April 18, 2003

Softball Plays Host to Ancient Eight Rivals

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The softball team will look to build upon its recent success as it heads into its most important league weekend of the season. Riding an eight-game winning streak, Cornell (22-4, 5-1 Ivy) will take on first-place Princeton (15-11, 5-0) today and cellar dwelling Penn (6-19, 0-4) tomorrow.

The Red has won 14 of its last 15, while outscoring its opponents 47-13 throughout the eight-game stretch. It has used a unique blend of power at the plate and consistency on the mound to firmly place itself in the hunt for an Ivy League championship.

Sophomore Lauren May and junior Kate Varde have led the way for the Red lineup, sharing the season lead for home runs with seven each. May is currently hitting .413, with a .889 slugging percentage and 26 RBI and nine doubles.

Varde, last week’s Ivy League Player of the Week, is improving upon her Ivy League first team performance a year ago, by batting .506, with an incredible .924 slugging percentage and .574 on-base percentage from the third hole of the lineup.

Other contributions have been reaped from unlikely sources, such as sophomore Erin Kizer who is batting .327, while tallying 16 runs. The contributions of Kizer and others, coupled with the maintained dominance of May and Varde, has allowed Cornell to claim the league lead in many offensive categories. These include team batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored, RBI, home runs and total bases.

The Red’s offensive potency has been complemented by the mound work of junior Sarah Sterman and freshmen Kristen Landis and Whitney Smith. Sterman, who has twice been named Ivy League Pitcher of the Week this season, currently boasts a 1.47 ERA, a 14-3 record, and a .227 opponent batting average.

Landis has recently received several chances to toe the rubber from head coach Dick Blood, and the rookie has not disappointed. In four appearances, Landis is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA and sports a .229 opposing batting average.

Smith, likewise, has shown early signs of pitching prowess, going 5-1 in nine starts, with a 1.84 ERA, and 33 strikeouts in 49 innings of work.

Princeton, currently standing atop the Ivies, started its season 3-9, but has won 12 of its last 15, to reclaim what was once a dismal campaign.

The Tigers have most recently split a series with Patriot League rival Lehigh on Wednesday. After winning 8-0 in the opener, the Tigers dropped a 5-4 contest at home in the nightcap.

Princeton is led on offense by Melissa Finley, who is near the top of the league in many statistical categories, including batting average (.425), total bases (45), and slugging percentage (.750).

The Tigers’ ace is Erin Snyder, who has pitched more innings than anyone in Ivy League play this year. She sports a 2.42 ERA, is 8-5 and holds opponents to an impressive .185 batting average. Wendy Bingham is Princeton’s No. 2 starter, and has allowed just 42 hits in 47 innings, while holding opposing batters to a .233 average.

Penn, unlike Princeton, has fallen into a slump out of which it nearly climbed on Wednesday. However, more bad luck for the Quakers resulted in a 2-1 extra innings loss to LaSalle. With the loss, Penn extended its losing streak to 11. The Quakers have not won two straight games all season long and should provide a test of the Red’s focus a day after Cornell plays for the league’s top spot.

Penn only has one player currently batting above .300 (Crista Farrell .397) and has hit only one home run all year. Pitching may be considered the Quakers’ strong point, as the Penn staff has posted a 2.57 ERA this season in Ivy League play.

Still, Blood’s team will need to stay mentally focused throughout these all-important next two days in order to make a run for a championship and a birth in the NCAA tournament. Both twinbills begin at 12 p.m. on Neimand-Robison Field.

Archived article by Scott Jones