April 11, 2003

Baseball Team Prepares For Major Ivy Weekend

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Winner of eight of its past 10 games after yesterday’s 12-6 comeback victory against Binghamton, Cornell’s baseball team will host Dartmouth (6-11, 0-4 Ivy) tomorrow before leaving behind the friendly confines of Hoy Field to visit Harvard (7-12, 2-2) for an Ivy League doubleheader on Sunday. After splitting four games at home against Yale and Brown last weekend, the Red (9-9, 2-2) is hoping for an even better performance against the Green and Crimson.

“We were a little disappointed with only winning two games last weekend,” said junior left fielder Dave Bredhoff. “This time we want to go out and take at least three games, and that’s the mindset we have to take into every Ivy weekend.”

If the Red is to finish the weekend with more than a split, it will need the continued excellence of its pitching staff and improved production out of its starting lineup. While Cornell pitchers have limited opposing teams to just slightly over four earned runs per game, the Red’s hitters have only recently started to emerge from a season long offensive slump. Overall, the team has batted just .238 and averaged only 4.3 runs per game, though it did register 14 hits against Binghamton yesterday.

“The thing I’m most disappointed with is that we haven’t hit more consistently at this point. I didn’t think we’d be an overpowering offensive team, but I certainly thought we’d put more pressure on the other teams. We’re going to keep working on it, because we’ll have to score more runs in order to continue our success,” said head coach Tom Ford.

Bredhoff, the team’s leading returning hitter, has been one of the many Cornell players struggling to find their stroke early on, though he has showed signs of breaking out of his slump by hitting safely in four of the past five games. Against Binghamton, he finished 2-5 with two RBI.

“Last weekend I started seeing the ball better and was more patient at the plate. I definitely think my power numbers will improve too over the next couple weekends as the weather gets better and I see more pitches. I think my swing is really starting to click and I hope to keep it going this weekend,” said Bredhoff, who is tied for the team lead in RBI despite his slow start.

The team’s most consistent player at the plate has been designated hitter Ned VanAllan. The junior is one of only two players batting above .300 for the Red, and is also leading the team in slugging, total bases, and doubles. He added his first home run of the season against Binghamton, scoring three runs in the victory.

“Ned has probably been the most pleasant surprise we’ve had so far,” commented Ford. “We thought he was going to hit, but we didn’t know he would be able to step in and hit right in the middle of the lineup for us. He just been really aggressive at the plate and has been able to keep coming through with big hits.”

While VanAllan has been one of the few Cornell hitters to experience sustained success, the pitching staff has established itself as one of the Ivy League’s best. Juniors Chris Schutt and Dan Gala have matured into legitimate front-end starters, while newcomer Rocky Collis’ recent success out of the bullpen has garnered him an opportunity to take the mound as a starter this weekend. The freshman was named to the Ivy League honor roll after picking up a win and a save against Yale and Brown.

As successful as Collis has been, Gala and Schutt have emerged as the staff’s two aces. Despite losing a 3-2 decision against Brown, Schutt struck out 12 in seven five-hit innings against the Bears while Gala pitched 8 1/3 strong innings in a no-decision against Yale.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence when I go out to the mound,”said Gala. “I’ve been able to do a good job at hitting my spots and pitching to my strengths. I’m not the type of pitcher who can just go out there and overpower hitters with my fastball so I have to mix up my pitches well.”

Gala and the rest of the staff will be hard pressed to continue its string of pitching performances against the potent offenses of Dartmouth and Harvard, however. Though both teams are well below .500 due to substandard pitching, the Green bats a solid .271 with the Crimson hitting at a .294 clip. Dartmouth’s well-rounded attack is spearheaded by outfielder Scott Shirrell, one of the Ivy League’s most versatile offensive weapons. The talented outfielder leads the Green in nearly every major offensive category. Shirrell is also second on the team with seven stolen bases.

Meanwhile, Harvard is led by pitcher and designated hitter Trey Hendricks , who may be the Ivy League’s best two-way player.

“He’s a very good baseball player, both as a pitcher and a hitter,” commented Ford. “He’s got tremendous power at the plate and he’s one of those guys you have to be careful not to let hurt you. On the mound, he’s got a pretty good fastball and comes right at you. He’s a real competitor. He’s definitely their key player. He’s a guy you’ve really got to contain if you want to beat them.”

Though the Red has played only four league games so far, this weekend is pivotal for its chances of winning the Lou Gehrig division. Cornell is optimistic that it will reverse a recent trend of second-division finishes and end this season amongst the Ivy’s elite.

“My expectation is to have more than a winning record this season. I’d like to win at least 65-70 percent of our games and we certainly have a team that can do that. Our pitching staff is easily the best in the league, and our offense is coming around. It’s definitely a goal to finish in the top two and make it to the playoffs,” said Bredhoff.

Archived article by Mark Fetzko