Heading into the final weekend of Ivy League play, Cornell’s (15-17-1, 8-8) baseball team remains in the hunt for an elusive Lou Gehrig division title and a birth in the league championship series. Though the Red needs a sweep against Princeton (22-18, 12-4) to force a three-way tie for the division title, it is confident that it can accomplish the feat.
“This is what we’ve worked for all year: to have a shot against the best team at the end of the season, prove that we can beat them, and take a share of the division and show everybody that they were wrong for picking us last,” said junior tri-captain Chris Schutt.
Indeed, the Red has far surpassed expectations in 2003 after finishing in the basement of the league last season. The team retains an outside shot at a .500 record with six games left.
“For the most part, no matter who we played, we approached the game like [we] should. It’d be nice to be five or six games over .500, but you can’t look back too much on missed chances,” said head coach Tom Ford.
This weekend’s games will be the final Ivy contests for not only senior captains Jackson and Sharfstein, but catcher Paul Hudson (.250, 0, 5) and outfielder Mike Martino (.348, 0, 10) as well. While Jackson (.241, 0, 11) and Sharfstein (0-5, 5.08 ERA) have both struggled as seniors, they have cherished their roles as captains.
“Going into this weekend, its going to be tough knowing that it might be my last chance to play with a group of guys like this,” said an emotional Sharfstein.
If its post-season hopes are to be realized, the Red will have to sweep four games from a hot Princeton team that has won seven of its last nine games, including a 7-4 victory over Big East foe St. John’s on Tuesday. The Tigers boast the Ivy League’s top power hitter in catcher Tim Lahey, who leads the league in home runs with 11. A .609 slugger, Lahey is also second on the team with 24 RBI.
“He’s a big kid, a really good catcher,” said Ford. “When he hits it he gets tremendous lift on the ball and he always is a threat to go deep. He’s just a very gifted physical presence on the field and at the plate.”
While Lahey is an imposing slugger, Princeton’s primary strength is its pitching staff. Ryan Quillian is the team’s most consistent starter at 5-3 with a 3.54 ERA, but Thomas Pauly is Princeton’s true ace. Coming out of the bullpen, Pauly has won four games and saved five more in 31 innings, compiling a 1.16 ERA. A likely early draft pick this June, has limited opposing batters to a .193 batting average with an explosive fastball in the low 90’s.
Though Princeton’s pitching staff boasts several standouts, Cornell’s pitchers have actually been amongst the Ivy League’s best this season, compiling the second best team ERA.
Junior Dan Baysinger (4-2, 4.57 ERA) and freshman Rocky Collis (3-1, 3.60) will take the mound today at Princeton, with juniors Dan Gala (3-2, 4.83) and Chris Schutt (3-4, 1.98) taking to the hill on Sunday at Hoy Field.
Schutt has emerged not only as one of the Ivy League’s best pitchers this season, but as one of the top pro prospects in the northeast with a devastating curve, slider, fastball, and changeup repertoire. A potential third round draft pick, the junior has won back-to-back Ivy Pitcher of the Week awards, striking out 25 while allowing just one earned run on nine hits in his last two starts totaling 17 innings.
“It’s really been a motivation,” Schutt said about being considered one of the best college pitching prospects for the upcoming draft. “As the season progressed I’ve heard I may get drafted higher and higher. But, I’m always focused on going out there and helping my team compete first and foremost.”
If Schutt does get selected in the early rounds of the June amateur draft, he may be tempted to forgo his final year of eligibility to jump to the pro ranks.
“More than anything, I want to win an Ivy League championship. Any athlete will tell you they want to win a championship before any individual recognition. But, if everything falls into place there, and I go high enough, who knows. They’ll definitely have to give me a reason to leave, though,” he said.
Although as many as 20 scouts may be in attendance this weekend to watch Schutt, for now, the team’s focus remains sweeping Tigers, thus forcing a three-way tie between the Red, Princeton, and Penn, and sending out its senior class as winners.
“When I got here, we had a chance to play for an Ivy League championship. We’ve been down the past two years, but now we can put ourselves in a position to win it all. As a senior, I think that’s important, to be able to say we left the team as good or better than when we came here,” said Jackson.
Archived article by Mark Fetzko