Cornell baseball puts two more wins in the books this weekend after taking two of three at George Mason. The two wins came on Friday and Sunday — 7-3 and 9-3, respectively — but dropped Saturday’s game 11-4.
Cornell (4-2) has been off to a strong start this season, even with all six of its games on the road, a strong improvement so far from last year’s 7-17 road record.
The team is satisfied with this weekend’s performance against the Patriots (6-10), especially from the pitching staff; senior starting pitcher Tim Willittes (2-0) secured himself his second win of the season allowing only five hits, three runs and striking out four.
Following Willittes’ incredible start, senior reliever Peter Lannoo came onto the diamond in the sixth inning. He pitched the remainder of the game and allowed only two hits, no runs and struck out an astonishing five Patriots.
Cornell took the early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning and added another three runs in the fifth inning. Junior catcher Ellis Bitar and senior first baseman Cole Rutherford contributed to the fifth inning rally by putting up strong hits.
In the eighth and ninth innings, the Red cushioned its lead and came out on top 7-3 to take the first game of the three-game series, boosting the team’s confidence for the rest of the series.
“I thought we did a good job of getting guys on base and stringing together clutch hits to extend innings,” Bitar said. “We were able to get to George Mason’s bullpen pretty early.”
The momentum from Friday’s game didn’t carry on to Saturday, however — while Cornell came out with a lead for the fourth time in five games, it was George Mason that ended up having a strong offensive game. The Patriots jumped to a 4-1 lead after the first, and maintained the lead to finish the game with a 11-4 victory. Cornell used five pitchers in game two, limiting its bullpen for Sunday’s game.
Despite the losing effort, the Red saw signs of growth.
“I think we can keep improving, as a whole, each and every day,” said junior infielder Ryan Krainz.
Bouncing back from its loss on Saturday, the Red dominated on Sunday. Senior starting pitcher Paul Balestrieri (2-0) allowed only one run, five hits, two walks and three strikeouts in his five innings. Freshman pitcher Jeb Bemiss then came in and earned his second save of the season, allowing only four hits over a four-inning span and gave up two runs.
“[This weekend] we had some really great starting pitching and [as a team] hit really well” Krainz said.
The Red got on the scoreboard early, putting up three runs within the first two innings. The offense was explosive in the fifth period, putting up four runs and each batter putting up a hit. Rutherford homered to right field earning him two RBI’s and the team’s first home run of the season. Junior designated hitter Trey Baur doubled to left center, scoring sophomore left fielder Josh Arndt followed by a single from Krainz up the middle earning him an RBI as well.
The team is pleased coming away with two series wins, despite playing more experienced teams, but is keeping its sight on league play.
“I’m happy that we’ve won two series considering that the other two programs we played have played a lot more than us,” said head coach Dan Pepicelli. “It’s nice to go down there and really perform well. I’m just looking for more consistency especially as we get towards the Ivy League play.”
The Red now looks forward to this weekend’s Spider Invitational in Richmond, Virginia. On Friday, March 17, Cornell will take on the host Richmond. On Saturday, it will face Campbell and then finally wrap up the invitational on Sunday against Michigan State.
“[The expectations] are the same as what we’ve been doing for the first two weekends which is win the weekend,” Pepicelli said. “Two out of three is a great goal, but we try not to get too far ahead of ourselves. Right now, we are just trying to play a really good game on Friday. We are confident in where our team is at right now.”
As the Red look forward to a successful weekend, it will be looking to strengthen the pitching staff and jump out early in games.
“We are optimistic [about this weekend’s matchup], we’ve swung the bats well the first two weekends and played some really solid games,” Pepicelli said. “As we move into this next weekend we are looking to see if we can maintain it over the remainder of the season.”