April 12, 2001

Young Guns

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There is a rule in fastpitch softball called the mercy rule. If one team is ahead by eight or more runs by the end of the fifth inning, the game is over.

The Cornell softball team was only nine outs away from such a fate last Saturday, as Brown scored eight runs in the third inning, leaving the Red behind by that many.

Once you are down by eight, it is hard not to feel a little bit defeated. Of course, all of us had some hope because we had to. This was our Ivy League season. This was the single chance we would get to prove ourselves to Brown, to show them that we were the better team.

After Brown crossed the plate eight times on seven hits, however, everybody came in to the dugout ready to explode. This game was beginning to resemble the beating we suffered at Brown’s hands last season. It started to feel as though nothing had changed in a year.

Besides that, the weather was horrible, as it always is for a Cornell-Brown match-up.

Additionally, the umpire had been tough all day behind the plate, which helps to explain the fact that a total of 49 runs were scored in the pair of games.

But now, in the third inning, we were going to make their ace throw the ball where we wanted it.

We’ve known all year that in order to succeed, we were going to need a team effort with solid contributions from returning players and a little extra from a diverse freshman core. That’s exactly what happened in the third inning last weekend.

Senior captain Charlotte Brombach led the inning off with a walk and freshman Erin “Grace” Sweeney followed her lead with another base on balls. Next up to bat was the player who was just named Ivy League Rookie of the Week for her phenomenal offensive performance this weekend — freshman outfielder Melissa “Tex” Cannon.

With no outs, Tex slammed a three-run bomb to start the momentum. After that, two more players reached base on errors, junior catcher Christina Trout ripped an RBI single, and senior third baseman Allison Batten sent another one over the fence to add another three runs.

In the blink of an eye, Brown’s lead was cut from eight to one, and we still hadn’t made a single out.

After the Bears made a pitching swap, junior catcher Annette Sheppard reached base by error and was pushed to third by sophomore Drew Martin’s shot down the left field line. It seemed like the inning would never end until Brown finally forced two outs.

But, before the inning was done, Tex would get another at bat. After this at bat, there was no doubt in my mind that she would be receiving Ivy League honors this week. Tex came up with two outs and two on, and she ripped another shot to right center to score the two base runners, giving her a total of five RBIs in just the third inning.

But, it wouldn’t stop there for the Texan all-star. In the fifth inning, she made sure that the Bears wouldn’t forget who she was. With the bases loaded, she sent yet another ball over the fence, increasing her RBI total to nine, setting a Cornell record.

By the way, she didn’t just scrape by the old record — she beat it by three RBIs.

To make a long story short (too late!), we came back, after an eight-run deficit, to win the first game of our Brown doubleheader 14-10.

The excitement did not disappear after the opening game, however, as we found ourselves in a similar position in the fifth inning of the second one. Although we led 4-1 after the first inning, Brown bounced back with eight hits in the next four innings to establish a seemingly comfortable six-run lead.

Of course, after that first match, maybe six runs didn’t make the Bears feel all that comfortable, but regardless, we were feeling unsteady.

What happened in the following innings centered around a single pinch hit appearance.

In the sixth inning, Leah deRiel, another beloved freshman, was called in with two runners on and no outs. This girl, as you will soon understand, is a true pinch hitter. Entering this at bat, Leah had only four collegiate at-bats under her belt. In Florida, her first two at-bats were strike outs and her third was a home run. Last week, she had her fourth at-bat against Siena, and she produced a pinch hit double.

So, in stepped deRiel, a girl who had only visited the batter’s box four times this year, into one of our most important games of the year. We are down five runs in an Ivy League contest, and we were running out of time to score runs.

I knew exactly how she felt strolling to the plate because I have been in that position many times. Not only did Leah lack experience, but she had also been sitting on the cold metal bench for thirteen frigid innings.

Still, although it may be hard to believe, there wasn’t a bit of nervousness on her part, only a little adrenaline and an intense drive to hit the ball. She took a couple of pitches, hit one foul, and sent the next pitch out of the park like it was an old habit. A three-run homer for the rookie from Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Brown’s lead dwindled to two runs.

In the seventh inning, yet another rookie would make her mark. With one out, Kate Varde stepped to the plate and ripped a two-RBI single to center field to end the game.

Aside from her late-inning heroics, Varde also smashed two home runs the next day against Yale to break Cornell’s single season record for home runs, upping her total to nine on the year.

This feat also boosted her up in the NCAA Division I statistics. She has tallied 27 RBIs in 29 games, ranking 24th in the nation with a 0.93 RBI average. Also, with nine home runs in 29 games, Varde has a home run average of 0.31, which currently ranks eighth in the nation.

Pretty impressive for a recruited basketball player.

These achievements have brought us to our current situation in the Ivy League. As our team sits at the top of the rankings, undefeated in six games, we are ready for this important weekend. We are strong, we are confident and we are just playing solid softball.

The two undefeated teams in the league will face off on Friday and I’ll

tell you what I know: in the past three years, we have never lost a game to the Big Green.

Archived article by Kelli Larsen