Solid pitching and power hitting handed Cornell baseball (3-3) its first series win of the season last weekend. The Red took two of three from Wofford (11-6), losing the first game of a Saturday doubleheader, 5-1, before coming back to take the second game, 12-5, and the rubber match, 6-2.
The first game of the weekend was dominated by the pitching of Wofford’s starter, senior Matt Milburn. The right hander lasted all nine, allowing one run and scattering seven hits with a Kershaw-esque 10-0 strikeout to walk ratio. Cornell struggled to get its offense rolling.
“A lot has to do with [Milburn],” said senior Michael Byrne, Saturday’s game two pitcher for the Red.
Junior first baseman Cole Rutherford agreed that Wofford’s game one starter found success against Cornell.
“He did a good job working both sides of the plate and keeping us off balance,” Rutherford said, whose home run was the Red’s only tally off of Milburn.
Cornell’s starter, senior Paul Balestrieri, exited after 101 pitches. He fell to 0-2 on the season. Byrne thought his teammate pitched well enough to get the win.
“He’s still building,” Byrne said, “Everyone is.”
After dropping the first game, both teams had to turn right back around. For Cornell, a three-run first washed out the bad taste of game one.
“We didn’t keep with what [our coaches] had been saying,” Rutherford said, adding that between games, “[Cornell head coach Dan Pepicelli] talked with us about sticking with our process.”
After hitting a home run last weekend and another Saturday in game one, Rutherford helped pace the Red to twelve runs on Saturday afternoon with two more.
“So far, he’s been everything we need and then some,” Byrne said.
Byrne’s five innings meant he lasted long enough to factor in the decision. He was touched for only one earned run and left after exactly 100 pitches. By his own admission, Byrne said he ran his pitch count up too high too early.
“There’s definitely things to work on,” he said.
As an infielder, Rutherford said Byrne’s energy on the mound helped pick up the defense behind him. He thought his starter pitched very well.
“[Byrne] looked fantastic,” Rutherford said.
As is with three-game series, the emphasis is on the rubber game. Two Sundays ago, the Red “fell flat” in Byrne’s words, after splitting Saturday’s doubleheader.
This weekend was a different story. Cornell scored first in the first inning, and never trailed in the rain-shortened eight-inning game. Rutherford noted that the difference was “trusting the process.”
“We came out Sunday focused and ready to go,” Rutherford said.
Byrne thought Red starter junior Tim Willittes helped set the game’s tone in his six and one third innings of two-run ball.
“[Willittes] had a great outing for us,” Byrne said. “The team kind of fed off of that.”
Offensively, the Red were led by junior catcher and designated hitter C.J. Price’s two hits and home run. Byrne said a lot of freshman contributed this weekend in their first career collegiate action. In particular, the senior mentioned freshman outfielder Josh Arndt, who doubled Sunday in his first career at bat.
“It was nice to see [Arndt] do well,” Byrne said.
While Rutherford said the Red was happy to have taken a series in a weekend bookended by 13-hour bus rides. Rutherford said he got back to his room at 5:45 Monday morning, but that the team did not view extra travel as an excuse for imperfect performance.
“We expect to win every game that we go out there,” he said. “We expect to be perfect.”