April 28, 2003

Softball Keeps Ivy Title Hopes Alive

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The softball team went into the weekend with slim Ivy title hopes, needing to take care of business at home, and getting some help from Dartmouth and Harvard. With the combination of its three wins over the weekend and a 2-2 weekend by league leader Princeton, Cornell pulled to within half a game of the Tigers and its third Ivy title in six years.

The weekend couldn’t have started any better for the Red (27-7, 10-4 Ivy), as sophomore Melissa Heintz gave Cornell a 3-2 win over Yale in the first game of a doubleheader with a walk-off homer.

Cornell drew first blood in the bottom of the first when junior co-captain Melissa Cannon launched a two-run shot. Yale pulled to within one in the fourth inning, though, when Kristy Kwiatkowski led off the fourth inning with a solo home run. The score remained 2-1 until the seventh, when the Bulldogs tied the game on Laura Beckert’s RBI single.

That set up Heintz’s heroics, as the second-year player hooked a flyball just inside the left field foul pole to give Cornell the victory.

Junior Sarah Sterman earned the win despite allowing 11 Yale baserunners.

In the nightcap, Yale struck a serious blow to Cornell’s championship aspirations by winning 4-1 in eight innings. The Bulldogs scored the three decisive runs during a two-out rally in which Beth Pavilcek and Kwiatkowski delivered run-scoring hits.

Pavilcek was also dominant on the mound, as she pitched all eight innings while allowing just six baserunners to the Ivy League’s most potent lineup. Trailing 1-0, Cornell finally solved Pavilcek in its half of the fourth when Heintz delivered an RBI single.

The score remained knotted at 1-1 until Yale broke through in extra innings. Freshman Whitney Smith took the loss, allowing the three runs in three innings of relief. Classmate Kristen Landis, who started the game, went six innings while giving up just one run.

“There’s no doubt that we were banged around by Yale,” Cornell head coach Dick Blood said. “But we hung in there and got the split.”

Heading into yesterday’s doubleheader against Brown, Cornell needed to win both games to avoid elimination from Ivy contention. It also needed Harvard to sweep red-hot Princeton after the Tigers swept Dartmouth on Saturday. Fortunately for the Red, everything fell into place.

“I don’t like blowing smoke to my players,” Blood said. “Before the game, I told them that we just wanted to play good, solid softball.”

Cornell did its part, winning by scores of 6-1 and 2-0. In game one, after falling behind 1-0 in the first inning, the Red answered with three runs in both the third and fifth.

In the third, the Red scored on an RBI pop-up from junior Erin Sweeney and a two-run double from Cannon. Freshman Mackenzie Ryan started the inning with a walk, and Heintz followed with a bunt single. Senior co-captain Drew Martin then took one for the team, reaching base after being struck by a pitch. With the bases loaded, Sweeney lifted a ball to right field, which was caught by the second baseman, but advanced all the runners and plated the tying run. Cannon then struck a laser to center field which scored Heintz and Martin.

The Red padded its total in the fifth with a combination of aggressive baserunning and power. After reaching on a walk, Sweeney advanced to third base on two passed balls, before scoring on junior Kate Varde’s suicide squeeze. Sophomore Lauren May then hit her 11th home run of the year, a two-run bomb that gave Cornell a 6-1 lead.

Sterman earned her second win of the weekend with a complete game — an eight-hit gem.

Cornell got its second strong pitching performance of the day in the nightcap from Smith. After suffering a loss on Saturday, Smith bounced back to give one of her finest efforts of the year, a three-hit shutout.

The Red offense gave Smith all the support she needed in the second inning, when Landis and Sweeney each came up with RBI singles.

Smith, in one of the most dominating efforts of the year, didn’t allow more than one baserunner in any inning.

Cornell’s pitching, which has been solid all season long, was the difference in the sweep.

“Our pitchers made some nice adjustments, working in and out,” Blood said. “They took the bat out of [Brown’s] hands.”

The Red’s defense, which has been shaky at times, was also a strong point over the weekend.

“Our defense made all the routine plays and they made some spectacular plays, too,” Blood said.

The two wins yesterday kept Cornell alive in the Ivy title race. After dropping two extra-inning games to Harvard, Princeton fell to 10-3 in league play compared to Cornell’s 10-4. As a result of this weekend’s games, Princeton will now have to finish an earlier game with Brown that was postponed earlier in the year. The Tigers and the Bears will resume their game at a date to be determined, with Princeton ahead 8-5 and Brown up to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning.

“If we could’ve taken care of business against Columbia earlier in the year and a little against Princeton, we’d be in better shape right now. I’d like to have one of those games back, and maybe even that extra-inning game [on Saturday] back,” Blood said of the Tigers’ sweep of Cornell two weeks back.

However, Blood and his squad will take a wait and see approach.

“We’re not even going to worry about it,” Blood said. “If it happens, it happens.”

Archived article by Alex Ip