cold, as the team is currently averaging 11 hits per game.
Cornell will go with junior Brendan McQuaid on the mound in the first game against Harvard, and most likely follow up with freshman Dan Gala. Senior David Self normally pitches after McQuaid, but Ford will rest him with the intention of giving him the ball in Sunday’s opener. Junior Erik Rico will pitch the final game of the weekend.
Ford elaborated on the importance of McQuaid’s outing.
“Brendan gives us a solid performance out there. He keeps control of the game, doesn’t walk people, and gives us a chance to win the game, which he certainly seems to do every time out,” he stated. “We are looking for him to set the tone for us by giving us an opportunity to field balls cleanly and make the plays so we are in the game.”
McQuaid is definitely the go-to-guy. He is leading the team with a 2-0 record, with the wins coming against Northeastern and Drexel during Spring Break. He received a no-decision in 8.2 innings of work against Yale last Sunday in an eventual 6-4 loss.
Rico is 1-0 on the mound, his sole win coming against the Bulldogs last week. When he is not pitching, Rico patrols right field. He has started in all 13 games and leads the team in at bats (51), runs scored (13), hits (16), and triples (3). He is hitting a solid .314 at the plate.
When asked if having to spend the seven days following Spring Break without a game had negative consequences, Ford responded, “It certainly doesn’t help, but it’s something you have to handle, no doubt. Baseball is a game in which you just have to get out there and get the repetitions, get the groundballs, and get the swings. We have a great indoor facility, but it’s not like being outside on the grass, in the dirt with the groundballs and seeing live pitching.”
Ford ended by summarizing the outlook for the weekend.
“Harvard always gives us fits. They execute well and do some different things on offense to move you around a little bit. Dartmouth is usually a very good hitting team. Their offense is very good. We match up and I think we have the capabilities of going in there and beating those teams,” he asserted. “It’s not like all we have to do is show up and we will beat them. We have to play well, and if we do, they will be close games.”
The Red will face Harvard in Boston, Mass., for two games starting at 12 p.m. The following day, Cornell will travel to Hanover, N.H., for two games with Dartmouth starting at 12 p.m as well.
Archived article by Katherine Granish