What began as a weekend of pitchers duels for the Cornell baseball team turned into a couple of slugfests, as the Red earned its fourth win of the season in the final outing of a four-game road trip. The team scored 26 runs on 29 hits in two contests against Harvard on Sunday in Cambridge, Mass. after two close losses to league powerhouse Dartmouth on Saturday in Hanover, N.H.
The first game of the weekend for Cornell (4-20, 2-6 Ivy League) resulted in a crushing 3-2 loss at the hands of the Green (17-6, 6-2) in 10 innings. After senior pitcher Corey Pappel and Dartmouth’s starter Kyle Hunter kept the game scoreless into the sixth inning, Pappel — who allowed just one run and three hits in 6.1 innings pitched — surrendered a one-out walk, a single and a groundout as the Green scored the first run of the contest.
The Red tied the score with back-to-back singles in the top of the seventh and junior relief pitcher Rick Marks worked three scoreless innings, allowing junior outfielder Brian Billigen to hit a two-out homerun in the top of the 10th to give the Red the lead, 2-1. After a Dartmouth triple and several walks allowed the hosts to knot the score at two, the Green’s Jason Brooks delivered a single to left field to score the winner.
“It’s always tough to recover from a loss, especially one in extra innings,” Pappel said. “Both their pitchers were lights out. They pitched well, we pitched well and they just came out on top. It’s disappointing, but that’s just how things go sometimes.”
In the second game of the afternoon, freshman Connor Kaufmann provided a solid performance, giving up eight hits, two walks and two runs in five innings. Nevertheless, the Green’s high-powered offense got going in the fifth inning and Cornell sophomore pitcher Houston Hawley allowed two insurance runs in a critical seventh. Despite a score by the Red in the final frame, Dartmouth won, 4-2, to sweep the series.
“I think we’re very close to figuring out close games,” said Cornell head coach Bill Walkenbach ’98. “Our pitchers did a great job keeping us close. You just can’t give Dartmouth the second chances that we gave them — they’re the class of the league. You’ve got to put them away and put them away early. If you give them opportunities, they’re going to take advantage of them.”
On Sunday against Harvard (4-24, 1-7), the Cornell bats exploded, as freshman Tom D’Alessandro went 6-for-9 and Billigen went 4-for-7, as the Red combined for six homeruns on the day; however, Cornell was unable to sweep the doubleheader. Bad fortune struck the club again in the first game of the series, when a Crimson rally for six runs in the seventh and final inning — the first game of a doubleheader lasts only seven innings — led Harvard to victory after the Red had built an early advantage, 8-5.
Sophomore pitcher Anthony Irigoyen allowed one run following an error and two singles to narrow the score, 8-6, and afterward, Marks gave up a run and a walk-off grand slam to end the game in heartbreaking fashion, 11-8.
Cornell didn’t take long to respond in game two against the Crimson. After senior pitcher Taylor Wood gave up a run in the bottom of the first, the Red erupted with a 12-run second inning. Cornell sent 15 men to the plate, collected eight hits and boasted four players with multiple RBIs in the inning, matching the Red’s run total from the previous three games of the weekend combined.
“I have no idea how we exploded,” Walkenbach said. “Baseball is one of those unpredictable sports. Wind was a huge factor in the games [Sunday], blowing straight out to center field at 20-25 miles per hour, and it really made the game be played differently than it would have otherwise.”
Walkenbach also noted the psychological domino effect of a productive inning.
“I think sometimes all it takes is for one guy to start swinging it, and then another player does too,” he said. “Then everybody gets going and says to himself, ‘I’m gonna start swinging it too.’”
Freshman Chris Cruz kept Cornell in cruise control with a three-run homer in the fourth inning, and single tallies in the fifth, sixth and eighth put a cap on the Red’s thrashing, 18-5.
The Red takes the field today against LeMoyne in Syracuse, N.Y., with games scheduled for 2 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. Cornell lost to the Dolphins, 9-5, in its home opener on March 30, when the team used six pitchers in the game and allowed three ninth-inning runs.
“Our players hadn’t seen LeMoyne before, but they have now and they know they are a very good team,” Walkenbach said. “We have to bring our very best game to the table. It will be a chance for our younger guys to show what they have, but it’s going to take a complete team effort.”
“We’re going to try to continue what we’re doing — we had great offensive progression [Sunday],” Pappel said. “I expect that a lot of guys who didn’t get many innings over the weekend will see some time [today].”
Although Cornell has already equaled its loss total from the 2010 season, the team believes it is continuously improving and building momentum.
“The way our bats woke up against Harvard, I sure hope we’re building momentum,” Walkenbach said. “I’m pleased with the way we bounced back.”
“We could’ve won three or four of the games last weekend easily,” Pappel said. “We’re definitely playing much better baseball and that has shown. Our pitchers are getting into a rhythm, our bats are getting into it and we’re coming together as a team.”