May 4, 2004

Softball Will Battle Brown for NCAA Bid

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The softball team entered last weekend’s match-up with Quinnipiac with two hopes in mind: one for a victory and one for a defeat. In the end, only the Red held up its end of the bargain as Cornell laid waste to the Bobcats in the two-game series but failed to clinch the coveted NCAA tournament bid when Brown swept Yale for a share of the Ivy League title. Now, with an Ivy ring assured and four non-league games remaining, the Red is looking forward to the culmination of its season this weekend when it takes on the Bears in a three-game playoff in Providence, R.I. The best-of-three series will decide which squad will represent the Ivy League in the NCAA Regional tournament, while the loser will be taking batting practice early this summer.

Moreover, according to the Red, this is exactly where they want to be.

“It’s not in anyone else’s hands anymore,” said head coach Dick Blood. “We control our own destiny.”

Both the Bears (19-18, 10-4 Ivy) and the Red (37-11, 10-4) turned up the heat down the stretch run, compiling substantial winning streaks over the final few league games. Cornell has not lost a game dating back to April 17 against Harvard, winning 13 consecutive contests since splitting a doubleheader with the Crimson at home. The Bears, meanwhile, are undefeated in their last seven games — including their final five Ivy outings.

“I think we recognize that Brown had to win their last four games in league,” Blood said. “They took care of business. Now we need to take care of business.”

Yet, while the Bears have no scheduled games between now and the weekend, the Red is set to face Siena on the road today followed by Binghamton tomorrow. With such an important series looming in the coming weekend and constant risk of injury, these final non-league games have the potential to be both a blessing and a curse.

“It’s better preparation than practicing all week,” Blood said. “Facing live pitching is always important. We want to get quality at-bats for our starters.”

The hitters on the Red are virtually assured to see some superior pitching this week in the form of Siena’s dominant starter Tara Campbell. The sophomore out of Spring Valley, Calif. has been shutting down batters all season, compiling an 8-7 record and 2.15 ERA. Campbell has also recorded 106 strikeouts and 10 complete games, including a no-hitter over the weekend against Iona. A menace on both sides of the plate, Campbell is currently batting .304 with six RBIs. The Saints (14-27-1, 5-9 MAAC) also boast one of the premier power hitters in the MAAC in junior Sarah Rose. A native of Loudon, N.H, Rose has belted nine doubles and five home runs — accumulating a team-high 29 RBIs in the process.

Binghamton (16-21-2, 7-9-1 America East) has fallen prey to momentum shifts throughout the season, putting together the occasional winning streak only to lose the next few. Recently, the Bearcats have been cold, having failed to register a victory in their last four games.

However, Binghamton features a deep and versatile lineup that can contribute from almost any spot in the order. The Bearcats have six hitters with at least 10 RBIs and seven starters who are hitting above .300. Binghamton also boasts a formidable pitching duo in Katie Hansen (9-9) and Michelle Weeks (6-10) who have combined to strike out 187 batters this season.

Archived article by Kyle Sheahen

Sun Assistant Sports Editor