Cornell’s baseball team looks to reverse its losing ways beginning this weekend, embarking on a ten-day, nine-game road trip. The Red (0-3) begins its southern sojourn with a three-game series at Virginia Tech (6-4) before continuing south for a single game with Elon College (9-8-1) and two more against UNC-Greensboro (14-1). Cornell will also face Delaware State (6-11) twice before finally returning to Ithaca.
The road trip should prove difficult for the Red. The Fightin’ Christians of Elon College participated in last season’s NCAA tournament while Baseball America projects both the Spartans of UNC-Greensboro and the Delaware State Hornets as probable 2003 tournament teams. Virginia Tech was one of the Big East’s better teams last season as well, and started the season with a 6-4 record.
“It’s a big challenge, but a healthy challenge we look forward to. There’s nothing better than playing against top-level teams and seeing how you match up. It will only make us better by playing against tougher competition, but we can’t change our normal approach,” said junior outfielder Dave Bredhoff.
If the Red is to compete, it will need to improve upon last weekend’s performance against the George Mason, especially offensively. The Patriots limited Cornell to just seven runs and ten hits over three games, as the Red batted just .122 on the weekend. In 82 total at-bats Cornell struck out 32 times, managing just seven walks. The trio of Morris, Bredhoff, and Schutt comprise the middle of Cornell’s batting order, and will need to elevate its play if the Red’s offense is to improve its output.
“We’ve definitely got to get some production from the middle of the line-up. We got a little over the weekend, but fellows like Glenn Morris and Dave Bredhoff and Chris Schutt are the guys we’re looking to step up for us. If they don’t, we’re going to have to find somebody else,” commented head coach Tom Ford.
Cornell received some quality performances from senior tri-captain Dave Sharfstein (0-1, 5.40) and junior Dan Gala in its opener and freshman Rocky Collis in the final game of the George Mason series. Gala and Collis combined for 4.2 innings out of the bullpen, allowing just two unearned runs on four hits.
Meanwhile, Sharfstein, a converted closer, allowed just four hits in five innings, surrendering three runs. However, he was uncharacteristically wild, walking four batters while registering just one strikeout.
“Honestly, I was pretty disappointed by my performance. I guess I didn’t know what exactly to expect because I’ve been a closer since my last year in high school. I hadn’t thrown more than four innings in a few years, and I guess that may have been the reason I didn’t have my normal command,” said Sharfstein.
Sharfstein, who finished last season with four wins, five saves and a 2.34 ERA will find two more opportunities to adapt to a starting role this weekend. Joining Sharfstein as starters in the opening series against the Hokies will be juniors Chris Schutt (0-1, 9.00) and Dan Baysinger (0-1, 12.46).
With nine games in just ten days, Cornell will need make extensive use of its pitching staff, giving a host of hurlers a chance to prove their abilities against quality Division I opponents. Untested freshmen Michael Hudson and Sam Sinkavich as well as sophomores Matt Light (1-1, 7.47 in 2002) and Tad Bardenwerper (1-1, 8.53 in 2002) will pitch in middle relief, as junior Luke Staskal (0-0, 10.12) looks to solidify his hold as the team’s closer.
The Red recognizes the unquestionable strength of its four spring break opponents, but is excited nonetheless for the opportunities to test itself.
“To be honest, our first priority during our trip is to mature as a team. We want to win definitely, but that’s secondary to getting better as a team. And being around each other all the time on the bus, in hotel rooms, and just spending ten days on the road playing baseball will really bring us together in terms of camaraderie. It doesn’t get better than that,” said Sharfstein.
Archived article by Mark Fetzko