The 2003 Cornell baseball team hopes to reverse its recent trend of low finishes in the Ivy League, and on the surface it appears that the modest goal should not be difficult to attain. The Red finished just 15-30 last season (6-14 in Ivy play) and 12-26 (7-13 in Ivy play) in 2001, but comes into this season with question marks at several key positions.
Gone from last year’s squad are four full-time position players including Ivy League Player of the Year and current Toronto Blue Jays farmhand Erik Rico ’02 and three other part-time players who tallied over 50 plate appearances, not to mention two pitchers from the starting rotation. Rico, first baseman Flint Foley ’02, and outfielder Andrew Luria ’02 were the team’s top three in batting average and were responsible for the majority of the Red’s run production a year ago, hitting 21 of the team’s 27 home runs in 2002.
The 2003 incarnation of the Red has no such star power, hoping instead to get moderate improvements out of a host of players trying to collectively better last season’s team batting average of .265, while relying on a partially revamped pitching staff to keep games close.
Consequently, as the team commences another campaign, head coach Tom Ford has stressed the fundamentals and a game-by-game focus.
“We’re really stressing a team approach. We’re definitely going to have to manufacture a lot of runs. We’re going to have to pay attention to the details: the bunting, hitting-and-running, and stolen bases this year … I’ve told the guys not to worry about the team batting average or working for a championship. I don’t want them worried too much about the end result in terms of numbers, standings, or the championship. I just want them to focus on getting better each game,” said Ford.
Senior Paul Hudson will share time behind the plate with talented freshman Matt Goodson. Hudson struggled offensively last season and should begin the season batting eighth. Despite his offensive struggles, Hudson is solid defensively. While he does not possess a cannon for an arm, he has a quick release and is skilled at blocking balls in the dirt. Goodson, a product of Bellarmine College Prep in California, is strong defensively too, but has more power than Hudson.
The Red lost Foley to graduation, and will look to converted third baseman and tri-captain Jim Jackson to fill the substantial void at first. A senior who bats from the left side, Jackson will have to improve upon last year’s substandard production, and will most likely begin the season batting ninth.
Moving over from shortstop, junior Dan Baysinger joins Jackson in a reconfigured right side of the defense. Like Jackson, Baysinger needs to better his offensive totals of 2002, though Ford has been impressed with the junior’s progress in the batting cages during preseason workouts. If his hitting improves, he will see most of his at-bats from the middle of the order, which has yet to be decided on by Ford. In the field, Baysinger possesses a strong arm and very good range, and should make the transition to second with ease.
Ford decided on the move in an effort to save Baysinger’s arm, as the right-hander will form part of the Red’s pitching rotation. When Baysinger pitches, speedy freshman Seth Gordon will occupy second base.
Junior Dan Parant will settle down in 2003 at the hot corner after spending last season as the Red’s primary utility player, seeing action in both the infield and outfield. Parant will be the team’s leadoff hitter as well, but will need to be more selective in 2003. Parant walked just twice in 47 at-bats last season, which contributed to a mediocre .300 on-base percentage, though he did score 11 runs in just 11 starts.
Sophomore Matt Miller forms the other half of Cornell’s double-play combo, hoping to continue his evolution as a major contributor to the Red’s success. Perhaps the team’s best athlete, Miller and his 13 RBI are the second-highest of any returning player, but even more will be asked from him in 2003 from the second spot in the lineup. Though his arm is not as strong as Baysinger’s, Miller has excellent range in the field, compensating for his slightly above-average arm with a quick release.
Junior tri-captain Chris Schutt replaces the graduated Justin Irizarry ’02 in center field and is the best defensive outfielder on the team. Though not exceptionally fast, Schutt gets good reads on fly balls and has the strongest arm on the Red. Also a pitcher, Schutt will be spelled by classmate John Finch on days he pitches.
Juniors Glenn Morris and David Bredhoff will start at the corner outfield positions, with Morris in right and Bredhoff in left. Bredhoff is the team’s best returning power hitter, with his three home runs the most of any returning Cornell player.
The trio of Schutt, Morris, and Bredhoff will join Baysinger in the middle of the Red’s batting order. Pushing the other outfielders for playing time will be junior Ned VanAllan and senior Mike Martino. The pair may see playing time at designated hitter depending on pitching matchups.
Pitching has been a glaring weakness the past two seasons for the Red, with its pitching staffs amassing ERAs of 7.01 in 2001 and 6.55 in 2002. The 2003 staff has no clear-cut ace either, with the Red looking primarily to six pitchers to reverse its misfortunes of the previous two campaigns.
Senior tri-captain Dave Sharfstein (4-3, 2.34, 5 saves) was the team’s most consistent pitcher in 2002, coming out of the bullpen last season. However, with the departure of staff ace Brendan McQuaid ’02, Sharfstein will be moved to the front end of the rotation. In addition to leading the team in wins, saves, appearances, and ERA in 2002, Sharfstein struck out 33 batters in just 34.2 innings of work, relying on an 88-89 mph fastball and a biting slider.
Sharfstein will be joined in the rotation by Baysinger, Schutt, and a fourth member to be decided upon, as the team moves towards the Ivy League opener. Baysinger (1-5, 4.23) tied with Rico for the team lead in losses, but was one of the best pitchers for Cornell last season. In eight starts, the right-hander had three complete games, striking out 34 in 44.2 innings with a mid-80s fastball and tough slider.
Schutt (1-3, 8.86), a right-hander, is the hardest thrower of the bunch, but has yet to harness his 91-mph heater and potentially devastating breaking ball. In 41.2 innings last season he struck out a team-high 39, but he walked 39 as well.
In the bullpen, right-handed junior Luke Staskal inherits the closer position from Sharfstein, looking to protect the Red’s late-inning leads. He comes after opposing batters with a mid-80s fastball and a buckling curveball, but like Schutt, sometimes struggles with his command.
Other primary relief options will be freshman right-hander Rocky Collis and junior Dan Gala. Collis is a power pitcher with a fastball in the upper 80s and a slider, and has already impressed the coaching staff with his competitive demeanor. Meanwhile, Gala looks to rebound from an injury that cost him all of last season.
Archived article by Mark Fetzko