As senior co-captain Erin Kizer rounded third base and headed towards the row of jubilant teammates waiting for her arrival at home plate, her wide grin spoke volumes. Her seventh-inning walk-off homerun had given Cornell (19-16, 5-3 Ivy) a 1-0 win in yesterday’s first game with Yale and also propelled the Red to a 5-0 win in the day’s second game.
“When I first saw the ball, I wasn’t sure [it was going to be a homerun,]” said Cornell head coach Dick Blood. “Then it ended up clearing by about 18 feet … What a great way to end a game.”
Before Kizer’s heroics, the Red split a double-header with Brown in the previous day’s contests.
In game one on Saturday, Cornell had the misfortune of facing one of the league’s toughest hurlers, Brown’s Uchenna Omokaro, and mustered only one run in a 9-1 defeat. Omokaro stymied the Red throughout the game and allowed only one hit, while the Bears’ offense made it an unpleasant day on the mound for Cornell starter, junior Whitney Smith, and freshman reliever Jen Lesczinski.
Unfortunately for the Red, game two started out much like the first as Brown built up a two-run lead on two run-scoring bloop singles.
“They stung us early with a couple well-placed hits,” Blood said. “At that point, we just needed to shut them down and chip away.”
The Red began doing just that as Kizer put Cornell on the board with an RBI double in the second. After a wild pitch in the third inning knotted the game at two runs apiece, sophomore Sarah Ruben hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth to score freshman Ashley Wolf, putting the Red ahead for good.
Freshman Jenn Meunier pitched a complete game for the Red and earned her 10th victory of the season.
“[Meunier] pitched well and we really played exceptional defense,” Blood said.
Cornell’s defensive excellence continued into yesterday’s first game with Yale, a hard-fought contest that was scoreless until the last at-bat.
Meunier started on the mound for the Red and battled through two tough innings in order to preserve the scoreless tie.
In the fifth inning, the Bulldogs threatened to break through with runners on first and third with only one out. Meunier would not give in however, as the young hurler got a force out at second and freshman outfielder Jenna Campagnolo made a running catch in the right-center gap to save two runs.
In the sixth, Yale again put runners on first and third with one out, but Meunier came through with a strikeout and a pop-out to end the threat.
“The pitching was exceptional today,” Blood said. “We got the big outs and critical strikeouts.”
While Meunier was holding the Bulldogs at bay, Yale starter Ashley Linnenbank was keeping Cornell batters off-balance and off the scoreboard for the first six innings.
That changed however, when Kizer stepped into the box in the seventh and ended the game on her first swing.
Riding the momentum of the dramatic win, the Red began the second leg of the doubleheader by opening up a two run lead after the first inning behind RBIs from senior co-captain Lauren May and junior Caitlin Warren.
“We tried to come out more aggressively,” May said. “We know we play better when we get up in the first inning, so [having the lead] really helped.”
The two-run lead would be more than enough for Smith, Cornell’s starter, who rebounded from Saturday’s loss by pitching seven scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and striking out six.
“[Smith] was sharp all the way through,” Blood said. “Today was critical for her confidence, as well as [that of] the team.”
May would later add a third inning homerun and freshman Ashley Wolf knocked in the Red’s final run with an RBI double in the fourth.
“I’m just tremendously pleased with today,” Blood said. “These were really exciting games.”
Archived article by Matt Gorman
Sun Staff Writer