Prior to the softball team’s final four Ivy League games last weekend, head coach Dick Blood and the rest of the squad made it clear each game needed to be won in order for the Red to have a shot at the Ivy League title. Now, after Cornell systematically dismantled both Penn and defending champion Princeton in two doubleheaders to clinch at least a share of the Ivy championship, Blood and his players could not be more satisfied.
“The late run we made in the Ivy League was thrilling,” said Blood. “I’m very proud of everyone on the team.”
The Red’s entire league season could be described as simply a large-scale continuation of what the team does best in individual games: give opponents a little head start only to strike back mercilessly and snatch a comeback victory.
Cornell (33-11, 10-4 Ivy) began the league season at 3-4 — lurking behind the pack of an extremely competitive group of teams. Nevertheless, just as the squad has earned come-from-behind wins in so many games this season, the Red roared back to win its next seven consecutive games en route to its third Ivy title since 1980.
However, the champagne bottles are not being popped in the Red clubhouse just yet. Cornell has only cemented a share of the league title, and the team awaits the results of Brown’s doubleheader against Yale in Providence this upcoming weekend. The Bears (15-18, 8-4) can clinch their own share of the league title with two wins over the Bulldogs (26-19, 6-5). A sweep of the Elis would also mean that Cornell and Brown would have to face each other in a playoff to determine which squad will compete at NCAAs. If the Bears split or lose both games, the Red will be the sole possessor of the Ivy League title.
No matter what the outcome of next weekend, Blood insists that his club has more than enough to be proud of already.
“We were playing our best softball at the end of the season,” Blood said. “We were sitting at 3-4 at one point, but the players continued to believe in themselves. Our pitching has been excellent and our power hitting is consistently coming through.”
The Red matched the 10-4 mark it posted in league last season, but the team is already guaranteed to surpass last year’s win total of 31 victories overall.
With all of the hoopla and eager anticipation regarding the final results of the Red’s league season, it may be easy to forget that Cornell still has some scheduled games to play. And while it might not be akin to playing Brown for the right to advance to the NCAAs, today’s grudge match against cross-town rival Ithaca College at Kostrinsky Field should provide some exciting plot twists. More importantly, the contest against the Empire-8 Conference champion Bombers will serve as excellent preparation for Cornell and a chance to fine-tune any problems that could potentially plague the team later on.
Besides, what’s more fun than playing for citywide bragging rights?
“It’s always a hard-fought doubleheader against Ithaca College,” Blood said. “They’re a top-notch ball club. And, a little bit of pride is at stake.”
The Bombers (21-11, 10-2 Empire) are riding a four-game winning streak and have come out on top in nine of their last 10 games. Recently, Ithaca College swept both Geneseo and Hartwick at home before playing host to the Red this afternoon.
The Bombers are led offensively by power hitter Leigh Bonkowski, whose four home runs, 26 RBIs and .373 batting average have helped vault the Bombers to the top of their league standings.
Cornell will also be looking out for first baseman Kaitlyn Dulac, who has collected 27 RBIs and 13 doubles in her sophomore season.
The Bombers also boast one of the most effective pitching staffs in Division III softball, with starters Zahida Sherman (11-5) and Abbey Pelot (10-5) combining for an ERA just barely over 1.00. Sherman and Pelot have also notched 151 strikeouts this season between them and are yet to allow a homerun. The Red will likely see both pitchers in today’s doubleheader.
Today’s games were originally scheduled to be played at Niemond-Robinson Field, but weather conditions forced the games to be moved to Ithaca College. The Red will still be the home team for both contests.
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Assistant Sports Editor