April 26, 2002

Softball Readies for Albany, Columbia

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The Red will conclude the Ivy League portion of its schedule when it hosts conference rival Columbia tomorrow at noon. It will also continue its season when Albany visits on Sunday at 1 p.m. Cornell (23-19, 6-6 Ivy) has had a disappointing Ivy title defense and can finish the season no higher than third, as Princeton has already clinched the Ancient Eight crown with Harvard in second.

The Lions (24-16, 5-7) defeated the Red earlier in the season in the Rebel Games during Spring Break by a 5-3 count. In that contest, Cornell was hampered by poor fielding, namely five errors, which led to three unearned runs. However, the Red’s defense has significantly improved since that early juncture of the year.

Alison Buehler leads a strong trio of Columbia pitchers to the East Hill. She has won 12 of her 19 decisions and holds a minuscule 1.20 ERA. The Lions’ ace has superb control on the mound, as evidenced by her 94-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Buehler is backed by the talented duo of Katie Zunno and Laura Grant, who each sport ERAs under two.

“They all throw exceptionally well,” Cornell head coach Dick Blood said of Columbia’s pitchers. “Alison Buehler has had a fabulous year. She throws a good slider and works off speed.”

Like Columbia, Albany (24-16, 11-9 America East) will also present a strong challenge to Cornell’s lineup. Workhorse Sarah Maida leads the Great Danes staff with 16 wins on the season. Coupled with a 1.12 ERA, Maida is one of the best pitchers in her conference.

Cornell must be wary of Albany’s speed on the base paths. Leadoff hitter Valerie Terry has stolen 32 bases in her 40 attempts while Liz Wieboldt has swiped 11 bags in 17 tries. As a team, the Great Danes have stolen 71 bases on the year.

“When you can steal a base, you can get into scoring position without using an out,” Blood said. “It’s like having extra outs.”

The Red, however, has the advantage of having one of the best-throwing catchers in the Ivy League, senior co-captain Annette Sheppard. Sheppard has thrown out six would-be base stealers on the season.

A primary concern for Cornell heading down the stretch is its inconsistent performance in doubleheaders, as it has split its last seven twin bills. The struggles of sophomore pitcher Nicole LePera have coincided the with Cornell’s problems, as she has won just one of her past seven decisions.

“Nicole LePera’s had some problems with her control,” Blood said. “And the defense behind her hasn’t helped.”

“Confidence is also a factor,” he added. “Like Yogi Berra used to say, this game is 90 percent mental and 50 percent physical.”

Meanwhile, classmate Sarah Sterman has led the Red on the mound, winning last week’s Ivy League Pitcher of the Week award. Sterman continued her fine season this Wednesday with a shutout victory over Syracuse.

Freshman Lauren May continues to swing a hot bat for Cornell. The rookie sensation belted her 16th home run of the season against Syracuse. The front-runner for the league’s Rookie of the Year award leads the Red in the triple-crown categories: home runs, RBI, and batting average.

While the Red can no longer claim the league title, it is shooting for another mark.

“We want to sweep to get sole possession of third place. That’s our goal,” Blood said.

Archived article by Alex Ip