March 29, 2001

Murderers' Row

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Four years ago, I remember being absolutely stunned by the things I saw on the diamond during our Spring Break trip to Florida. People were hitting balls out of the park, we were beating teams by enormous point spreads, and it was one of the first times that I saw my classmates competing seriously in games. (You know, all the Cornell softball greats, like senior outfielder Charlotte Brombach and senior third baseman Allison Batten.)

Anyway, this year’s spring excursion provided a lot of thrills, just as it always has. It just took a bit longer for the spark to hit us.

We started out very slowly offensively, and despite our solid defensive play, we weren’t able to pick up wins because you have to score to win.

After the first day of tournament play, the tide seemed to shift in our direction, and we were seemingly unstoppable as we won six straight matches. (I’m convinced that the turning point was my encounter with Kansas City Royals Hall-of-Famer George Brett at the Orlando ESPN Zone, but who knows?).

After our first losses, we had some very severe post-game talks from Coach Dick Blood. Mostly, he was frustrated that we weren’t covering the plate well.

We were letting strikes pass by instead of smashing them. He gave advice about expanding our strike zones and being more aggressive.

The next day, the bats got hot and we started to win some big games. I really don’t know where to begin, so I guess I’ll start with freshman outfielder/shortstop/wherever-you-want-her Kate Varde. The first reason I am choosing her is because her parents were incredibly nice to me in Florida (and they bought us Krispy Kremes) and the second reason is her selection as the Ivy League Rookie of the Week on March 27.

Varde had an amazing Florida performance. She is currently batting .396 with two doubles and leading the team with seven home runs and eighteen RBIs. Her tally (seven home runs in 21 games) is only one away from the season record of eight, which Batten set in 1998. Considering that our schedule still includes 33 more games, that is a remarkable feat. By the time she hit her seventh home run, it felt like an old habit to line up for her at home plate for congratulations.

Also, in our first match against Army, our offense really came out to brag. In the first inning, with two outs, Varde hits a home run. Next up, Batten — another home run. Next up, Kristen “Hersh” Hricenak — a third homerun. It was a brilliant display of power and skill, something unprecedented in my eleven years of competitive softball. We went on to win that game 14-1, with five players hitting six home runs.

It seems like everyone is getting into the longball act this year. All in all, nine players have sent the ball over the fence at least once, including seniors Batten, Brombach, and Sara Sinclair, juniors Hricenak and Annette Sheppard, sophomore Drew Martin, and freshmen Varde, Melissa Cannon and Leah deRiel (unfortunately, I can not include myself on this list because of my mishap at home plate in Virginia, but you all heard about that one last time).

When we actually hit the ball and get our jobs done at the plate, we can beat anyone we face. We know we can do it because, in this case, the numbers don’t lie. It’s just a matter of getting it done in crucial moments and clutch situations.

This is what we need to do for the remainder of the season. Starting this weekend against Columbia, the Ivy League becomes our primary focus, and it is time for our players to hit the ball at those important times, to discourage our opponent, to add momentum, to score runs, and to win games.

Archived article by Kelli Larsen