It took twelve innings, but sophomore infielder Ben Swinford’s homerun and freshman reliever Kellen Urbon’s stellar pitching performance powered the Red to a win over Princeton last weekend. The dramatic 4-3 victory gave the squad only its second outright Ivy League Lou Gehrig Division Title and earned it a spot in the Ivy League Championship Series against Dartmouth beginning Saturday at 12 p.m. on Hoy Field.
“When Ben hit that homerun, the entire dugout blew up,” said senior captain and catcher Brandon Lee. “We knew with Kellen on the mound we had our best chance to win it.”
The down-to-the-wire finish was only fitting for the squad, which has now won four extra inning games this season.
“Honestly that was one of the most intense games I’ve ever taken part in,” said junior infielder Brenton Peters. “It gives us a lot of momentum because we know no matter who we play we can still pull out a win in the end.”
The Red (29-14-1, 14-6 Ivy League) has already tied a program record for wins in a season with at least two games left to play. It will be taking on the Green (23-16, 14-6) in a best-of-three series to determine the Ivy champion.
The Red swept Dartmouth earlier in the season, just squeaking out victories by scores of 2-0 and 5-2. The Green has also improved since that series; the squad has won 13 of 16 Ivy games since the losses.
Cornell rode the two victories on the backs of its pitchers. Sophomore hurler Connor Kaufmann tossed a no-hitter in the first game and senior Rick Marks only allowed two runs over eight innings in game two.
“We had Connor throw a great game against them last time, but we’re expecting two to three highly competitive games,” Lee said. “They’ve done extremely well since we last played them and they’ll be coming out hungry for a championship.”
“Their seniors are going for their third Ivy championship in four years, so those guys will be especially hungry,” Peters added.
The Red’s normally productive offense did struggle against the Green last time though, only mustering up four hits in the first game. The team is also preparing to see even better pitchers from Dartmouth this time around.
“We’re going to see a couple different pitchers,” Peters said. “Last time we played them on their [second series] of the weekend so this time we’ll be seeing their day one guys.”
Once again, Lee acknowledged that pitching would be the key for the Red to hold off Dartmouth’s offense.
“Our pitchers have done a fantastic job all year,” he said. “It’ll be extremely important to get first pitch strikes and get ahead on hitters and then pitch to contact and let our defense make plays behind them.”
The Red’s defense has been solid so far this season, committing only 56 errors for a .964 team fielding percentage.
Peters also cited the importance of keeping the Green’s scrappy hitters off of the base paths so they could not get any momentum going.
“We’ve got to keep their leadoff hitters off base, because if we keep them off they can’t move anyone over with a bunt or do anything to put someone in scoring position,” he said. “It puts pressure on the next two guys to do something big because there’s one out and no one on base.”
Though the two teams will likely not remember come Saturday, there is some history behind this series. Just three years ago in the Red’s first shot at an Ivy title, Dartmouth was victorious in three games. If anything, though, that memory is only making the seniors on the team more prepared, according to Lee.
“We lost game three to [Dartmouth] my freshman year and we’ve been working to get another opportunity at a ship,” he said. “It’s only fitting that now as seniors we’ll be playing them at home to try to bring back a championship.”