It’s a close one. As the regular season nears its end, Cornell baseball is continuing its campaign for an Ivy League Lou Gehrig division title as the focus shifts ahead to this weekend’s series against division leader Penn.
The Red (17-12, 6-6 Ivy) was set to play a single game against Canisius at home Wednesday afternoon, but heavy rains in the Ithaca area prevented the inter-conference contest from occurring.
But the team will stay put as it hosts its Ivy foe Penn this weekend for a four-game series at Hoy Field.
Going into Saturday, Cornell sits only a couple games behind the Quakers in the Lou Gehrig division with only eight conference matchups remaining — half of them against Penn. But for the players, it is just another weekend on the diamond.
“We can’t really be worried about where we’ll be in the division depending on different outcomes,” said senior pitcher Peter Lannoo. “We’re going to control what we can and take care of business this weekend [and] hopefully that puts us in a good place moving forward.”
Penn is coming off a four-game sweep of mutual division opponent Princeton, in which the Quakers totaled 35 runs on the weekend and held the Tigers to approximately a third of that.
“[We are] expecting a good team out of Penn,” said senior pitcher Paul Balestrieri. “They’ve been playing well these past few weeks just like we have. We’re gonna have to play four clean games.”
The Red has also been hitting well as of late. With the help of three home runs by junior Cole Rutherford, Cornell averaged nine runs per game in its series win against Columbia on the road last weekend and hopes to sustain the production.
If the batters stay in their groove and the pitchers provide the support, Penn could return to Philadelphia behind in the standings.
“We really need to focus on our game this weekend and stay aggressive at the plate,” said senior pitcher Matt Horton. “If we score early [and] our starting pitching can respond by putting up some zeros on the board we will be in good shape.”
Last season, Cornell was only able to grab one win at Penn during a four game series, which included a 3-2 loss in 10 innings. But the Red is hungry for revenge on its home turf.
The key difference this year is that Cornell is a contender for a title. This group is right behind Penn and has its eyes on the prize.
“This weekend [against Penn] is huge for us,” Balestrieri said. “This is the kind of weekend we work all year for.”
Compared to the division leading Quakers and the rest of the Ivy League, the Red is no slouch. Cornell leads the league with an impressive .299 batting average as a team. The squad also leads the league with a .437 slugging percentage. Penn puts up .290 and .410, respectively.
However, Penn boasts strong numbers defensively, leading the league with a 3.61 collective ERA compared to Cornell’s 4.73. And while the league average for home runs allowed is 19, the Quakers have only let up 12 on the year.
The Red hopes to continue its winning ways of last weekend. There is not much room for error with minimal time remaining in Ivy play. The time to win is now, and now only.
“Since the Ivy League season is so short every weekend is huge regarding the standings,” Horton said. “We need to take this weekend one game at a time and focus on what we can control.”
Action starts at noon on Saturday with a double-header at Hoy Field, with another double-header at noon on Sunday as well.