Cornell softball played Binghamton yesterday at Neimand-Robison Field before heading to Harvard this weekend for its three-game playoff series with the Crimson. In the seniors’ last games on their home field, the Red swept the Bearcats in a doubleheader, 2-0 and 6-5.
Before the games began, there was a ceremony to laud the seven departing seniors. The coaches handed out gifts, interesting facts and stats for each player were read and the glory of their four years together was recalled.
Tears were shed as the memories of each individual’s four years on East Hill came rushing back before a good-sized crowd for a weekday game.
“Today was all about the last four years,” said senior Nicole Zitarelli. “It was really neat how emotional it was, it shows how close we’ve all gotten.”
This senior class was the first to play on Neimand-Robison Field for their entire careers.
“We played the first game on that field,” continued Zitarelli. “I even remember how excited we all were when we finally got to practice on the ‘new’ field.”
Emotions ran thick during the entire ceremony and there were hugs all around, but once the line-ups were announced, it was time to get down to some business.
In the first game, freshmen Nicole LePera and Sarah Sterman combined to shut out the Bearcats, controlling the game from beginning to end.
In the first inning, their classmate Kate Varde gave them all the cushion they needed, scoring another freshman, Erin Sweeney, on a double that hit the center field wall. Then Allison Batten added insurance for the Red, with an RBI in the bottom of the fifth that scored Sweeney again.
LePera pitched 5 2/3 innings, sprinkling her innings with a number of Ks and Sterman came in to notch the final four outs and close the door on Binghamton.
“Our pitchers were in command of the game the whole way through,” commented head coach Dick Blood, “[Binghamton] never even got a runner to third base.”
In the second game, things got a little more interesting for the Red as the Bearcats scored a number of runs throughout the high-scoring battle.
In the first inning, Binghamton began the scoring off a Jessica Chellis double. Chellis led the offensive attack for Binghamton all day, scattering six hits in the two games.
The Red responded immediately with a Batten double in the bottom of the first frame that scored Sweeney and Varde.
The fifth inning saw Batten provide another boost for the Red when she belted a home run to left, scoring two runs. In that same inning, Kristen Hricenak muscled a ball to left field scoring a run to make the score 5-1 at the end of five innings.
The Bearcats then mounted a comeback in the top of the sixth, garnering three runs on five hits to bring themselves within a run at 5-4.
Blood then called on stopper Sarah Sterman once again to shut the door. She responded by getting two quick outs, leaving runners on second and third to end a scary inning for the Red.
“I wanted Sterman to pitch at least two innings a game today for this weekend,” said Blood, “but she ended up having to shut down possible rallies in both games and did an important job for us.”
The Red added a run in the sixth and Binghamton could only manage one run against Sterman in the top of the final inning to end the game, 6-5.
“It was really good to win both of our last games [at home] against a pretty good team,” said senior Kelli Larsen after the game. “It made the emotions of the day that much better.”
For anyone who has played a final game at a place they love, whether it be in high school or college, the bittersweet quality of the emotions of such a game can be overwhelming.
“It’s like I lose a piece of myself every year,” summed up Blood, “but I know that they are proud of what they’ve accomplished here in their four years, both on and off the field.”
It was an emotional day for all those involved with Cornell softball. And emotion like that will be fuel for the necessary fire heading into a weekend that will determine whether or not the seniors’ careers as Cornell athletes will continue.
Archived article by Scott Jones