May 7, 2004

Softball Team Will Fight Brown for Bid to NCAA Regionals

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Although the weather prevented the softball team from extending its 15-game winning streak against Binghamton on Wednesday, the Red hopes that nothing will come between it and victory this weekend as the squad takes on Brown in a three-game playoff series in Providence, R.I. Come rain, shine, wind or snow, only one team will walk away from the series in possession of the coveted bid to the NCAA regional softball tournament.

Needless to say, this is crunch time for the Red.

In a season filled with remarkable successes and a myriad of individual achievements, the series against the Bears will determine exactly how much more the Red still has left to offer. Moreover, it represents what could be the final time the seniors on the squad don the uniforms of Cornell.

In order to snatch the series from the Bears, the Red will need key contributions from both its marquee names and the players not accustomed to the spotlight.

Junior shortstop Lauren May, who has spearheaded the offense throughout the year for the Red, will be looking to add to her 16 home runs and 56 RBIs against a Brown defense that is giving up an average of 3.21 runs per game. May is currently batting .418 and has played in all 50 of the Red’s games this season.

Protecting May in the lineup will be seniors Erin Sweeney and Kate Varde, who have hammered a combined 15 homers on the season. Sweeney, a right fielder who has hit from the leadoff spot for most of the year, boasts a .355 average and has stolen 12 bases thus far. Her speed and ability to get into scoring position will be a crucial factor in producing runs against the stingy Brown pitching staff.

The Red will need Varde, the veteran center fielder, to use her experience and leadership skills to oust Brown in the high-pressure match-up. The Illinois native has been a model of consistency this season — belting nine home runs, 30 RBIs and accumulating a .561 slugging percentage in 164 at-bats. Only classmate Sweeney has been to the plate more times for the Red.

Another senior figures to play a decisive role in the Red’s performance over the weekend, however it will not be with her offense. Pitcher Sarah Sterman (20-7, 1.73 ERA) has been absolutely dominant all season, baffling opposing hitters with her heat and variety of pitches. In 30 appearances, Sterman has recorded 21 complete games and has struck out 101 batters. Furthermore, the presence of equally formidable sophomore Whitney Smith (14-3, 1.96 ERA) virtually assures that Cornell can count on clutch performances from both sides of the plate this weekend.

However, the Bears will certainly give the Red’s stars all they can handle, and Brown has the tools to capitalize on any mistake or opportunity presented to them. Rookie slugger Courtney Jenkins leads the Bears with nine home runs and 35 RBIs, and sophomore second baseman Laura Leonetti adds speed to the leadoff spot with nine stolen bases and a .410 batting average.

On the mound, the Red will almost certainly see junior hurler Uchenna Omokaro (7-3, 2.38 ERA), a right-hander who has held opposing batters to a.239 average this season.

Last time these two teams met, they split a doubleheader in Providence. In the first game, Sweeney led the Red to a 12-3 victory, going 6-for-9 with four RBIs. In game two, Omokaro gave up 13 Cornell hits but the Bears squeaked out an 8-7 win behind three hits and two RBIs by Leonetti.

Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Assistant Sports Editor