After spending the first month of its season honing its skills against non-conference competition, Cornell eagerly anticipated the advent of another exciting Ivy League championship race. The conference schedule was set to begin Saturday with a pair of games against Dartmouth, but the threat of snow postponed the contests. Sunday’s cold, blustery weather was unable to deter the Red, and it was able to take the diamond twice against Harvard. Unfortunately, blunders in the field, and an inability to come through at the plate in the late innings resulted in two losses by the scores of 12-7 in extra innings and 6-2.
Head coach Tom Ford encapsulated the team’s performance saying, “It was tough today for the guys, but it is part of baseball. We did do a good job of battling, but we didn’t play particularly good baseball today in the field. It wasn’t a lot of errors, but we didn’t take care of some things in the field today. At bat as well. We just didn’t do it.”
An eleven-inning marathon that lasted three and a half hours, the series opener was particularly heartbreaking for the Red. Senior right-handed pitcher Brendan McQuaid struggled early on, surrendering seven runs in his first three innings of work. However, McQuaid righted himself and shut out the Crimson over the next four innings. Overall, the righty scattered eleven hits over seven innings, striking out seven. Exhibiting his usual superlative command, McQuaid issued no bases on balls.
After Harvard jumped out to a 6-2 lead in its half of the second, Cornell responded with three runs in the bottom half of the inning, knocking out Crimson starter Madhu Satyanarayana in the process. Adding a run in the third, Harvard was protecting a 7-5 advantage when seniors Erik Rico and Flint Foley hit home runs on consecutive pitches to knot the game at seven. It was the team leading fifth home run for Rico and second for Foley, who led Cornell with eight last year. In addition to his home run, Rico hit a double and triple to finish a single shy of the cycle, driving in three runs for the game.
Ford praised Rico’s continued high caliber play commenting, “Erik’s a great hitter. He is certainly one of the guys who stepped up today. It comes league time, and you have to step up and give your best performance. He certainly did that today.”
After scoring fourteen runs between them over the first four innings, both teams’ bats went silent. Harvard’s Barry Wahlberg pitched five scoreless innings after entering the game in the bottom of the sixth but was countered by excellent relief performances by juniors Dave Sharfstein and John Hardy.
However, in the top of the eleventh the Crimson rediscovered its offense, exploding for five runs against Cornell freshman reliever Matthew Light and junior Mike Martino. Light absorbed the loss, with Wahlberg getting the victory for Harvard. Crimson pitcher Justin Brown earned the save, pitching the eleventh inning.
Erik Rico said of the Red’s inability to score in extra innings, “We battled back to 7-7, but we didn’t get the job done. When it comes down to it, we had four chances to win it [in extra innings], and we didn’t come through.”
After the disappointing eleven-inning defeat, the Red’s offense failed to reappear in the second game. Meanwhile, Harvard tallied runs in the first, third, and sixth innings to take a 6-0 lead. Harvard’s main contributor on offense was third baseman Nick Carter, who drove in three runs, two of them on a double in the third. Cornell freshman righthander Connor Kelly pitched himself in and out of trouble through the first five innings, giving up three runs, but could not last through the sixth, giving up three more before being lifted. For the game, Kelly gave up six runs in 5-1/3 innings of work. Dropping to 0-2 on the year, the freshman pitcher was relieved by sophomore Chris Schutt and freshman Tad Bardenwerper.
The Red mustered some offense in the late innings, scoring single runs in the seventh and ninth innings, but Harvard starter Mark Hordon frustrated Cornell hitters over his eight innings of work. Picking up the win, Hordon struck out nine while scattering five hits. Though Cornell scored only twice, junior third baseman Jim Jackson and senior second baseman Vince Santo each had two hits, with senior outfielder Justin Irizarry collecting a RBI. Additionally, a ninth inning single by senior outfielder Andrew Luria extended his hitting to twelve games.
With the losses to Harvard dropping the Red to 0-2 in Ivy action, the team has put itself at a disadvantage in conference play. While it is still very early on, the 6-13 Red must improve in all areas to have a realistic shot at a division championship.
“We certainly have to step our whole approach. We’ve got to play better baseball to compete in this league,” Ford said. “The guys know that, but it is one thing to know it, and another to do it.”
Today’s home games against Dartmouth will give Cornell an opportunity to rebound from yesterday’s losses and prove that it is a Gehrig division contender. Game one of the two game set begins at 12 noon.
Archived article by Mark Fetzko