After hitting his program-record tying 11th home run against Columbia on April 13th, sophomore slugger Chris Cruz fell into a bit of a slump. However, as Cruz watched his ball sail over the right field fence of Hoy Field on Sunday afternoon, that slump was a distant memory. Not only did the towering fly ball shatter the Cornell record for homeruns in a single season, it also gave the Red the walk-off victory over Dartmouth in the third and deciding game of the Ivy Championship series.
The Red (31-15-1, 14-6-0 Ivy League) came away victorious in the 11th inning of what ended up being the longest-ever Ivy Championship series game three. In the first game of the series on Saturday, the Red’s offense came out hot, totaling 15 hits in an 11-3 win. Senior shortstop Marshall Yanzick went five-for-five with three RBIs, and senior first baseman Frank Hager pitched in with two hits and two RBIs as well. Just as he has been all season, sophomore hurler Connor Kaufmann was dominant on the hill once again. The Green (24-18-0, 14-6-0) offense had no answer for the sophomore who only allowed four hits and two earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched. Freshman Nick Busto entered the game in the seventh to shut the door, only allowing one run on two hits.
Hoping to come away with a quick sweep, the Red unfortunately fell short in game two. The combination of senior Rick Marks and freshman Brent Jones allowed seven runs on 11 hits to Dartmouth’s hitters, who refused to go down easy. The Red scored its lone run on an RBI by Hager, who had another multi-hit game.
With the series tied, the two teams returned to Hoy on Sunday for the winner-takes-all game three. Just three years ago, the two teams met at Dartmouth for the final game of the Ivy series, and the Green took the title. This time around, things would end differently. The two squads were locked in a vicious pitcher’s duel for most of the game, with the score remaining tied, 1-1, at the end of nine innings.
Freshman Brian McAfee was on point, pitching six innings and only allowing one run on four hits. Dartmouth’s starter Adam Thomas was equally effective, also giving up four hits and one run. In the seventh, Cornell head coach Bill Walkenbach handed freshman reliever Kellen Urbon the ball. The weekend before against Princeton, in a game that would decide the division champion, Urbon threw 6.1 innings of solid relief, only allowing one unearned run. Once again, the freshman did not disappoint, this time pitching five innings of relief without allowing a single run, setting the stage for Cruz’s dramatic finish.
The win hands the Red its second NCAA tournament bid in school history. The squad will play in a double-elimination regional tournament from June 1-4.