April 7, 2003

Defense Fails Softball

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The softball team (14-4, 1-1 Ivy) opened its first Ivy weekend with a split, as it downed Columbia (9-13, 1-1) in the first half of Saturday’s doubleheader, 3-2, before falling in the nightcap, 2-1. The Red overcame five errors in the opener to extend its winning-streak to five games, but was unable to produce clutch hits in the second game.

“We mishandled a bunch of balls in the first game and were fortunate to win,” Cornell head coach Dick Blood said. “And we mishandled a couple balls in the second game, and that was our undoing.”

Columbia struck first in the early game, scoring a run in the bottom of the first inning aided by two Cornell errors. The Red tied the score in the third, though, with a two-out rally. With two down in the inning, junior Melissa Cannon ripped a single. Classmate Kate Varde then followed with a shot that found the right-center field gap, plating Cannon and knotting the score at 1-1.

The Red took the lead in the very next inning on an RBI single by senior co-captain Drew Martin. Freshman Stephanie Foster led off the inning with a single before being sacrificed over to second. Martin then delivered to give Cornell its first lead of the game.

That lead would not last long, however, as the Lions tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the inning, when another Cornell error gave Columbia a scoring opportunity. Hilary Jacobs executed a perfect suicide squeeze to score teammate Courtney Ryan, who had reached on a defensive miscue.

Martin gave the Red the lead for good in the top of the sixth, though. After sophomore Erin Kizer worked a one-out walk, Martin slapped her second run-scoring base hit of the game.

“She’s always been a steady defensive player, but as of late she’s had a bunch of key kits,” Blood said. “She’s been a battler. She’s been doing a real fine job for us. She’s earned her keep.”

Junior pitcher Sarah Sterman won her 10th game of the year, allowing just four hits and two unearned runs. Columbia’s Alison Buehler was the hard-luck loser, giving up three runs in a complete game effort.

While the Red overcame a poor defensive effort in the first game, Columbia capitalized on Cornell miscues in the second game to split the two games. Freshman Whitney Smith sailed through the first three innings unscathed, but ran into trouble in the fourth. The Lions hit three consecutive singles to load the bases before April Jarvis delivered a hit to give Columbia a 1-0 lead.

Cornell tied the score in the top of fifth, though. Junior Sandra Alvarez singled, and Kizer followed with a walk. With runners on first and second, sophomore Melissa Heintz found a hole in left field and plated Alvarez.

However, Columbia scored the decisive run in the bottom half of the inning. Ryan reached base on a single before stealing second base. On the attempt, the Red’s middle infielders neglected to cover second base, allowing the throw to sail into center field and Ryan to advance to third Jacobs then proceeded to drive in the winning run on a groundout.

Sterman, who came on in relief of Smith, suffered the loss, while Columbia’s Jackie Adelfio was the winner. Buehler got the save. Sterman took her third loss of the year despite giving up just one hit in four innings of relief.

The loss was particularly hard to swallow because the Red had its fair share of scoring chances but could not capitalize.

“We certainly had our opportunities in those ballgames, with 12 runners stranded in that second game, and not just with two outs each time. We failed to execute in those opportunities and get a bunch of runs in and put pressure on their defense,” Blood said. “To Columbia’s credit, they pitched the ball and fielded the ball very well.”

If the Red wants to succeed, it must also play better defense, Blood said.

“It was just plain poor play … no individuals in particular, a bunch of people had a hand in it. I know we were prepared as best as we could be, and we got into the game and just didn’t play well. That can happen once in a while,” he concluded. “If we want to put ourselves in a position to contend for a title or finish in the top of the league, we need to play better defense than that.”

The Red’s doubleheader scheduled yesterday against Manhattan was canceled due to poor field conditions. The Red will return to action when it hosts Canisius on Wednesday.

Archived article by Alex Ip