Cornell’s baseball team used a combination of stellar defense, pitching, and timely hitting to extend its winning streak to five games, beating Penn State 4-3 and 5-2 in its home opener at Hoy Field. The sweep puts the Red at just one game under .500 at 6-7 going into this weekend’s crosstown series with Ithaca College, while the Nittany Lions dropped to 5-9.
Coming into the doubleheader with only a .214 composite team batting average, the Red’s offense awakened against the Nittany Lions’ pitching staff, managing 16 hits in two seven-inning contests, including 10 in the opener.
Nonetheless, head coach Tom Ford was not over-enthusiastic about the Red’s offensive performance against Penn State, commenting, “We’re still not quite where we’d like to be, but we’re doing just enough to produce the runs we need to win. Our offense is coming, but it still isn’t completely there yet.”
However, Ford was impressed with the continued production of the team’s leading hitter, junior Ned VanAllan, who went 4-9 with three RBI on the day.
“He’s done a great job for us and has really settled into the middle of our lineup,” said Ford about VanAllan. “He’s a very aggressive hitter and he’s got some power as well. He’s just done a very nice job of hitting in clutch situations.”
The junior designated hitter’s first inning groundout plating sophomore Matt Miller opened scoring in game one, while his seventh-inning single to left field scoring freshman Garrett Wasson capped a two-run rally giving the Red a win in its home opener. VanAllan finished with two hits and two RBI in the first game, with junior Dan Parant and senior Paul Hudson adding multi-hit efforts as well.
While VanAllan, Parant, and Hudson led the offensive attack, junior right-hander Dan Baysinger did a superlative job on the mound, improving to 2-1 on the year. He went the distance, allowing just three runs (only one earned) on four hits and two walks in seven innings. Penn State scored all three of its runs in the second, with an errant throw by Baysinger on a sacrifice bunt attempt leading to two unearned runs.
“Dan wasn’t very sharp early in the game and got himself in trouble with the error, but he got stronger as the game went on,” noted Ford. “He just did a great job getting the win and completing the game.”
In game two, the Red jumped out to an early lead, scoring a single run in the first on a fielder’s choice by junior Dave Bredhoff after a double by VanAllan, who also led Cornell with two hits in the second game. Cornell added two more runs in both the fourth and fifth innings, coasting into the seventh inning with a seemingly safe 5-0 lead behind the superb pitching performance of Dan Gala. After giving up a game-opening single, Gala settled down immediately, retiring thirteen straight batters until giving up another hit in the fifth.
“He just did an outstanding job out there today,” said Ford of Gala. “He had pinpoint control, and kept their hitters off-balance the whole game. He just pitched a great game.”
Overall, Gala allowed just four hits in six-plus innings, eventually being relieved by junior Luke Staskal in the seventh after giving up back-to-back hits to start the final frame. Staskal proceeded to walk two batters and surrender another base hit, permitting both of Gala’s runners to score, making the score 5-2. Staskal left with the bases loaded having retired just two batters, replaced by senior tri-captain Dave Sharfstein, last season’s team saves leader. Inheriting a precarious position, Sharfstein was impervious to the pressure of the final inning jam, promptly striking out Penn State’s Willie Melendez to guarantee the Red its fifth consecutive victory and an afternoon sweep.
“Even though he’s a starter primarily now, today was his day in the bullpen, so we decided to have him close out the game for us. He has proven he can save games for us in the past, so we had no problem putting him out there to hold the lead,” said Ford of the decision to bring in Sharfstein.
For his efforts, Sharfstein was rewarded with his first save of the season, while Gala earned the victory, improving to 2-1.
The Red looks to extend its winning streak and surpass the .500 barrier this weekend when it makes the short trip over to Ithaca College for a doubleheader against the Division III Bombers at 12 p.m. on Saturday.
Archived article by Mark Fetzko