The women’s softball team ended a roller coaster Ivy League season with a doubleheader sweep of Columbia Saturday afternoon. Cornell (25-19, 8-6 Ivy), on the strength of 14 shutout innings from sophomore Sarah Sterman, won two pitchers’ duels by scores of 2-0 and 1-0. The sweep gave the Red a third place finish in the Ancient Eight.
Columbia’s Alison Buehler, the 2001 Ivy League Rookie Pitcher of the Year, held the Red scoreless until the bottom of the third. With one out in the inning, senior Julie Staub hit a sharp single to left. Sophomore Kate Varde followed with an infield hit, and classmate Melissa Cannon blooped a single to right-center. With the bases loaded and the score knotted at 0-0, freshman phenom Lauren May lined a 2-1 pitch to left-center to score Staub and Varde. Buehler was able to work out of the jam without incurring further damage, but the two-run lead was more than enough for Sterman.
Sterman flirted with a perfect game, allowing just one base hit — Marisa Marconi’s clean single with two outs in the fifth inning. The sophomore did not allow a Columbia player to reach second base in winning her 16th game of the season.
The second half of the twinbill also featured a pitching exhibition from both sides. The Lions’ Laura Grant and Sterman matched zeroes until the bottom of the seventh, when Cornell scored on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze.
Cannon led off the seventh inning with a single to right. May, the Ivy League’s most feared slugger, attempted a sacrifice bunt. The bunt was mishandled by a surprised Columbia infield, which put runners on first and second. After senior Christina Trout’s sacrifice bunt advanced both runners, sophomore Sandra Alvarez bunted in the winning run.
“It was a beautiful bunt and a great slide,” Cornell head coach Dick Blood said.
In her second outing of the day, Sterman wasn’t as dominant, as the Lions had several opportunities to score. However, the Red played exceptional defense behind the hurler, particularly with runners on base.
In the top of the third, with a runner on third base and two outs, senior first baseman Kristen Hricenak made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch to end the threat. The Lions were also poised to score in the first half of the sixth inning, when May scooped a hard grounder to shortstop and threw out the batter at first, preventing a runner from scoring.
“That gets through, and they take the lead, and maybe we don’t come back,” Blood said. “It was a huge play. The kids played exceptionally well [on defense].”
Sterman earned her 17th win of the season by scattering five hits and a walk. She also struck out five in the process.
“She’s just been on top of the batters, ahead early in the count,” Blood offered. “She’s had pretty good control of her riseball. She’s been able to get hitters to hit her pitch.”
Sterman has now pitched 22 consecutive innings of shutout ball.
“We all have a lot of confidence in Sarah when she takes the mound now,” Blood added. “Our kids play with confidence behind her.”
Despite the third place finish in 2002 after a league title the year earlier, the Red is still content with its season.
“We’re happy with [the finish]. Princeton’s got a really tough team this year, and they beat us twice,” Blood noted. “I think that securing third place cements last year, making last year not a fluke. I think all our kids are proud of finishing third knowing that our backs were to the wall.”
Cornell was also scheduled to host Albany in a doubleheader yesterday, but the games were canceled due to inclement weather.
Archived article by Alex Ip