The softball team needed only three and half innings in the finals of the Dixie Classic at Virginia Beach last Saturday, beating Seton Hall 8-0 in a game ended by the eight run mercy rule.
In a game in which Cornell’s offense was clicking on all cylinders, head coach Dick Blood felt it was solid defense that really made the difference for the team.
Specifically, Blood pointed to the second inning as a key turning point for the Red. With the heart of Seton Hall’s lineup up to bat, Cornell made three spectacular defensive plays to shut down the Pirates. First, junior shortstop Lauren May gloved a potential single and made a dazzling throw to just barely beat the runner. Next, freshman catcher Sarah Ruben made a barehanded stab on a swinging bunt and nailed the batter at first. Finally, junior Melissa Heintz scooped up another slow rolling bunt and dived back to the first base bag to get the final out.
“I felt that kind of defense set the tone that we were going to play sharply,” said Blood.
Cornell’s defense was solid yet sparsely tested, thanks to a strong performance from sophomore Whitney Smith who recorded a two-hit shutout, baffling the Seton Hall hitters with her sharp change-up.
Offensively, the Red received strong performances from a number of players. Senior Erin Sweeney went 1-2 on the day with an RBI, two runs and two walks. May went 2-2 with a home run and three RBI, capping off a tournament in which she went 10-14 with four home runs and 11 RBI. Heintz also turned in a strong performance, going 1-1 with a home run and two runs scored.
Cornell went undefeated on the weekend, opening its 2004 season with a perfect 5-0 record.
“There were a bunch of really solid programs from the East Coast there,” said Blood of the twelve team field.
Cornell began play last Thursday with a 2-1 win over previously undefeated East Carolina University. Freshman Erin Murtha knocked in the game winning RBI with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning. Cornell followed up with a 3-2 win against James Madison. Sophomore Kristen Landis was credited with the win, going four innings and giving up only four hits. Smith closed the game out allowing only one hit in three scoreless innings.
“I was concerned that we may not get the bats rolling,” Blood said of the opening games. “We certainly didn’t hit much in the first two games, but then we started to open it up in the middle of the order.”
On Friday, the Red faced Radford University’s Jennifer Bosley, a veteran pitcher who had racked up 21 strikeouts in 20 innings this season. Cornell cruised to a 7-2 win as the teams’ bats finally started to heat up, while senior Sarah Sterman tossed a solid complete game — allowing only two runs on five hits with no walks. The Red continued to cruise offensively in its second game Friday, easily defeating Norfolk State 11-3. The game was highlighted by Cornell’s first grand slam of the season, hit by Heintz in the sixth.
“We still have a couple of our big guns who aren’t going yet,” Blood said. “But we played hard and played outstanding defense.”
Cornell will be in action again in Philadelphia in two weeks for a pair of doubleheaders against Drexel (1-3) and Villanova (5-6).
Archived article by Paul Testa