March 2, 2001

Bison Are Baseball's First Challenge

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A collective sigh of relief was let out yesterday by the millions of baseball fans around the country.

Spring training has begun.

In timely fashion, the Cornell baseball team will begin its season this weekend, with four games in two days at Bucknell.

There are several key differences between spring training in the majors and opening day for the Red:

1) The Florida based Grapefruit League, in which most of the MLB teams compete during the pre-season, will experience agonizing temperatures between 70 and 80 this weekend.

2) Arizona, home to the Cactus League, the spiny equivalent to the Citrus Conference, will suffer through mild, 60-degree weather.

3) The forecast for the Lewisburg, PA. area, site of Bucknell’s diamond, should be in the lower 40’s.

4) The Red has been indoors, battling snow and ice for the entire winter.

5) The addition of indoor parks to the homes of the Alexes, Dereks, Mikes, and Mannys eliminated the need for them to see the light of day, let alone yearn for it, while taking grounders.

Head Coach Tom Ford reflected on the season opener this weekend and the team’s attitude.

“We want to win, that’s obvious for any game you play in, but we don’t necessarily go in saying ‘we gotta win, we gotta win.’ We go in with that idea, and now we have to focus on what we have to do,” he stated.

“Whether it’s the fortieth game of the year, or the first, you are going to have to handle adversity somehow. One of the pieces we have to deal with this weekend is that we haven’t been outside. We have all played baseball before, so big deal, let’s just go play,” Ford emphasized.

Yearning is something the Red has been doing since last May when it finished out its season with two wins over Siena. Posting a 15-24 overall record and 11-9 mark in conference action, Cornell finished out in fine fashion, winning eight of its last 11 games.

The team just missed out on the division title, which it could have had with a four-game sweep of Princeton during the last weekend of league play.

Unfortunately for the Red, it managed to take only three of those contests, the sole loss coming in a 4-3 nail-biter. With sophomore Chris Young on the mound, the Tigers had the upper hand in their 4-3 victory that clinched the division.

As a side note, Young was named the 1999 co-rookie of the year and was also an All-American. Last year, he was named to the All-Ivy First Team and was an honorable mention All-American. In August of 2000, Young was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, which fortunately for Cornell, now makes him ineligible to play collegiate ball. Maybe losing by one run to this flame-thrower isn’t too shabby.

Bucknell has already seen action this year, posting a 3-2 record. Last weekend, the Bison split a double-header with Liberty. In its win, Bucknell used a three-run eighth to come from behind and take the game 10-9. Senior co-captain Chris Herron went 2-for-4 with four RBIs in the victory, including a three-run homer.

Last year, the team was 22-25 overall, and 12-8 in the All-Patriot League. The team had a combined .315 batting average and led its conference in 16 of 21 offensive categories.

“They are a strong club, they have been a strong club for the last three or four years and have been in the top two or three of their league each of the past years,” Ford scouted. “They swing the bat very well and are big strong guys who can do some damage. They also have some pretty good arms pitching wise.”

Projected starters for the Red are junior Brendan McQuaid opening on Saturday, followed by senior David Self in the night-cap. On Sunday, freshman Daniel Gala will take the mound, and junior Erik Rico will finish up the weekend.

The first games of each twin bill will begin at noon on Saturday and Sunday. The Red will be back in action starting Mar. 17 with a game against Hartford in its yearly spring break jaunt to Homestead, FL.

“I think the main thing that we have to try to focus on is to keep the runs down per inning, and stay out of big innings, which is one of the goals for the year,” Ford ended. “A big focus is us getting down there and getting to a point where we are playing efficient baseball. I’d like to play [efficient baseball] from game one. Is that realistic? We’ll see.”

What also remains to be seen is if collegiate umps have been attending seminars about what is and is not a strike.

Archived article by Katherine Granish