April 26, 2004

Softball Sweeps Penn and Princeton on the Road

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Controlling its destiny in the Ivy League, the softball team took care of business last weekend, sweeping its final four Ivy games of the season with its victories against Princeton and Penn. The Red clinched its a share of the Ivy title as its much vaunted offense lived up to the hype, tallying 10 homers and 30 runs during the weekend’s four games.

Cornell set the tone for the weekend in game one against Princeton on Saturday, exploding for six-runs in the 12th inning of a marathon, 7-1, victory over the Tigers. The game was the longest in team history.

The Red opened the scoring with a crucial two out rally in the first inning, when junior Lauren May smacked a triple to left center field and was driven in by a single from classmate Melissa Heintz. “That first inning run was huge,” said head coach Dick Blood. “It was a little bit of two out thunder by May and Heintz.”

Princeton rallied in the second inning, knotting the game at one off of a sac fly by catcher Ty Reis. The score would stay that way for another 10 innings as two of the Ivy League’s premiere pitchers — Cornell’s senior Sarah Sterman and Princeton’s sophomore Erin Snyder — went toe-to-toe in a brilliant pitchers’ duel.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy going into the weekend, knowing we were facing the best pitcher in the league with a minuscule ERA,” Blood said

. Cornell had a chance to take the lead in the seventh, when with senior Melissa Cannon on first, freshman Erin Murtha dropped a single over the second baseman’s head and under a diving right fielder Melissa Finley. As Cannon rounded second, Blood made the decision to send her for home, hoping to catch a break off a bad throw or bounce. However, Princeton’s Finley made a perfect throw to nail Cannon at the plate with ease.

“Snyder’s something tough on the mound, and we had to take our chances,” Blood said. “I would send the runner again in a heartbeat.”

Heintz broke the tie in the twelfth inning, crushing what would prove to be the game-winning homer to put the Red up 2-1. But Cornell was far from done, cushioning its lead with five more runs, capping off the scoring with a three-run homer by senior Kate Varde.

Sterman pitched all 12 innings for the Red, giving up only one run on nine hits and five strikeouts. “Sterman was really up to the task,” Blood said. “It was one of the biggest games of her career and one of the biggest games of program history.”

In game two, Cornell jumped out to the early lead as May and Heintz again teamed up for a two out rally in the first inning. This time May reached on a double to left and came in on Heintz’s second homerun of the day.

Cornell extended its lead by one run in the second with a homerun by Cannon, followed by another solo-shot from Varde in the third inning to put Cornell up 4-0. The four-run cushion was all sophomore Whitney Smith would need, as she gave up only one run and two hits, pitching the Red to a 4-1 victory.

The win ensured that two-time defending Ivy Champs Princeton would not be competing for a third consecutive title this year. Cornell, however, still had a must win situation yesterday in its doubleheader against Penn to ensure its piece of the Ivy Crown.

Although Cornell ended up winning both games in decisive fashion, the outcome was far from certain in either of the two games against the Quakers.

“For the first three innings of each game there was a lot of tension there,” Blood said. “That close to clinching your share in the title you don’t want anything to slip away.”

Cornell found itself tied after four innings, 1-1, in game one with the last place Quakers, who have won only one Ivy League game all year long. Senior Erin Sweeney broke the tension in the fifth inning, when with the bases loaded she crushed a first pitch fastball for a grand slam to give the Red a 5-1 lead. Heintz followed in the same inning with her own home run, a three-run shot to make the Red’s lead 8-1.

“I was hitting the ball pretty well,” Sweeney said. “I was going up really relaxed at the plate and it just worked.”

The Red added two more runs in the sixth inning to give Cornell a 10-1 win by the mercy rule. Sterman pitched for the Red earning her 16th win on the season.

Sweeney continued the swing the bat well in game two, leading off the game with a single. After stealing second she was driven in by a single to center from Heintz. Sweeney was five for seven on the day with six RBIs.

Cornell took a 7-0 lead in the fourth when Varde hit the second grand slam of the day for the Red. May followed with a solo shot to right field.

Smith picked up her seventh shut-out on the year, giving up only seven hits while improving to 12-3 on the year.

Cornell, finishing with a record of 10-4 in the Ivy League, has clinched its share of the title. Currently the only other team with four losses is Brown, which at 8-4 has a chance of grabbing a piece of the title and forcing a playoff with the Red if they can sweep a doubleheader with Yale this coming Saturday.

Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Staff Writer