We’ve all heard the clichés. A team that struggles one season will undoubtedly enter the next season talking about a return to contention. Optimistic players and coaches will explain that if the team plays hard, does the little things and catches a few breaks, it can return to respectability. However, more often than not, last place teams — such as the 2008 Cornell baseball team — wind up near the bottom of the standings the next season.
Thanks to consecutive 3-1 weekends of in-conference play, the Red (12-18, 8-8 Ivy) has made good on its preseason promises to emerge from the basement of the standings. Cornell, which went 6-14 in conference play last season, is tied with Princeton (16-16, 8-8 Ivy) for the best record in the Ivy League’s Gehrig Division.
“It’s exciting, but we expected to be here. We’re not really surprised about it,” said senior Adam Jacobs. “[The three weekend wins were] big, but we know our job is not done yet.”
The Red will face the Tigers in four games next weekend. Cornell needs two wins to clinch a tie of the division title, and three wins to secure an outright division championship and a spot in the Ivy League Championship series. Cornell is in such a position because it defeated defending Ivy League Champion Columbia (10-27, 6-10 Ivy) in three of four games over the weekend.
“The whole series had a playoff attitude and a playoff feeling to it,” Jacobs said. “We knew if we didn’t win the series, we wouldn’t have much of a chance to accomplish our goal, which is to win the Ivy League Championship. To win three games against the defending conference champion was huge.”
In the opening game of the series, which the Lions hosted, the Red relied on a balanced offensive attack. Rookie Frank Hager opened the scoring with a solo home run in the second inning. Senior Adam Jacobs tallied the second RBI of the inning with a triple to score junior Matt Langseth.
The lead did not last long, as Columbia blasted two two-run home runs in the bottom half of the inning. The Red answered right back in the third inning. With the bases loaded, junior Nate David was hit by a pitch, thereby forcing in a run. Langseth followed with a two-run single to give Cornell a 5-4 lead.
Sophomore Jadd Schmeltzer recovered from his poor second inning to record 11 more outs without allowing a run. Senior Domenic Di Ricco gave the Red a cushion with a three-run shot over the right field fence in the seventh inning. Junior Dave Rochefort preserved an 8-4 victory for Cornell.
The Red suffered its only loss of the weekend in the second half of Saturday’s doubleheader. Sophomore Corey Pappel pitched six strong innings for Cornell, but the offense and relief pitching let the team down. Freshman Brian Billigen had two RBIs for the Red, which was tied at two after seven innings. In the eighth, junior Matt Hill allowed two Lion runs in the eighth and fell to 1-6 on the season. The final score was Cornell 2, Columbia 4.
Despite not recording any strikeouts, sophomore Mickey Brodsky pitched Cornell to victory in yesterday’s first game. Cornell scored first on a Columbia error. Jacobs, who batted 6-for-13 in the series, extended the lead to two with a fourth inning RBI single.
Brodsky allowed Columbia to tie the game on a two-run home run in the fifth inning. Those were the only runs he allowed in 5 1/3 innings. Senior Stephen Osterer finished the sixth inning and pitched the seventh without allowing a hit. In the bottom of the seventh, Di Ricco drove home Brodsky, who batted third and started at pitcher, to give Cornell a 3-2 lead. Rochefort closed out the victory with three strikeouts.
In the final game of the series, Cornell prevailed, 9-7. Billigen, Brodsky and senior Nathan Ford led the Red offense. The trio combined for seven hits and eight RBIs in the game, while Billigen and Brodsky each hit home runs. David Rochefort recorded the final four outs of the game to earn his sixth save of the season.