April 27, 2004

Sweeney Sets Tone for Softball

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Softball’s senior Erin Sweeney pretty much does it all. The right fielder for the Red hits in the leadoff spot, and hits for both power and average. She’s batting .352 on the season, and .371 against Ivy League opponents. Sweeney has nine stolen bases on the year — tying the single season record for Cornell (She already owns the career record with 24), and also has four home runs to go with her 25 RBIs. About the only thing she doesn’t do is predict the future — not for her senior season with Cornell and especially not for her beloved Boston Red Sox.

Sweeney wasn’t always the cool, collected senior who terrorized opposing pitchers with her quick bat and aggresive tendencies on the base path. In fact, she earned herself an early fame and a lasting nickname for a less than “graceful” incident in her very first game with Cornell the fall of her freshman year.

Coming around second, in a game against Binghamton, Sweeney started to go down for a slide into third when she heard the third base coach yelling “Up! Up! Up!” Sweeney tried to break out of her slide but ended up crawling into third on her hands and knees. The name “Grace” has stuck with her ever since. “I laugh. They call me it; I answer to it,” said Sweeney. “It’s just kind of one of my other names.”

However, nothing was going to stop Sweeney from leaving her mark on the Red, not even a nickname like “Grace”. Sweeney earned a first-team All-Ivy selection her freshman year, hitting .432 against Ivy League opponents and helping the Red to its 2001 Ivy League title.

She followed up the 2001 season with strong sophomore and junior years, consistently producing on offense for Cornell. Sweeney shared first place with classmate Kate Varde last year in the Ivy League for runs scored with 27.

Head coach Dick Blood has watched Sweeney develop in her four years at Cornell, from an eager freshman anxious to prove herself to a mature senior he counts on for clutch performances.

“She’s reached a maturation level where she takes every game in a very businesslike fashion,” said Blood. “She plays with a focused intensity and at the same time remains very calm at the plate.”

Sweeney also sees changes in herself as her playing time and experience over the years have brought her confidence and calmness on the field.

“When you’re coming up as a freshman you always want to prove to your teammates that you belong there, playing on the field,” she said. “I just feel more relaxed on the field, knowing I can do it day-in and day-out.”

Blood points to one incident against Harvard in the 2003 season, where Cornell found itself down 4-2 after giving up two home runs to the Crimson. Sweeney stepped up to the plate and hit a three-run homer securing a crucial win for the Red as well as her reputation on the team.

“That was a huge homerun for us and really cemented her as one of our true clutch players,” Blood said.

In her final season with Cornell, Sweeney came in with one goal in mind — to go out like she came in — with an Ivy League championship. While she would have never risked predicting an Ivy title for Cornell in 2004, she did everything in her power to make it a reality, including a recent 5-for-7, six RBI performance against Penn last Sunday to clinch at least a share of the title for the Red. While the final chapter for Sweeney at Cornell is yet to be written, two things are for sure: one that it will contain an Ivy title and two, that it will end with all the grace befitting a true competitor like Sweeney.

Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Staff Writer