After getting blown out twice on Saturday, the baseball team rebounded to earn a weekend split against Penn. The Red (10-16, 2-8 Ivy) won two of four games against the Quakers to maintain hope that a surge up the Ivy League standings is still possible. In winning both of Sunday’s games, the Red snapped a six-game losing streak within the conference.
In Saturday’s series opener, the Quakers dominated the Red. Penn piled up 18 hits compared to just three for the Red. Penn did most of its damage in the bottom of the third inning when it used nine singles and a Cornell error to break a scoreless tie with an eight-run outburst. Two innings later, Penn again scored eight runs in an inning. The end result was a 17-2 Penn victory. Senior outfielder Kyle Groth’s two-run home run accounted for Cornell’s only runs in the game.
A demoralized Cornell team failed to muster a much better performance in the game that followed that afternoon. Penn’s first two batters of the game hit home runs and the Quakers never looked back. Senior lefty Matt Hill surrendered four long balls in the game and took the loss in a 12-2 defeat.
After Saturday’s two losses, the team regrouped with a team dinner at Philadelphia’s Del Frisco’s – an upscale steakhouse.
“It kind of loosened the team up and it was a bonding experience,” said sophomore third basemen Frank Hager. “When we got out there the next day, we were really playing as a team.”
The team certainly perked up offensively for Sunday’s games. After falling behind 2-0 in Sunday’s first game, the Red scored multiple runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings to take control of the game.
Sophomore catcher Brandon Lee tied the game at two with a two run long-ball in the fourth. In the fifth inning, Cornell advanced base runners in just about every imaginable way; four hits, two walks, two defensive miscues, a sacrifice bunt, a hit-by-pitch, and a stolen base combined to create a five-run inning for the Red. The Red scored two more runs in the sixth inning to take a 9-2 lead in the game.
That lead evaporated when junior relief pitcher Mike Carroll failed to slow down the Quaker attack. Carroll allowed four hits, issued one walk, and watched two more Quakers reach base on rare catcher’s interference calls. The result was an ugly seven-run inning in which Penn tied the game at nine.
Coach Bill Walkenbach summoned his closer – senior Dave Rochefort – for extended duty. Rochefort shut down Penn in recording the final out of the sixth and every out in the seventh, eighth, and ninth to give his team a chance for a victory.
“With that closer mentality, he wants the ball until he gets the win, especially against Penn’s reliever,” Hager said of Rochefort. “Those two guys [Rochefort and Penn’s Reid Terry] are the best relief pitchers in the Ivy League. It was a good battle between two senior veterans and Dave came out on top.”
Rochefort came out on top thanks to a game-winning run in the ninth inning. Groth hit a double and rookie outfielder Connor McCabe followed with an RBI single that proved to be the difference in the game. Rochefort earned the win in Cornell’s 10-9 victory.
In the final game of the weekend, the Red offense went to work early and often. Cornell scored in five of the first six innings in building an 11-3 lead. Junior Taylor Wood pitched six strong innings and got the win for Cornell in an 11-6 victory. Groth, junior designated hitter Jadd Schmeltzer, and sophomore outfielder Brian Billigen all hit the ball out of the yard in the game.
The Red sits five games back of Columbia in the Ivy League’s Gehrig division. Cornell will have a chance to make up some ground when it hosts the Lions in four games this coming weekend. The Red cannot have another slip up as it did Saturday if it hopes to return to the conference championship series.
“If we keep playing [the way we played Sunday] … taking it one inning at a time, one pitch at a time, one game at a time, and play up to our talent against Columbia as we did on Sunday, then we definitely have a shot [to win the division],” Hager said.
The Red is set to return to action this afternoon with a twin bill against Siena. The opening pitch at Cornell’s David F. Hoy Field is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.