February 27, 2003

Softball Kicks Off At Dixie Classic

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The softball team will take to the field for the first time this season when it plays in the Dixie Classic, which begins tomorrow afternoon at Virginia Beach, Va. Cornell was 3-0 in last season’s tournament before the games on the final day of competition were rained out. The Red, which finished last season with a 31-22 record, kicks off the new year against Norfolk State at 1 p.m. tomorrow.

“We played Norfolk St. last year, and they didn’t graduate anybody. It’s a decent program with sound pitching,” Cornell head coach Dick Blood said. “Our job will be to try to orchestrate sound defense.”

The Red also played Norfolk State last season, soundly defeating its opponent 13-5.

Immediately thereafter, Cornell will face one of its toughest challenges of the year in Big East power Villanova (0-4). Despite starting the season with four consecutive losses, the Wildcats are expected to be one of the top teams in the nation.

“We’ll have our hands full with that club. If we face Theresa Hornick, a big 6-2, 175-pound flame-thrower, she’ll be really tough at this point in the season. Generally speaking, in baseball and softball the pitchers are ahead of the hitters at this time of the year,” Blood said. “They’ll be loaded. They’re looking to be a top-25 finisher this year.”

After a stern test again Villanova, Cornell will face Niagara and George Mason on Saturday.

“Niagara and George Mason are both really solid programs very similar to Cornell,” Blood noted.

If Cornell does well in the first two days of competition, it will have the opportunity to play on Sunday.

This weekend’s competition will also mark the first time that the softball team has been outdoors this year. As a result of the poor Ithaca weather, the team has been forced inside to the Ramin Room in the fieldhouse.

“The Ramin Room is fantastic for softball, great size and all. But every groundball is very predictable in there; it’s nothing like playing on dirt. And although we can hit flyballs in there, we can’t hit towering flyballs and towering pop-ups, so the communication process and judgment of flyballs, and having soft hands on groundballs, that’ll be a challenge for us,” Blood said.

As for his team, Blood is looking for junior ace Sarah Sterman to set the tone for the upcoming season. Sterman, an All-Ivy First-Team performer, was 22-10 with a 1.23 earned run average a season ago.

“Sarah Sterman is going to get the ball in the first ballgame, and we really need a solid performance from her, a dominating performance from her to give the defense a cushion,” Blood said. “She had a brilliant year last year and really came on strong for us and became a physical leader for us — one of the best pitchers in the Ivy League.”

With an opportunity to finally play on a diamond, the Red is chomping at the bit.

“We’re eager, we’re very eager,” Blood said.

Archived article by Alex Ip